Nuggets edge 76ers in battle of NBA MVP front runners

Mar 14, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Jeff Green (32) dunks the ball against the Philadelphia 76ers during the second quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets overcame a 19-point deficit to beat the Philadelphia 76ers 114-110 at Wells Fargo Arena on Monday night. Bones Hyland erupted for 12 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter in front of over 500 fans who came to watch him play.

Hyland has been through a lot throughout his life but still brightens every room he walks into. His positive energy is contagious and helped lead the bench unit to outscore the Sixers’ bench 48-14.

“Bones brought a lot of energy to the team and to the second unit,” JaMychal Green said. “It’s been a point for him to get going and run the team. He makes the game a lot easier for us and when he’s attacking downhill he just gets everybody going… Earlier in the season he was trying to find his rhythm but he found it now. He’s running the second unit like we need him to and being a floor general.”

Denver was down by seven points to start the fourth quarter until Hyland gave himself and the rest of the team a little pep talk to get them back into the game. He may be a rookie but he takes his leadership role seriously.

“I came to the bench and I’m like ‘we still in the game. It’s still close. We can still make a comeback,’” Hyland said. “Just giving some encouraging words and not giving up when things are going the other teams way. We got so much fight in us and I just kept telling my teammates that we’re right there. Lets stay and keep the game close and keep getting stops. We’re going to finish this. I’m just so proud of their resilience and their will to keep fighting.”

JaMychal Green was most certainly a fighter in that fourth quarter, too and made a huge impact playing all 12 minutes. He had six points and six rebounds but it was his performance on the defensive end that earned him coach Michael Malone’s defensive player of the game chain.

“I thought JaMychal Green, our defensive player of the game, was just fantastic,” Malone said. “I let him close the game because he was having that kind of an impact on the game.”

Alongside Green was DeMarcus Cousins who silenced the Philly crowd with back-to-back 3-pointers to tie the game late in the fourth quarter. The two bigs have done wonders off the Nuggets bench together.

“They bring, not just skill and talent, but they bring size, physicality and an edge,” Malone said. “That was like playoff game. That was like a game you see late in the playoffs where every possession matters and physicality matters. To have two guys with the experience that both JaMychal and DeMarcus have and not afraid to mix it up. That’s invaluable to us especially when you surround them with Bryn, Bones and Austin.”

The bench has been a mystery for Denver all season long after dealing with many setbacks due to injuries. Now, Malone feels confident in this group to close out big games whether they need a bucket in the paint or a crucial triple in crunch time. The Nuggets have it all.

“I rode those guys deep into the fourth quarter because they were playing so well,” Malone said. “That’s the biggest challenge when you have a bench unit in the fourth quarter of a big game playing great basketball and you’re saying when do I get my guys back in. Because if you sit them too long we can’t afford for you to warm up here. Every possession matters, but tonight they were incredible.”

The Sixers were on a second night of a back-to-back after playing an overtime game in Orlando but they still came out with more energy taking a 31-14 lead. Denver committed seven turnovers which led to ten unanswered points in the first quarter. The Nuggets finally got in a flow and went on a 8-0 run to cut the deficit to nine but Philly closed out the quarter on a 6-0 run to take a 37-22 lead. Joel Embiid had 12 of his 34 points in the first.

The Nuggets were down by as much as 19 points in the second quarter until they started putting the clamps on defense. They held the Sixers to 6 of 25 shooting from the field while shooting 11 of 23 themselves. Will Barton led the charge in closing out the quarter on a 13-2 run. He scored ten of his 20 points in the quarter and helped cut Denver’s deficit to five.

The Nuggets opened the third quarter on a 10-3 run and took a 63-61 lead. The Sixers then responded with a 9-0 run to take the 72-66 lead midway through the quarter. It was a quarter of endless runs on both ends. Philly went to the free throw line 12 times while Denver only went four which allowed the Sixers to create some separation. They went up 88-81.

Denver turned a seven-point deficit into a six-point lead after Hyland knocked down consecutive triples. Philly called time and immediately went on a 6-0 run to tie it up at 103. The Nuggets closed it out on a 7-2 run, outscoring the Sixers 33-22 in the quarter to win it 114-110.

Although Hyland stole the show, Nikola Jokic still had himself a dominant game with 22 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists. Barton finished the night with 20 points on 50% shooting from the field and beyond the arc.

The Nuggets have two away games before a 4-game home stand. They face the Washington Wizards on Wednesday and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday. Denver still sits in sixth place in the Western Conference standings with a 41-28 season record.

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