Good, bad & ugly: Nuggets eliminate 21-point deficit to stun 76ers

Nov 8, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Will Barton (5) holds back Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) in the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers both entered Friday’s contest as two of the top teams in their respective conferences. They both shared a 5-2 record, both have been having an up-and-down start to the season, and they looked to right the ship as they headed into the game a bit banged up.

For Philadelphia, they were on the road without their All-Star point guard Ben Simmons as he dealt with a shoulder injury while the Nuggets had a hobbled Gary Harris (ankle) and Paul Millsap (forehead), but they brought their all in the Nuggets’ most gutsy win of the season.

Denver rallied back after being down by as many as 21 points against the 76ers and won 100-97. With that, I give you the good, bad and ugly.

Good – Polaroid finish

There was no better place to be on Friday evening than the Pepsi Center.

The Nuggets rallied back behind the play of their two most-important players to pull off an unlikely win as the clock expired.

Earlier this week, Jamal Murray spoke on being the leader for the Nuggets as they attempted to find themselves to begin the season. In Friday’s game, he made it happen as he led the Nuggets to their biggest comeback of the season.

Murray finished with 22 points, 11 assists, and six rebounds in the game. He carved up the 76ers defense, but he saved his best for late in the game when his team needed him most as he had multiple clutch passes and shots.

While Murray helped the Nuggets rally, Denver’s best player chipped away at the Philadelphia lead as he hit big shot after big shot.

Nikola Jokic had one of his best games of the entire season including the game-winning contested finish to ensure the come-from-behind victory over Philadelphia.

Jokic had 26 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists to lead the Nuggets. This was the most aggressive that he has looked all season long.

One thing is for certain – they’re back.

Bad – Another terribly slow start

Much has been made about Denver’s slow starts in games. They have not been able to get much going and that held true in Friday’s game which featured one of the worst starts that the Nuggets have had all season.

Denver struggled out of the gate on the offensive end of the floor and, had it not been for Will Barton and Murray as well as the 76ers missing plenty of open looks, this could have possibly turned into a blowout.

Barton and Murray were the only sources of scoring early on as the Nuggets got out to another slow start and that was while working the ball around, finding the open man, and getting the shots that they wanted, but still not getting shots to fall.

To take into account how much Barton’s offense meant, at the end of the first quarter the Nuggets trailed 24-18 and Barton had nine of the teams 18 points. The rest of the Nuggets went 1-13 from the field.

Murray also contributed which kept the Nuggets in the game. Murray and Barton finished the first half with 11 points, but the Nuggets shot only 39% from the field and trailed by 15 points at the half.

Philadelphia jumped out in the second quarter and won the frame 33-24. The 76ers defense proved to be too much early on as they held Denver in check and went into the half with their big lead.

Denver’s shooting woes called for a late rally to steal this game away. If the Nuggets continue to start games out as they did on Friday then it is going to be a long season where the Nuggets have to dig out of holes.

Ugly – Bench struggles mightily

It was already bad enough that the Nuggets had to fight tooth and nail with the 76ers not being at full strength, but when looking at all of the issues that the Nuggets are having to begin the season that were strengths for them last season, it is easy to see where the frustration lies.

Not only has Denver’s offense disappeared to begin the season, but their bench unit is no where to be found as well and the 76ers second unit added their name to the list of teams that have outplayed the Nuggets bench.

The 76ers bench had a 37-12 advantage over Denver in bench points in the game and it was behind the play of NBA journeymen Kyle O’Quinn and Furkan Korkmaz.

O’Quinn was moments away from being named the unlikely hero of the game for the 76ers as he thrived in his reserve role. He provided energy and scoring to the second unit early in the game and also allowed Joel Embiid to rest for long stints.

Korkmaz was ultra-efficient in the opening half and the 76ers rallied behind those two players as they scored with ease and provided a spark as they helped Philly’s first half lead balloon to as much as 16 points and helped sustain that lead throughout the game.

Denver’s bench unit has been widely recognized as being one of the best second units in the entire league due to its free-flowing nature and ability to get everyone involved. They went 5-17 from the field in the game and also only shot one 3-pointer.

Malone attempted to shake things up a bit to try and generate some offense but the Nuggets bench struggled mightily and it almost led to an upset.

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