Jamal Murray on Tuesday scored 30 points as the Denver Nuggets put on a show for returning fans with a 104-95 defeat of the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers.
Murray’s haul included five-of-11 three-pointers in a one-sided victory for the Nuggets, who roared into a 44-22 first quarter lead at Denver’s Ball Arena and never looked back.
Murray added six rebounds, four assists and three steals while Nikola Jokic delivered a towering all-round display, with 21 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.
Photo: Isaiah J. Downing-USA Today
Michael Porter Jr had 27 points with 12 rebounds, while Paul Millsap (10 points) also chipped in with a double-digit performance off the bench.
Denver’s third-straight victory, which followed wins over the in-form Atlanta Hawks on Sunday and the New Orleans Pelicans last week, leaves them in fifth place in the Western Conference with 29 wins and one loss.
The game was watched by just more than 4,000 fans, mostly frontline workers and first responders. It was the first time fans have attended a Nuggets game since the COVID-19 outbreak last year.
In on-court remarks after their win, Murray said that the support had swept Denver to victory.
“We missed you guys so much,” he told the crowd. “You guys bring a whole different energy to the game. Every time the fans are in the building it gets to me, I get a little excited.”
“When we’re into it and the crowd’s into it, we’re a hard team to beat. We haven’t had a home court advantage in over a year,” Murray said.
However, Nuggets coach Michael Malone was unhappy that his team allowed the Sixers to creep within six points late in the fourth before finally pulling away.
“I’m getting tired of watching us build big leads, play the right way, and then just for some reason relax and allow the game to become more interesting than it should have been,” Malone said. “We have to somehow develop a killer instinct.”
Jokic admitted that the Nuggets’ concentration had strayed toward the end of the game.
“We didn’t have the focus to finish the game,” he said. “We thought it was going to be easy. We had a big lead, and started playing loose. We won the game, which is the most important thing, but we need to have better focus.”
Meanwhile, the Sixers were left reflecting on a second straight loss following their 10-point defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers last week.
Australian star Ben Simmons was restricted to just 11 points, while Tobias Harris added 12. Tyrese Maxey led the Sixers scoring with 13 points from the bench.
“It was one of those games where it looked like we were running in quicksand,” Sixers coach Doc Rivers said. “They attacked us early and we never really recovered from it.”
“They were better prepared and definitely more ready as a group. They were better. No excuses, we just didn’t play very well,” Rivers said.
Elsewhere on Tuesday, the Los Angeles Clippers saw their six-game unbeaten streak halted with an upset home loss to the Orlando Magic.
Kawhi Leonard’s 28-point display was not enough to stop the Clippers from slumping to a 103-96 defeat against an Orlando side that relied on big contributions from the bench, with Terrence Ross (15 points), Otto Porter Jr (13) and Mo Bamba all making double figures.
The Phoenix Suns beat the Atlanta Hawks 117-110, while the Charlotte Hornets defeated the Washington Wizards 114-104.
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