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Denver Nuggets built a commanding 22-point lead in first quarter. Then fell flat, but were able to finish off the 76er’s 104-95.

The Denver Nuggets faced a Philadelphia 76ers team that had won 6 of 8 without Joel Embiid. Again, they would have to do it without their big-man. Who is somehow viewed over Denver’s own big, Nikola Jokic. Well the Nuggets are 15-6 when Joker Jams. Michael Porter Jr. had 19 straight games with double digit points doing so with his 88 three’s, and 40 dunks. A missed technical free throw miss ended 32 straight free throws made by Murray on Sunday. 2 trends would continue, and one had a quick end by the end of 4-quarters.

From the onset Denver had a renewed vigor, whether it be the first game with fans or simply the elevated talent around their Big-3 can be up for debate. I believe it is the latter, but I digress. What I saw was a team that just knew they were bigger, badder, and better. You had MPJ score 14, and Murray put up 16, again, in just the first. The Nuggets out rebounded the 76ers 14-8 in the quarter. And more than doubled them up at 44-22 by the end of the quarter.

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You saw Dwight Howard try to do his “thing” of annoying the home crowd/team. Screaming after a decent alley-oop from Ben Simmons when it was 3-2. By the time Denver doubled up Philly 32-16 with more than 4 minutes to go, you didn’t hear any screams or grunts out of Howard for awhile. The worst thing for Philadelphia though was that their leading scorer at the half was him.

Dwight and his antics resurfaced with a little more than a minute to go in the half. When he started screaming, literally, for And 1’s. He also picked up a Flagrant 1 Foul with 11.3 seconds left in the half after little brother head-slapping Will Barton. But no matter how loud he got, his team never came to life. Howard’s 10 points led the team, Ben Simmons had 5 points on 1/4 shooting (3 came at the line). But the 4th best defense in the league per Defensive Rating should be up to the task and keep it close right? Not when you have Facundo Campazzo going Beast Mode and trucking your star player without drawing a foul.

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That defense didn’t make the trip to Ball Arena until after the half. Denver’s Big-3 all had double digit points (Murray 18, Jokic 10, MPJ 20). Aaron Gordon had 4 points on 2 sweet dunks, with 3 rebs. and a steal. Paul Milsap pitched in 8 pts. off the bench with 2 blocks and a steal to add in the mix. It wasn’t quite on par with Sunday against Atlanta where almost everyone in a jersey got double-digit points. But it wasn’t far off, with the balance shifting to that Big-3 that almost equaled it’s entire output from Sundays game, in one half. This lead to a 68-45 Nuggets lead at the whistle. 17

Here is one of those sweet Air Gordon slams courtesy of the Denver Nuggets Social Team:

The 3rd quarter had Philly come out of the locker room with a renewed energy, and less Howard antics. This lead to a better defensive effort and seemed to frustrate the Nuggets and forced them into taking bad shots that in the first were falling, no longer fell. Ben Simmons doubled his effort to get to a team 11 points, while Tobias Harris made it 3 76er’s in double digits with his team-high 12. The Nuggets kept their rebound advantage, but fell behind their opponent in steals, blocks, and turnovers. Philly then went on a 5-0 run to end the quarter outscoring the Nuggets 26-20 in the frame. Unlike the first half that saw Jokic/Murray/MPJ shoulder the load. This trio only scored 17 in the 3rd. This allowed philly to shrink the Nuggets lead to 17 at 88-71 to start the fourth.

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The 4th quarter saw the Denver Nuggets bench continue their struggles from the 3rd. The entire bench had scored 2 points in the second half with 8:20 to go. The 76ers started on a 14-4 run to begin the frame. The poor play did necessitate Denver’s starters to play the entire game. Jokic closed out the game with a 21 pts./10 reb. double-double. MPJ had a 27 pt./12 reb. double-double of his own. Jamal Murray filled the stat line with a game-high 30 pts./6 rebs./4 assists/3 steals.

Kudos to Philadelphia for not mailing it in to finish the game, instead their bench fought. Clawing back to within as little as 7 points with less than a minute left in the game. The 76er’s again outscored the Nuggets 24-16 in the quarter, but the 20-point hole they dug in the first just proved to be to much to overcome. Luckily the Nuggets didn’t see much of Tyrese Maxey until well into the 4th-quarter. This is the same guy that dropped 39 points the last time these teams met. He ended up scoring a team-high 13 points in just over 15 mins. of play.

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The difference Aaron Gordon makes to this team is this game. Just a few days ago, this game ends much differently. Thankfully for Mile High Basketball, Air Gordon is here. Most nights will see him be much more impactful on the court than box score. Despite only 6 points, this man does not allow his teammates to relax on the defensive side. So even though the Denver Nuggets offensive mojo dried up in the second half, they never allowed the 76er’s to really pull away and never trailed in a 104-95 win.

Up Next:

@ L.A. Clippers Thursday, April 1 at 8:00 PM MST

Where to watch:

Denver Market: Altitude TV

Los Angeles Market: PRIME

National Broadcast: TNT