Instant Replay: Nuggets 101, Sixers 100


Instant Replay: Nuggets 101, Sixers 100


DENVER -- The Sixers came into Denver prepared to face a Nuggets team riding a 13-game winning streak and boasting a 30-3 record at home inside the Pepsi Center.

The game had all the making of a lopsided loss, but the Sixers instead turned it into a gut-wrenching 101-100 defeat.

With 7.1 seconds remaining on the clock, Evan Turner stepped to the free throw line to ice the game but missed both shots.

On the ensuing Denver possession, Corey Brewer was fouled by Damien Wilkins on a three-point attempt. Brewer converted all three free throws to give the Nuggets a 101-100 lead with 2.1 seconds left in the game.

The Sixers’ final shot at the buzzer was blocked to give them their 15 straight loss on the road.

"We weren't supposed to win that game," former Sixer Andre Iguodala told CSN's Molly Sullivan afterward. "We weren't supposed to win tonight."

Turning point
Damien Wilkins shook off a foul from Andre Miller to score on the low block with 2:07 left in the game. His bucket gave the Sixers an eight-point lead, but he was unable to convert the ensuing free throw.

Still, that should have been enough for the Sixers to close out the game. Instead, they scored just two more points the rest of the way, while turnovers and poor execution sealed their fate.

Follow the leader
Spencer Hawes had 17 points and 12 rebounds for his 14th double-double of the season. He also blocked four shots.

Jrue Holiday had 18 points and 15 assists for his 19th double-double. Holiday’s 15 assists tied his season high.

Wilkins scored 24 points, while Thaddeus Young added 18.

Brewer scored a game-high 29 points on 10-of-18 shooting. He also made 5 of 6 shots from beyond the arc.

Andre Miller started for the injured Ty Lawson and scored 21 points. Iguodala added 13 points, four rebounds and four assists.

Since the Nuggets play at a frenetic pace, they tend to turn the ball over more than most teams. Denver averages 15.2 turnovers per game, tied for 25th-worst in the NBA.

The Sixers are second in the league in giveaways at just 13.1 per game.

Both teams were sloppy with the ball on Thursday. The Sixers turned it over 22 times, while the Nuggets had 19 turnovers for the night.

Take a bow
Wilkins has been a real bright spot for the Sixers during the back half of this disappointing season.

Wilkins made his seventh straight start Thursday night and scored in double figures for a seventh time in his last nine games. He finished with a team-high 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting.

What’s next?
The Sixers continue their four-game road swing with a game at Sacramento on Sunday.

The Kings average 99.7 points per game, but they give up a league-worst 104.8 points a night.

Sacramento is led in scoring and rebounding by DeMarcus Cousins, who averages 17.0 and 10.0 respectively. Chester product Tyreke Evans is second on the team in scoring with 15.6 points a game.

Sixers to ease in Jahlil Okafor off bench, expect more from him on D

Sixers to ease in Jahlil Okafor off bench, expect more from him on D

The Sixers struggled to carve a clear role for Jahlil Okafor last season as he and Nerlens Noel split time out of position in the frontcourt. Brett Brown has a more clear picture of how to utilize Okafor in his second year, highlighted by goals and a shift to the bench. 

Okafor has been sidelined from preseason action because of his right knee. He underwent surgery to repair a meniscus tear in March and aggravated it during the final training camp scrimmage. 

Okafor said he felt “pretty sore” after scrimmaging Monday, his first since camp, and he was better after going through individualized training and work in the water on Tuesday. This setback has forced him to exercise patience. 

“I know I told you guys I wasn’t frustrated a few weeks ago, but at this point it has been frustrating because I’ve been doing all the right stuff and I want to see me back out there sooner,” Okafor said after practice Thursday. “But I can’t rush my body, I can’t rush my health. ... I would love to have the opportunity to be there for opening night and play in front of our fans. Right now it’s looking like that’s probable."

The Sixers plan to use Okafor in a reserve role to start the season. Okafor expects to be on a 12- to 15-minute restriction, similar to Joel Embiid, when he is cleared to play. 

“I think about it all the time, but I talk to him. We’ve talked about this for months,” Brown said of Okafor's coming off the bench. “It’s not anything that is going to surprise anybody. He’s been fantastic. ... I talked with Jahlil about a lot of things and that could be, to start the year it will be, a scenario.”

Okafor, the third overall pick in 2015, started 48 of his 53 games last season. He is approaching this year with realistic expectations given his restrictions and is not concerned about being out of the starting five. 

“I’ll be fine,” Okafor said. “That won’t be a tough adjustment for me. I came off the bench a couple of times last year.”

Brown’s focus is not necessarily on how Okafor starts the game, but how he finishes. He would like Okafor and Embiid to be able to play together at the end of games to give the team a fourth-quarter boost.

“If it ends up you’ve got Jahlil coming off the bench and he’s going against backup five men, you think you probably have an advantage there,” Brown said. “If he does anything, he scores the ball, he scores buckets, he gets points. You can see how that can be a really nice role for him and for us.”

Okafor led the Sixers in scoring last season with 17.5 points per game. Brown, though, is focusing on his defensive improvements. The Sixers are looking to play an uptempo system in which they will need Okafor to hustle on defense each possession. Okafor slimmed down and added muscle this summer to prepare for the season. 

“He has to be elite in two areas to me,” Brown said. “Transition defense first — A-plus-plus-plus, get back. If you’re tired, if you’ve got to conserve energy, it’s not that way. It’s running back on offense. We have to get him back on defense.

“Then he has to be better skilled, better drilled by me, [a] high level of accountability with pick-and-roll defense. ... You can go over to defensive rebounding (as) a close third, but those two things happen the most.”

Okafor expects to be more effective on the defensive end after getting adjusted to it as a rookie. 

“(I want) to be smarter on defense, knowing where to be,” Okafor said. “My first year playing in the NBA, it was just a lot going on. Everybody was so fast.” 

Brown sees a focused 20-year-old who is more disciplined and ready to embrace whatever role he is given this season. 

“I can’t wait to coach him this year," Brown said. "I think he’s going to come back and have a great year. His body tells me that, his attitude tells me that. He’s in a good place personally."

Sixers eyeing players waived by other teams before finalizing roster

Sixers eyeing players waived by other teams before finalizing roster

CAMDEN, N.J. — As the Sixers decide who to keep on their roster and who to waive before the regular season, they also are keeping an eye on moves around the league.

Teams have been making cuts as the preseason winds down. In addition to assessing their own group of players, the Sixers are watching who becomes available. 

"There's always stuff that comes in late. You think you know a few days out and sometimes something happens," Brett Brown said after practice Thursday. "There are other teams that are releasing people too, and so the table is very fluid. The marketplace forces you to pay attention and make sure you're doing your job and growing your team. It's hard to say honestly (that) everything's in place and it's set, you know exactly [who] the 15 (players) are going to be. That is not true."

The Sixers' needs have shifted since the start of training camp. Once deep in the frontcourt and at the one spot, the Sixers have been hit by injuries to point-forward Ben Simmons (right Jones fracture), projected starting point guard Jerryd Bayless (sore left wrist), big man Jahlil Okafor (right knee) and center Nerlens Noel (left groin strain). They reportedly expressed interested in Timberwolves point guard Tyus Jones, according to The Vertical.

The roster stands at 20. Elton Brand announced he will be retiring, which clears up a spot. Cat Barber, Shawn Long, Brandon Paul and James Webb III, who signed with the Sixers this offseason, are those likely to be waived. Players that don't make the Sixers still could end on their D-League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers.

The Sixers will play their final preseason game on Friday against the Heat in Miami. Brown does not foresee a huge change to happen from the finale. He has been observing many of the Sixers since Summer League, and others returned to Philadelphia to work out ahead of training camp.

"I think it all adds up," Brown said. "We've seen a body of work. We've seen a lot. I think that it will play out more with that in mind than a dramatic performance on the last game of an NBA preseason."

When it comes time for Brown to make the final decision, the conversations don't get easier over the years. 

"It's always hard for me," Brown said. "A lot of these guys were with us over the summertime, so it's not like you just met him. It's never an easy time. But it's also a time, you feel like you've done your best to help them. They'll be better off, I think, for having spent time with us."

The Sixers begin the regular season on Oct. 26 at home against the Thunder.