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Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid Lead 76ers Past Nikola Jokic, Nuggets

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistDecember 11, 2019

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 10: Joel Embiid #21, Josh Richardson #0, Matisse Thybulle #22 and Furkan Korkmaz #30 of the Philadelphia 76ers react during a timeout in the second quarter against the Denver Nuggets at the Wells Fargo Center on December 10, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Make it a perfect 13-0 for the Philadelphia 76ers at home.

In an early season matchup of potential title contenders Tuesday night, the Sixers knocked off the Denver Nuggets 97-92. It was a bit of revenge for the Sixers, who lost earlier this season to the Nuggets 100-97 on a Nikola Jokic game-winning shot.

For the Sixers, Josh Richardson returned after a six-game absence, just the 10th game this season that Philly's starting lineup of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, Al Horford and Richardson has played together.

Denver lost one of its key players early in the contest, meanwhile, as Jamal Murray played just five minutes before suffering a trunk contusion in the first quarter.

The win moved the Sixers to 18-7 on the season, while the loss dropped Denver to 14-8.

              

Notable Stats

Joel Embiid, Sixers: 22 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, two steals, one block

Nikola Jokic, Nuggets: 15 points, seven rebounds, 11 assists

Ben Simmons, Sixers: Seven points, nine rebounds, seven assists, one steal

Will Barton, Nuggets: 26 points, seven rebounds, seven assists

Tobias Harris, Sixers: 20 points, seven rebounds, four assists, two blocks

Gary Harris, Nuggets: 14 points, five assists

Matisse Thybulle, Sixers: 13 points, five rebounds

Paul Millsap, Nuggets: 10 points, six rebounds, three steals

             

The Sixers Are Tough to Beat When They Score in Transition

It's no secret that the Sixers are a work-in-progress in the half-court offense, as they attempt to navigate the spacing issues that naturally occur given their personnel. The team's defense is excellent, but with several players who like to operate in the post and the process of incorporating offseason signings (Horford, Richardson) into the mix, the team's offense at times can drag to a crawl, often leading to head-scratching turnovers.

But when the Sixers get out on the break and get easy buckets, they are tough to beat.

NBA on TNT @NBAonTNT

The Sixers are clicking in Philly 🔥 https://t.co/RoNpNiHAf6

NBA on TNT @NBAonTNT

Throw it down, Ben! 😤 https://t.co/oS4BexaDo1

During a 22-6 run in the first half, the Sixers blitzed Denver in transition, turning turnovers, blocked shots and even long rebounds into long buckets. Impressive rookie Matisse Thybulle had a fantastic sequence in the run, finishing an acrobatic dunk in transition on one possession before flaring to the corner for a three on the next.

NBA on TNT @NBAonTNT

Oh my, Matisse 😳 https://t.co/SZGJfSt9YN

The Sixers will develop more of an offensive identity as the season wears on. Embiid and Harris can generate offense on their own. Richardson was playing excellent basketball before his injury cost him six games.

NBC Sports Philadelphia @NBCSPhilly

JOEL EMBIID HOW ON EARTH DID THIS GO IN. OUR NATIONAL TREASURE. https://t.co/Ieu9dGPCsI

But until the offense catches up to the defense, the Sixers need to run whenever possible.

                

Jokic and the Nuggets Need Some Home Cooking

Denver has played five of its last six games on the road, and it's been a struggle. The Nuggets have lost five of six, going just 1-4 away from home.

That's been a surprising trend from a Nuggets team that started the season 5-1 on the road.

Losing Murray early on Tuesday night didn't help. Neither did the bench getting outscored 34-27, or the team shooting just 25.9 percent from three (7-of-27).

The Nuggets, to their credit, made life difficult on Philly despite those struggles. And Harris hit one of the more ridiculous layups you'll see.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

How did Gary Harris finish this? 😳 https://t.co/jnUHnPHskX

But Jokic didn't put his stamp on the game, posting decent enough numbers but generally being contained by Philly's center duo of Embiid and Horford. It was another disappointing showing for the talented center, who looked like he was humming again offensively in recent losses to the Brooklyn Nets (24 points) and Boston Celtics (30 points).

That hot streak cooled Tuesday.

Four road games in six days is a tough task for any team. Losing three in a row, however, is a concern for the Nuggets, who suddenly find themselves six games back of the Los Angeles Lakers (21-3) for the top seed in the Western Conference.

                 

What's Next?

The Sixers head north, traveling to Boston for a matchup against the rival Celtics on Thursday night at 8 p.m. ET. The Nuggets return home, meanwhile, hosting the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday at 10:30 p.m. ET.