76ers rally for win vs. Nuggets; Embiid sits out
DENVER — With Joel Embiid in a different city entirely, the Philadelphia 76ers got a spark from an unlikely source.
Jerryd Bayless scored all of his 14 points in a key stretch in the second half, and the 76ers rallied from 13 down to beat the Denver Nuggets 107-102 on Saturday night.
Dario Saric had 20 points and nine rebounds and keyed a second-half run, JJ Redick had 18 points and Robert Covington had 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Philadelphia played without Embiid, their star center, who flew directly from Portland to Phoenix, where the team will join him for Sunday’s game. Embiid is averaging 24 points and 11 rebounds per game. The 76ers are 2-7 when he does not play.
“To get one, on the road, without Joe, is a credit to a team effort,” Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said.
Bayless did his part in Embiid’s absence. He scored all of his points in a span of 3:56, when the Sixers took the lead for good.
“It was huge,” guard Ben Simmons said. “He played really well and that’s exactly what we need from guys like that — hit shots.”
Jamal Murray led Denver with 31 points and had eight rebounds; Nikola Jokic had 19 points, 13 rebounds and six assists; and Gary Harris had 17 points.
Denver’s offense went cold in the third quarter and didn’t recover.
“We stopped hitting shots,” Murray said. “It wasn’t their defense. Guys that normally make shots missed them today.”
The Nuggets looked like they had control with 11 straight points to start the third to go up 72-58, but Philadelphia responded with a 25-4 run to lead 83-76. Trey Lyles gave Denver some momentum with a 37-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer to cut the deficit to three.
Lyles finished with 16 points and eight rebounds.
Bayless sparked Philadelphia with eight points in the first 1:06 of the fourth for a 91-80 lead.
Jokic got Denver within 103-100 with two free throws with 1:01 left, and after Bayless missed on the other end, the Nuggets had a chance to tie. Will Barton missed a 3-pointer with 25 seconds left, and Philadelphia called a timeout after Saric grabbed the rebound.
Covington drained two fouls shots with 19.5 seconds left to put the Sixers ahead by five and clinched it with a dunk after Murray hit two free throws.
Sixers: Covington had his left middle finger taped but was able to play. He was listed as doubtful after the morning shootaround but got treatment and started. … The Sixers improved to 9-10 on the road. … Richaun Holmes had 14 points off the bench.
Nuggets: Denver had four players in double figures by halftime. Murray led the way with 18. … The Nuggets finished December 6-7 and failed to have consecutive winning months for the first time since 2012-13. … Denver committed just four fouls in the first half.
With Denver leading 76-75 the Sixers began intentionally fouling Mason Plumlee, who came into Saturday averaging 40.2 percent from the line. The plan worked. Plumlee was 1 of 7 from the line and the Sixers grabbed control.
“You have to make free throws,” Plumlee said. “That’s inexcusable and I’m going to make free throws going forward.”
Philadelphia has decided to sit Embiid in one game of back-to-backs to not push him. He is dealing with a balky back and sat out the first two seasons with a broken foot after being selected third overall in the 2014 draft.
76ers: Play at Phoenix on Sunday night.
Nuggets: Host the Suns on Wednesday night.
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