It was unreal, surreal. This thing was over — the 76ers up eight points with less than two minutes left — but the Nuggets, resuscitated, climbed back into the game and won 101-100 on Thursday night at the Pepsi Center. Corey Brewer made three free throws with 2.1 seconds left to give Denver the lead for good, cemented by an Anthony Randolph block on Damien Wilkins at the buzzer.
Brewer scored — poured? — a career-high 29 points, including a 3-pointer with 9.2 seconds left.
"It was crazy. To be honest, I didn't think we had any chance of winning," Brewer said. "Even when (Evan Turner) missed those two free throws, it gave us life."
After Turner missed both, Denver was able to get Brewer open for the 3-ball foul.
"We ran it for Andre (Miller) to come off, and then (Danilo) Gallinari, to keep it," Brewer said, "and then I was going to come for the handoff, and I was able to get it — and I saw the defender coming, so I tried to get it off quick."
That makes 14 consecutive wins for the fellows in yellow, a team NBA franchise record, while also tying the longest streak in coach George Karl's career, a streak that occurred in 1996, when his SuperSonics ultimately went to the NBA Finals.
Denver is an incredible 31-3 at home and on a 16-game home winning streak.
"We overcame lazy, mental preparation, but in the same sense, to play as poorly as we did and win is a positive," Karl said. "It definitely goes in the category of a lucky win. ... You can't play well all the time, and when you don't play well, you figure out how to come up with a win."
The Nuggets had lost only three times at home. The 76ers, who had lost 14 straight on the road, stink. In March Madness terms, this was like a 14-3 matchup. But for most of the night, it was madness. The Nuggets fell apart — and were picked apart by Sixers guard Jrue Holiday, who dished out a career-high 15 assists.
Clearly, the Nuggets didn't have the juice from the ever-so-inspired game at Oklahoma City two nights prior. But the magic happened late, similarly to the Miami Heat the night before in staving off a loss at Cleveland.
The Nuggets were without their motor, starting point guard Ty Lawson, who missed the game with a heel injury. Andre Miller started in place of Lawson, who is day to day heading into Saturday's game against Sacramento. Miller wasn't Tuesday Miller. He made some shots like he did at Oklahoma City, and his stat line was good-looking — 21 points and eight assists — but it was clear that Denver's offense didn't have the same punch as it has with Lawson. And for the night, Miller was minus-12, a glaring number in the plus-minus stat that Karl cherishes so.
"When you take guys out, sometimes the puzzle doesn't fit," Karl said of the injuries.
Denver was also without Wilson Chandler — "Ill Wil" has a separated shoulder and said he likely will miss the next three or four games, counting Thursday's game. After the Sacramento game, Denver plays at New Orleans on Monday and at San Antonio on Wednesday, a huge litmus-test game for the Nuggets.
But how about Brewer?
He was firing all game Thursday, making 10-of-18 shots and contributing five steals too. In the second quarter, he sprinted back during a 76ers two-man fast break, threw up two hands and intercepted a zipped pass. At the time, it was his biggest play.
Then came the 3. Then came the three free throws.
"It's a pretty big highlight," Brewer said of the frantic finish, "Probably my best highlight since I was in the NBA."
What you might have missed: The loose Denver defense allowed the 76ers' Spencer Hawes to break loose. Thursday, the big guy finished with 17 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks. In the Halloween matchup against the Nuggets, Hawes was also a hoss, finishing with 16, 12 and five. ... Danilo Gallinari was 3-for-10 after a 4-for-17 night at Oklahoma City. ... Evan Fournier scored four points in six minutes, while helping out at point guard for Denver.
Final thought: Craziest. Win. Ever.
Up next: Sacramento, Saturday at 7 p.m.