76ers survive late flurry to beat Nuggets 124-122 (Dec 30, 2016)
DENVER (AP) The Philadelphia 76ers came up big in the fourth quarter a night after collapsing in the final 12 minutes.
Ersan Ilyasova had a career-high 23 points and 13 rebounds and the 76ers survived a flurry in the final seconds to beat the Denver Nuggets 124-122 on Friday night.
''I feel like the trip has been rewarded with a win and us having the ability to finally close out a game and finish off the fourth period,'' Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said.
Joel Embiid returned after sitting out Thursday's loss in Utah to score 23 points and hit key free throws down the stretch. The Sixers ended their four-game trip with just their third win away from home despite having just nine available players.
They had a chance to win the other three games on this trip but consistently faltered in the fourth quarter. The Jazz outscored them 30-9 to end Thursday's game, and the Sixers went over the tape of the period Friday morning.
The attention to detail paid off.
''Tonight, that was the emphasis at the end of the third quarter, that's what everybody was talking about,'' Embiid said. ''We focused, we locked in and got the win.''
Nikola Jokic had a game-high 25 points for the Nuggets, and Emmanuel Mudiay scored 22. Denver had won four of its last five home games but a bad start led to another defeat.
''I thought our focus at shootaround (Friday) was not great,'' coach Michael Malone said. ''And I think that when you win a few games you start to feel pretty good about yourself and you forget why you have been winning games.''
The Nuggets had a chance to tie it during a frantic ending. After Embiid hit two free throws to put the Sixers up four, Jokic was fouled on a 3-point attempt.
Jokic made the first two free throws and intentionally missed the third. Denver's Gary Harris grabbed the rebound but missed a short bank shot, and Kenneth Faried's tip-in try was off as time expired.
''Jokic did a great job missing, I got a shot up and we had a chance for a tip-in, but it just didn't go our way,'' Harris said.
The Nuggets pulled within 114-113 with 1:43 left, but Philadelphia's T.J. McConnell hit his third 3-pointer of the night - matching his total makes for the season. He finished with 17 points and eight assists.
Four straight foul shots by Denver tied it, but Embiid split a pair of free throws to put Philadelphia ahead by one.
He then stripped Jokic on the other end as the center went up for a go-ahead layup and drained two more free throws to put the Sixers ahead 120-117 with 15.9 seconds left.
Sixers: Sergio Rodriguez sprained his left ankle in the loss at Utah on Thursday and did not play Friday. ... Richaun Holmes was not with the team and is in concussion protocol. ... G Gerald Henderson missed his second straight game with left hip soreness.
Nuggets: Wilson Chandler (right neck sprain/strain) and Jamal Murray (groin soreness) both played. ... Jokic has scored in double figures in 12 of his last 14 games.
CENTER OF ATTENTION
Nuggets big man Jusuf Nurkic played 18:33 after not playing in four straight games and averaging just 6:16 in three other games. Nurkic expressed his disappointment after practice Thursday, telling The Denver Post, ''I'm not here to sit on the bench; I'm here to play basketball.''
Malone said before Friday's game he had no problem with Nurkic's sentiments.
''Nurk's been great,'' Malone said. ''I understand guys want to be out there. They're competitive. You want them to be competitive. Just make sure you're being a good teammate.''
Sixers: Host Minnesota on Tuesday night.
Nuggets: At the Golden State Warriors on Monday night.