The Sixers’ four-game West Coast road trip ended Friday night in a collapse.
They blew a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter in Denver and fell to their third straight loss, 100-97, to the Nuggets.
Nikola Jokic won it for Denver after a broken, chaotic play that ended with him knocking down a long jumper from the left elbow extended.
The Sixers, now 5-3 on the year, tried inbounding it to Joel Embiid on their final possession, but he was called for a push off.
Ben Simmons was out for the Sixers with a Grade 1 AC joint sprain in right shoulder. He’ll be re-evaluated before the Sixers play the Hornets Sunday (6 p.m./NBCSP+).
Offense falls apart late
The Sixers only managed 13 points in the fourth period. They had problems with the basics, like throwing good entry passes to Embiid and making open shots in the paint, and just about everything was a struggle. It was not hard to tell they were playing the last game of a long trip — Al Horford’s air ball of an open three from the top of the key before Jokic's game-winner summed up their efforts in the fourth.
Jokic wins this duel
Embiid admitted after Wednesday’s loss in Utah that the altitude affected him, and he again appeared lethargic for much of the game in the Mile High City.
He was the last man down the floor time after time and was slow in his decision making.
But, after starting 1 for 9 from the floor and taking a seat five minutes into the third quarter, Embiid woke up a bit when he checked back into the game, hitting four straight shots and helping the Sixers build their lead back up— for the time being — after a Denver run. Embiid finished with 19 points on 6 of 17 shooting, 15 rebounds and eight turnovers.
His block of Paul Millsap’s emphatic dunk attempt was one of the plays of the night.
HOLY REJECTION, JOEL EMBIID.— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) November 9, 2019
He shows absolutely no mercy on Millsap! pic.twitter.com/ZsoQh8ZfC2
Jokic wasn’t quite himself either for most of the night before elevating his play in the second half. He picked up a technical in the first quarter for arguing what he thought was a foul by Mike Scott under the rim and his body language was somewhere between exasperated and infuriated in the first half, but give him credit for turning it around. He tallied 26 points (16 in the fourth quarter), 11 rebounds and six assists.
A strong night for the bench
The Sixers’ bench put them in a good position to win this game, outscoring the Nuggets’ 37-12.
Furkan Korkmaz looks like he believes everything he puts up is going in. He’s using his pump fake well to both create open jumpers and to draw fouls, shooting the ball with balance and hunting opportunities to score.
He had 12 points on 4 for 6 shooting and was 3 for 3 from three-point range. The Sixers had their best night as a team from long range, converting 13 of 26 attempts.
Trey Burke had to wait seven games, but he finally made his regular-season debut as a Sixer in Denver.
He showed his best skill on his first basket — the ability to use a ball screen or stare down his defender in isolation and create a shot — sinking a jumper from the left elbow with 0.2 seconds left in the first quarter off a screen from Embiid.
We saw the best and worst of James Ennis, who was beaten twice on back doors in the first half and once by Will Barton. He also converted a difficult layup after a steal that required elaborate body contortion and slammed in a dunk off a Burke miss.
Running...running...running...gone— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) November 9, 2019
Ennis runs down the hardwood and lays it in for a pair with some awareness! pic.twitter.com/tMaVlgB5ID
Kyle O’Quinn (11 points on 5 for 6 shooting) gave Brett Brown quality minutes in the second quarter before taking a seat in the second half.
Neto steps into the lineup
For the second time in the last three-plus seasons, Raul Neto started an NBA game.
He played very well, with the exception of a couple of occasions late in the shot clock when he dished the hot potato off to a teammate after being unable to generate anything himself.
Neto held Gary Harris, his primary assignment, to five points on 2 for 9 shooting, and also posted 13 points and six assists himself. He’s about nine inches shorter than Simmons and substantially less athletic than the All-Star, but Neto was a decent temporary replacement.
Rookie Matisse Thybulle stayed on the bench Friday. He’s struggled with his shot early in his NBA career (24.2 percent from the field) and hadn’t recorded a steal or a block in the Sixers’ last two games.
Thybulle had an incredible first few games in the NBA defensively, but he’s often seemed a step behind the game on offense, and missing open threes certainly hasn’t helped as far as his level of comfort or confidence.
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