Good, bad, ugly: Nuggets trounce Embiid-less 76ers behind Jokic’s triple-double

Denver Nuggets guard Will Barton (5) dribbles the ball against Philadelphia 76ers guard Landry Shamet (1) in the second quarter at the Pepsi Center.
Jan 26, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Will Barton (5) dribbles the ball against Philadelphia 76ers guard Landry Shamet (1) in the second quarter at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets are coming off of a game where everything went their way and it led to them beating the Phoenix Suns by 37 points. Eight players for Denver finished with double-digit points and that was without Nikola Jokic who was suspended by the league for leaving the bench in Wednesday’s game against the Utah Jazz.

On Saturday evening, with their Serbian big man back in the lineup, the Nuggets cruised by the ailing Philadelphia 76ers behind Jokic’s seventh triple-double of the season. With that I give you the good, bad and ugly.

Good – Angry Jokic

Jokic was suspended last game without pay as the league decided that he was involved in the altercation between Mason Plumlee and Derrick Favors for walking away from the bench.

The last time that Jokic was fined by the league, he came out a bit timid and did not shoot the ball. This time was completely different as he came back with rage.

The Sixers were without All-Star big man Joel Embiid who sat with back issues. That left players like Mike Muscala, Jonah Bolden and Ben Simmons attempting to defend him throughout the game and he made them pay.

Everything that the Sixers threw at Jokic he was ready for as he finished with 20 points, 12 rebounds and four assists and that was just at the half.

Jokic was in a zone and did not slow down for the game as he remained aggressive throughout the entire night. He finished with his seventh triple-double of the season with 32 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists while knocking down two 3-pointers. He carried the scoring load for the Nuggets without Murray and his play ensured the victory.

Bad – First half defense  

As great as the Nuggets were in the first half on offense, they were terrible defensively.

The Nuggets scored 41 points in the first quarter as Jokic got himself going early. The Sixers could not slow Jokic, but they made sure to counter it with an aggressive offensive attack. They hit 65 percent of their shots in the first quarter alone and were scoring points in bunches.

Denver led for the entirety of the game, but their defensive numbers are going to take a hit as they allowed 37 points in the first quarter.

The second quarter was not much better. On defense it was another poor quarter as they went into the half up 77-68 after giving up another 31 points to Philadelphia. The Sixers went into the half with four players in double-digits as Ben Simmons led them with 14 points. The Nuggets let them stay in the game with open shots.

Denver started the year out as a team that showed massive progression on the defensive end of the floor, but as of late have had plenty of games like they did on Saturday where they started slow and gave the opposing team open baskets. The Nuggets must find a way to dig deep and get back to the team that took pride in getting stops and that begins with starting the game much stronger on defense.

Ugly – Starting lineup must wait

When Barton entered the starting lineup on Friday night against the Suns, it looked as if the Nuggets were finally going to be able to start their opening day starters on Saturday night against Philadelphia for the first time since the second game of the season.

Well, it looks as if that will have to wait for another game or two as Jamal Murray left Friday’s game with a left ankle sprain which led to him sitting out against the 76ers. It was just his second missed game of his NBA career.

Murray is as tough as nails and even played his entire rookie season with two sports hernias so he tried to give it a go in pregame warmups, but was ultimately shut down with a left ankle sprain.

Nuggets’ head coach Michael Malone decided to go with Torrey Craig in the starting lineup to defend Ben Simmons instead of Monte Morris starting at point guard. Craig and Morris each had solid offensive games and combined for 25 points, four assists and seven rebounds.

The starting unit has not been together since October 20th and now many questioning if we will ever see the starting five back together again.

The Nuggets have a day off before going on the road against the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday. Maybe Murray will be able to play and the Nuggets will finally get to see the original starters back into action.