DENVER (AP) — Nikola Jokic hit an off-balanced 20-foot shot with 1.2 seconds remaining, helping the Denver Nuggets rally from a 21-point, fourth-quarter deficit to stun the Philadelphia 76ers 100-97 on Friday night.
It’s the largest fourth-quarter comeback in team history.
Jokic finished with 26 points, none bigger than his jumper from the left side of the court with 76ers players all over him. On the next possession, the Nuggets big man drew an offensive foul on Joel Embiid. Will Barton then hit two free throws to seal the win.
Jamal Murray, bloody nose and all, had 22 points for the Nuggets, who’ve won three straight games since coach Michael Malone called out his team for their energy level.
No questioning their energy in this one. Philly hit the first shot of the final quarter to go up 21 and then it was all Denver.
The matchup in the middle between two of the top centers in the NBA proved highly entertaining. For once, Jokic got the better of Embiid in the stat that mattered most — wins. Jokic is 1-3 against Embiid when they both play, according to Basketball-Reference. Jokic was first team All-NBA last season, and Embiid second team.
A breakdown of the numbers: Jokic had 11 rebounds and six assists. Embiid finished with 19 points, 15 rebounds and two assists.
Tobias Harris and Raul Neto each had 13 points for the Sixers, who finished 1-3 on their four-game Western swing. They were without Ben Simmons after he sprained the AC joint in his right shoulder Wednesday in Utah. Neto started in his place.
The 7-foot Jokic lost his cool late in the first quarter after not getting a call when he was grabbed while going up for a shot. Jokic held out his hands in exasperation toward official Scott Wall, who ignored him at first and then issued a technical.
Sixers coach Brett Brown knew the showdown between Embiid and Jokic would be worth the price of admission.
“They both have an arsenal of ways of score,” Brown said.
76ers: G/F Shake Milton remained out with a left knee bone bruise/sprain. … Simmons will be evaluated again before Sunday’s game against Charlotte. … G Trey Burke picked up a technical in the second quarter. … The Philly bench combined for 37 points, while the Nuggets’ reserves had 12.
Nuggets: Paul Millsap played with 11 stitches above his right eye after a collision on a fast-break last game. Wearing a headband, he finished with 15 points.
No Simmons meant more defensive decisions for Philly.
“The matchups and the defensive rebounding and the switch-ability,” Brown explained.
SENSE OF HUMOR
Malone got to know Embiid through the “Basketball Without Borders” program a few years back. Malone was a coach of the African squad.
“I won’t get into the stories,” Malone cracked. “Joel has a great personality. He has a great sense of humor. I did enjoy my time being around him in a short period of time during that camp.”
76ers: Host Charlotte on Sunday.
Nuggets: In Minnesota on Sunday.