LOS ANGELES – A lot of things had to go right for the 76ers to beat the Denver Nuggets on Saturday.
The Nuggets (33-15) entered the game with the NBA’s second-best home record (now 22-4), while the Sixers entered the contest without their starting front court of two-time NBA All-Star game starter Joel Embiid, swingman Jimmy Butler, and power forward Wilson Chandler.
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In a better-than-expected outcome, the Sixers suffered a 126-110 setback at the Pepsi Center. It was a loss the Sixers (32-18) wasted little time moving on from.
Their focus is getting healthy in time for Tuesday night’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers, the second stop of their four-game West Coast road trip.
“Given what we had to play with tonight, I think, overall, we competed,” JJ Redick said after Saturday night’s game. “We made mistakes, young guys made mistakes, vets made mistakes. We’re trying to work through some things, but we move on.”
Following Tuesday night’s game against the Lakers (25-24 heading into Sunday’s game against the Phoenix Suns) at the Staples Center, the Sixers head to Northern California to face the Golden State Warriors and the Sacramento Kings.
They’ll face the two-time defending NBA champion Warriors (35-14) on Thursday at Oracle Arena. Then, on Saturday, they will challenge the Kings (25-25) at Golden 1 Center.
The hope is that they’ll be healthy during the three road games.
Sixers coach Brett Brown said Butler is expected to return on Tuesday after missing the previous three games with sprained right wrist. Embiid will be back after sitting out Saturday’s game due to much needed rest. He’s been playing with back tightness.
Chandler also expects to return versus the Lakers. He missed the Denver game with left hamstring tightness, which doesn’t appear to be serious. He had fluid drained from the hamstring on Thursday. So missing Saturday’s game was precautionary. The former Nugget was able to participate in shooting drills before the start of the game.
They kept battling back from deficits to make things close until late in the third quarter. But Nikola Jokic (32 points, 18 rebounds, 10 assists) hit a pair of foul shots to give Denver a 105-90 cushion with 1 minute, 35 seconds left in the quarter. The closest the Sixers got the remainder of the way was nine points.
Solid games from Corey Brewer (20 points, a game-high four steals), Landry Shamet (seven assists), and Shake Milton (11 points, 3-for-5 on three-pointers) were something to build on.
“I think for [Saturday’s] game, there are a lot of positives you can take from it,” Ben Simmons said. “Missing Chandler, Joel and Jimmy, three big parts of our team, it’s tough. At the same time, I’m proud of everyone that stepped up and played.”
One gets the feeling that, being undermanned, the Sixers would have pulled off a major upset if they exited the Pepsi Center with a victory.