By Jerry Wein

The Sixers finally figured out a way to win on the road with Joel Embiid and Matisse Thybulle, who are still in COVID jail.

Just let the little guys and a big rook have a chance!

Tyrese Maxey scored 22 points, Seth Curry added 20 and the short-handed Sixers beat the Denver Nuggets 103-89 to snap a five-game losing streak.

Playing without Embiid and three other regulars, the 76ers held Nikola Jokic to three points in the second half in part thanks to the play of rookie big man Charles Bassey. He had 12 points, seven rebounds and three blocks on a night when enraged Nuggets coach Michael Malone was ejected and had to be restrained by Jokic after charging onto the court as the Philadelphia took control in the third quarter.

“I knew coming into the game, missing Joel, that my time was going to come on this trip,” Bassey said. “It was just a matter of getting ready.”

Jokic had 30 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists before leaving the court for the locker room late in the fourth quarter. Malone joked that he was just checking on him.

“As far as I know there’s nothing wrong with Nikola,” Malone said.

Will Barton returned from a back injury to finish with 19 points, nine rebounds and eight assists for Denver.

The Nuggets shot 36% from the field in their second straight defeat after a five-game winning streak.

“They came in and beat our (butt),” Malone said.

Embiid missed his sixth straight game after entering the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Embiid’s absence wiped out a center matchup of the top two vote getters for last season’s NBA MVP.

The award winner, Jokic, was matched up with veteran Andre Drummond and Bassey instead. And while Jokic dominated in the first half with 27 points, he got little help and the Sixers went at him defensively with Bassey and Drummond in the second half.

“He’s just so good, so just trying to wear him out as much as you could,” Sixers coach Doc Rivers said.

Philadelphia, which also got 17 points from Tobias Harris, was also again without Matisse Thybulle (health and safety protocols) and Danny Green (left hamstring). And there’s been no resolution with Ben Simmons (personal reasons), who has asked to be traded.


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