Philadelphia, as they should have, poured its heart to AI before the game started. I was a little bit worried about his reception, and quite frankly wanted the crowd to boo the Answer so he would internalize that feeling and give his old employer a night to remember him by, but the feelings were warm by both parties.
In the first half, the Nuggets illustrated just how unfocused, undisciplined, and discombobulated they are as a team. Denver allowed the Sixers to score 65 points on 63% shooting while getting abused on the boards, 25-12. Philadelphia was running their offense with little to no resistance from the Nuggets. The Sixers ran off of defensive rebounds and were able to beat the Nuggets in transition for a plethora of fast break points. George Karl did little coaching, the Nuggets did little passing (only 13 assists), and the uninspired play was honestly really tough to watch. For a team with its playoff future hanging in the balance and currently in dire straits the Denver Nuggets as an organization conducted themselves as if this was a pre-All-Star Game match-up.
On the other hand, Philadelphia was fighting tooth and nail in every winnable circumstance and showed they just wanted this game a lot more than Denver did through the game’s first 24 minutes. And as a result, the Sixers were up by seven, 65-58, at halftime. The first half highlighted just how inconsistent the Nuggets are on defense, how selfish Denver is on offense, and how this team plays with no sense of urgency as they often find themselves down by double digits to teams that, on paper, should be getting blown out.
In the third quarter, the Nuggets decided to play the game. This is when the Denver Nuggets can sometimes look spectacular. They came out of halftime like a lightening bolt with a 10-0 run to regain the lead by a modest three points. Denver started passing the ball on offense, hitting the boards on defense, and actually playing like they are a team on the brink of missing the playoffs. More of the breaks started to go Denver’s way, but there is something that still upsets me about this kind of quarter. It was the only quarter that the Nuggets managed to outscore the 76ers in, and once again, my aggravation stems from how Denver just expects to turn on its intensity like it’s a switch, but almost always isn’t able to sustain any kind of intensity after bringing themselves back into the thick of things. Denver managed to outscore Philly 35-27 in the quarter, but failed to transfer over the same kind of effort into the fourth quarter as Philly edged the Nuggets by three, and more importantly, two points for the win.
Sure, the officiating was terrible. Samuel Dalembert definitely goaltended a Carmelo Anthony finger roll that clearly ricocheted off the glass before he touched it and would have tied the game at 115, but the Nuggets I saw dominate the third quarter shouldn’t have even been in that kind of position in the first place. Denver only played one good quarter in this game and has no one but themselves to blame for yet another W that slipped away. And in this case, another gut-wrenching game that could very well haunt them in the looming off-season.
If you want the individual accomplishments from this game you can check the box score yourself because I’m tired of reporting all the big numbers in the stat sheet while the Nuggets’ win total stays the same. Denver will now be lucky to win its remaining three games on this road trip to finish 3-2, but don’t be surprised if the Nuggets stumble again as they have another back-to-back set that includes the now fully- Bosh - loaded Raptors and a Memphis team that has got to be getting tired of being bullied.
I’m starting to look more and more like a genius for saying this team will falter down the stretch and miss the playoffs. Now don’t get me wrong, I would have loved to look like the fool, but at this point things are not looking promising for the on-again, off-too often Nuggets.