Nikola Jokic had 26 points and 16 rebounds, Jamal Murray scored 23 points, and the host Denver Nuggets beat the short-handed Philadelphia 76ers 111-105 on Saturday.
Reigning league MVP Joel Embiid was a late scratch for the 76ers due to knee soreness. He went through his pregame warmup but ESPN reported that the training staff ruled him out.
It is the fourth straight time Embiid has not sat out a game in Denver.
The Sixers were also without Tobias Harris (illness), Tyrese Maxey (ankle sprain), De’Anthony Melton (back) and Robert Covington (knee).
The Nuggets struggled to beat depleted Philadelphia but pulled away late. Michael Porter Jr. had 20 points and Aaron Gordon scored 18 for Denver.
Paul Reed scored a career-high 30 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, Kelly Oubre Jr. had 25 points and Patrick Beverley and Marcus Morris Sr. scored 17 points each for the Sixers.
Porter opened the fourth with a 3-pointer to put the Nuggets ahead, and the lead was 96-92 after Peyton Watson split a pair of free throws.
Oubre’s three-point play made it a one-point game, Jokic missed two free throws and Oubre split a pair to tie the score at 96-all with 4:33 left. Jokic made the first of two free throws but missed the second. He got the offensive rebound and putback to spark a 7-0 run.
Beverley hit a turnaround hook shot, Jokic split another pair of free throws and Reid hit a 3-pointer to trim the Nuggets’ lead to 104-101. Porter answered with a corner 3-pointer to make it 107-101, Oubre hit two free throws and the Sixers had a chance to get within a possession but Morris missed a 3-pointer.
Jokic hit two free throws, Reed hit a layup but Kentavious Caldwell-Pope clinched it with two free throws.
The Nuggets led 64-62 at halftime and increased their lead to 78-70 with 7:24 left in the third. Philadelphia rallied, tying it 84-all on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Furkan Korkmaz. After two free throws by Jokic, Danuel House Jr. and Reed made layups to put the Sixers ahead 88-86 heading into the final 12 minutes.