DENVER (AP) The Philadelphia 76ers are poised for another high pick in the NBA draft. Meanwhile, the young players already on the roster are showing the future is bright for the struggling franchise.
Rookie Robert Covington tied a career high with 25 points and Philadelphia beat the Denver Nuggets 99-85 on Wednesday night.
Nerlens Noel had 14 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks for the 76ers, who swept the season series from the Nuggets.
Ty Lawson scored 19 points and Wilson Chandler had 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Nuggets. Denver was held to nine points in the fourth quarter, which tied a franchise record for fewest points in one period.
”There are some basketball icons rolling over their graves right now, from Philadelphia all the way to Denver,” Nuggets interim coach Melvin Hunt said.
Philadelphia was coming off a one-point loss in Sacramento on Tuesday night but had more jump than the Nuggets. The 76ers hit 14 3-pointers and had 14 steals, four by Noel.
”People have to start talking about him for Rookie of the Year,” Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said. ”You don’t repetitively bang out these types of performances and produce the numbers he’s producing. He’s a complete game changer. He’s a complete defensive presence when he’s lurking to block shots. He continues to improve.”
Covington, who also tied a career high with six 3-pointers, scored 15 points in a 6:16 span of the third quarter to give Philadelphia a 66-62 lead.
”They were just leaving me open,” Covington said. ”My teammates have confidence in me, I have confidence in myself and I just let it fly. When I hit one, my confidence boosted.”
Denver responded with a 14-6 run to end the third. Lawson hit a pair of 3-pointers, the second of which gave the Nuggets a 74-72 lead with 30 seconds left in the third quarter. Denver led by four midway through the fourth when Ish Smith drove in for a layup and Noel’s rebound and layup tied it at 79.
Philadelphia took control from there. Covington, Isaiah Canaan and Hollis Thompson each hit 3-pointers as the 76ers went on 14-2 run in the final five minutes to go ahead 95-83.
”When they keep knocking down 3 after 3, it’s deflating,” Lawson said. ”We never really found a pace to get on.”
Noel clinched the win with a steal and dunk to give Philadelphia a 10-point lead with 1:07 left.
Denver missed five straight shots and had two turnovers in the decisive run by the 76ers.
BIG NUMBERS: Noel has been playing well lately. In his last four games the center is averaging 15 points, 11.5 rebounds and 3.8 blocks.
”I’m just playing basketball,” he said. ”My goal is to affect the game any way possible. I just keep it going and come in with that mindset.”
Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari followed up career-high 40-point game Sunday with just eight against Philadelphia. Gallinari said after the game a shoulder injury, which kept him out in the fourth quarter, was an issue.
”My shoulder is starting to get a little sore, but it shouldn’t be anything to worry about,” he said. ”I will be fine for the next game.”
76ers: Forward Thomas Robinson was waived by Denver after the Nuggets acquired him from Portland on Feb. 19. He signed with Philadelphia four days later. … Forward Luc Mbah a Moute was sidelined with a sore shoulder, but it is not considered serious.
Nuggets: Forward Darrell Arthur (right calf strain) was held out. Arthur has been bothered by the injury for a month, but had played in the last four games. … Nelson played despite a sore hip.