The Denver Nuggets were called out by their coach after back-to-back losses last week and responded with much stronger efforts on the defensive end, holding their last two opponents under 90 points in back-to-back wins. The Nuggets will try to make it three in a row when they host the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday.
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Denver coach Michael Malone called his team's effort "embarrassing" after a 122-107 setback at New Orleans last week and was singing a different tune after a 109-89 home win over Miami on Wednesday. "I thought our defense tonight was fantastic," Malone told reporters. "I gave our guys the morning off in hopes that we would have great energy tonight and I think, for the most part, we did. I saw signs of life, in terms of getting back to Denver Nuggets basketball -- 35 assists, more energy, more passing and cutting, and obviously, the defense against a team that's playing red hot overall, was fantastic." The 76ers began the season with five straight wins but dropped the last two contests to fall to 1-2 on their four-game road trip. Philadelphia got All-Star center Joel Embiid back from a two-game suspension in time for Wednesday's 106-104 loss at Utah but lost All-Star point guard Ben Simmons to a shoulder sprain.
TV: 9 p.m. ET, NBCS Philadelphia, Altitude (Denver)
ABOUT THE 76ERS (5-2): Simmons suffered a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder in the first half of Wednesday's loss and is scheduled to be evaluated on Thursday in Denver. Philadelphia missed Simmons' production on the offensive end in the last two games as he was held to six points on 2-of-8 shooting in Monday's 114-109 setback at Phoenix and managed two points before exiting Wednesday's contest. Embiid collected 27 points and 16 rebounds in his return but was 5-of-16 from the floor, including 1-of-5 from beyond the arc.
ABOUT THE NUGGETS (5-2): Denver got small forward Will Barton (toe) back from a two-game absence on Tuesday and he delivered 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting, 10 rebounds and four assists while holding All-Star Jimmy Butler to 3-of-12 from the floor on the other end. "I think Will, when he's locked in and focused like he's playing right now, he gives you a lot of positives on both ends of the floor," Malone told reporters. Barton helped make up for an off night on Tuesday from star center Nikola Jokic, who managed nine points on 4-of-12 shooting in 23 minutes while battling foul trouble.
1. Nuggets SG Gary Harris (ankle) left Tuesday's game and is day-to-day.
2. 76ers SG Josh Richardson scored a season-high 24 points on Wednesday.
3. Jokic recorded 32 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists in a 126-110 home win over Philadelphia last season.