Good, bad & ugly: East coast road trip not kind to Nuggets who fell to the Sixers

Philadelphia 76ers center Al Horford (42) reacts in front of Denver Nuggets forward Torrey Craig (3) after dunking the ball during the third quarter at Wells Fargo Center.
Dec 10, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Al Horford (42) reacts in front of Denver Nuggets forward Torrey Craig (3) after dunking the ball during the third quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets finished off their longest road trip of the season by playing in a nationally-televised game on TNT game on Tuesday evening against the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Nuggets looked to turn things around as they came into Philadelphia, where the 76ers have a perfect 12-0 home record and have been playing well to begin the season.

The Nuggets offense did not show up and a big run in the second quarter ended up being a bit too much to overcome as Denver failed to find a way to end the 76ers’ unbeaten home record.

Denver fell 97-92 to the 76ers to finish off their east coast road trip and with that, I give you the good, bad, and ugly.

Good – Thrill National Television

Will Barton III is a man of many names, but one moniker that was on display against the 76ers is ‘Thrill National Television’.

It is a name that he made for himself for the way that he plays in big games; especially on TNT games, and it was true yet again as he had his best game of the season.

Barton III was a bright spot for the Nuggets and it was known that he was going to have a big game from the opening tip. He was able to keep Denver afloat in the first quarter as the Nuggets ran the offense through him seeing as he was the only player to get going initially.

Barton III knocked down a few mid-range jump shots, sliced through the 76ers defense, and had a season-best quarter from any Nuggets player with 15 points in the opening frame alone.

With Jamal Murray injured early on it was up to Barton III to take on the scoring load for the Nuggets and he did just that as he applied pressure to the Philadelphia defense all night.

He has also been one of the Nuggets’ best defenders to begin the season and that is a big reason that the Nuggets defense is ranked in the top-five in most defensive metrics.

Barton III stuffed the box score and represented signs of life for an ailing Nuggets offense. He had a season-high 26 points while also recording seven rebounds and seven assists. He had three blocks and two steals as well and remains one of the Nuggets’ most productive players.

In an offense as broken as the Nuggets, it is good to know that there are still players such as Barton III that can be relied on for baskets; hopefully it becomes contagious and the rest of the offense catches on as well.

Bad – Second quarter goes awry

When looking at the part of the game where it feels as if the game was taken away from the Nuggets, it seemed to step from this sequence by Matisse Thybulle where he threw down a dunk and hit a three on the other end.

The second quarter overall was not kind to the Nuggets, but this sequence in particular catapulted the 76ers momentum on both ends of the floor.

It was a 5-0 run by the 76ers, but it turned into Philadelphia’s second unit running away with the game as they reeled off a 22-6 run to begin the second quarter against the Nuggets bench.

Denver’s starters went into the second quarter with a 27-26 lead mostly behind feeding Barton III the ball and getting out of the way. But after the 76ers bench unit got off to the big lead after the Thybulle run — coupled with the fact that the Nuggets were without their starting point guard — they went into the halftime intermission down 55-50.

Head coach Michael Malone was forced to go back to his starting unit and luckily they were able to make a run at the end of the first half or this game would have gotten out of hand sooner.

Malone attempted to shake things up a bit to avoid the early hole by trying different rotations, such as inserting Michael Porter Jr. early on and going deeper into his bench, but that did not work as the bench was simply outplayed yet again.

The Nuggets second unit is still looking to find chemistry and a five-man lineup that meshes well together. With Denver changing things up so often, there will be growing pains, but the Nuggets have to figure things out soon.

The offense is struggling, the bench unit has regressed since last season, Nikola Jokic is in a scoring slump, and Malone is still trying to find the right group so getting on the right page quickly is of the highest importance.

Once Denver is able to find the rhythm that they once had with the perfect blend of their starters blowing teams out and their bench also playing well and maintaining leads then the offense will come back to life and they will return to their winning ways.

If it is not soon then they just might find themselves continuing to lose games and falling in the standings.

Ugly – East coast road trip

The Nuggets could not be any happier to return back into the comfortable walls of the Pepsi Center where they have been a team that wins and protects their home court.

The longest road trip for the Nuggets this season did not go as expected and the east coast was not good to them.

The Nuggets went 1-3 on the road trip with losses to the Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets and now the 76ers with their only win against the dreadful New York Knicks.

With their third loss of their four-game road trip, the Nuggets have suddenly lost five of their last six games and fell all the way to sixth in the Western Conference standings.

While Denver still remains a top-five defensive team and held yet another team to under 100 points, their offense still remains an issue.

Denver’s offense has been in a bit of a rut all season long, but with Denver winning early in the season, it was a trend that could be pushed to the side. Now, with losses mounting, the offensive woes are in the spotlight as the Nuggets keep looking for answers on how to get back to executing on that end of the floor.

With four games in six days and all of them on the road, there could have possibly been mental as well as physical fatigue playing its part, but now is the time that Denver has to dig deep and get back to their brand of basketball.

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