The Denver Nuggets are making a strong argument to keep Carmelo Anthony.
Jrue Holiday had 22 points, Thaddeus Young added 20 and the Philadelphia 76ers rallied in the fourth quarter to beat the Anthony-less Denver Nuggets 95-89 on Sunday night.
Elton Brand had 16 points and 17 rebounds and Jodie Meeks scored 17 points for the 76ers.
It was Denver’s third straight loss since Anthony left the team Wednesday following the death of his sister. The Nuggets could have used him in the fourth quarter when they were outscored 29-18.
”He makes a difference in any game,” Nuggets guard Chauncey Billups said. ”First through the fourth quarter, he makes a big difference, but he’s definitely big in those type of situations.”
The 76ers didn’t feel sorry for the Nuggets.
”It happens in the NBA,” Brand said. ”Guys are out of the lineup and you have to take advantage of it.”
The Nuggets led 82-70 with 8:11 left, but the 76ers surged ahead. Two baskets by Brand and six free throws tied it at 82 with 4:32 left. Young and Holiday hit jumpers to give Philadelphia an 87-84 edge, and Meeks’ 3-pointer with 47.1 left gave the 76ers a 92-86 lead, their biggest of the game at that point.
The Nuggets had appeared to take a one-point lead with 3:03 left but an official video review wiped out Arron Afflalo’s jumper when it showed he didn’t get the shot up before the 24-second clock expired.
”It all came down to (Andre Iguodala’s) defense on Afflalo,” Meeks said. ”When they reversed the score, it gave me an opportunity to make a shot and I knocked it down.”
The Nuggets never led after the shot clock violation.
”Needless to say, this was a great win,” 76ers coach Doug Collins said. ”We were down 82-70 with eight minutes to go and went on a 24-4 run.”
It was the fourth straight subpar final period for the Nuggets. They’ve been outscored a combined 122-80 in the fourth quarter in those four games.
”We do some good things but we’re hurting ourselves with our commitment in some areas,” Nuggets coach George Karl said.
Denver led by five midway through the third when Philadelphia went on a run. Consecutive jumpers by Holiday and Young got the 76ers within one and Brand hit two straight layups make it 64-61 lead with 2:17 left in the quarter. The Nuggets missed five shots and turned it over twice to help Philadelphia take the lead, but they went on a 10-2 run to grab the lead heading into the fourth.
The Nuggets led by 12 after the first quarter but the 76ers shot 50 percent in the second quarter to close the gap. They pulled within one twice and trailed 46-43 at halftime.
Billups had 24 points and Afflalo and Ty Lawson added 14 each for the Nuggets. Chris Andersen and J.R. Smith also each had 11 rebounds for Denver.
The Nuggets, already playing short-handed without Anthony, lost forward Al Harrington to a dislocated right thumb early in the second quarter. Harrington was hurt when Young tipped the ball away from him as he brought it upcourt. He left the game for X-rays and did not return, another blow to the struggling Nuggets.
”We’ve played three really close games, we haven’t won,” Karl said. ”There’s not a flow to the rhythm of the players you can play because of Melo not being here. Then you throw foul trouble in there, Al goes down tonight and we could have won all three games.”
Notes: Philadelphia guard Louis Williams and assistant coach Brian James were not with the team. Williams stayed home to be present for the expected birth of his daughter. James is in Illinois to attend the funeral for his father, who passed away Wednesday. They also miss the 76ers’ game Monday night at Golden State. … Anthony is expected to be back when the Nuggets play Portland on Tuesday night. … Smith set a career high with his 11 rebounds. … The loss snapped Denver’s streak of 58 straight home wins when leading after three quarters.