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Thompson powers 76ers past Nuggets

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PHILADELPHIA — Hollis Thompson was searching for his shooting stroke since missing three weeks of action due to illness.

The Philadelphia 76ers swingman appears to have found it now.

Thompson scored a career-high 23 points off the bench, as the Sixers held on to beat the struggling Denver Nuggets 105-98 Tuesday night.

Thompson made his first eight shots, including four 3-pointers, and finished 8-for-12 from the floor, 4-for-6 from the arc.

“I think recently it kind of clicked (and) came back for me,” said Thompson, who was out from Dec. 19 to Jan. 13 with an upper-respiratory infection.

After returning, he went through a four-game stretch in which he missed 19 of 24 shots. However, in the past three games, he is 15-for-28 overall, including 9-for-15 3-point shooting.

“He was out for so long and really out of my mind even for a while when he came back,” Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said. “It took him a while. … I think now clearly he’s got his feet settled, and he’s playing with confidence.”

Forward Robert Covington added 17 points for the Sixers, who won a third consecutive home game for the first time since March 2013. Guard Michael Carter-Williams finished with 15 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds.

Reserve forward Danilo Gallinari had a season-high 22 points to lead Denver, which fell for the third straight time and the 10th time in its past 11 games. Forward Wilson Chandler added 19 points, and guard Ty Lawson had 14 assists.

The Nuggets (19-30) trailed 85-59 with 1:50 left in the third quarter but reeled off 16 straight points, including two 3-pointers by backup guard Jameer Nelson, a native of nearby Chester, Pa., to cut the gap to 85-75.

Philadelphia (11-39) scored seven straight points, the first five by Covington, to go up 99-82.

Denver closed within 103-98 on a 3-pointer by Chandler in the closing seconds.

In the mind of Denver coach Brian Shaw, the game was lost long before that.

“Our defense was nonexistent,” he said. “They either got wide-open threes, layups or free throws. They got anything they wanted, they swung the ball around freely, and that’s the difference. We told (our team that the 76ers) were going to play hard, and they play hard every single night. They don’t make anything easy for you.”

The Sixers scored more than 100 points for the second time in four games after not topping 96 in their previous 23. They shot 44.3 percent from the floor, held the Nuggets to 38.8 percent shooting and owned a 49-37 rebounding advantage.

Philadelphia also attempted a season-high 42 free throws, making 32. Denver shot 20-for-28 at the foul line.

The Sixers shot 68.4 percent from the floor in the first quarter, their second-best marksmanship in any quarter this season. Behind Thompson, they mounted a 20-4 spree late in the period that extended into the second quarter and gave Philadelphia a 44-30 lead.

Thompson scored 13 of his 19 first-half points in that stretch, including three 3-pointers. His 19 points were the most by a Sixer in any half this season.

Philadelphia stretched its lead to 61-38 on yet another 3-pointer by Thompson late in the second quarter. He finished the half 6-for-6 from the floor and 4-for-4 from 3-point range.

Guard Arron Afflalo had 12 of his 14 points in the opening half to lead Denver, which missed 21 of 26 shots in the second quarter.

The Sixers extended their lead to as many as 28 in the third quarter, their biggest lead in any game this season.

Brown said there was “an element of disappointment” in seeing the Nuggets cut into the lead.

“I get greedy, and I want our players to get greedy,” he said. “We want to close games out. We don’t want the peaks and valleys. … It’s a great lesson for us, because we were up 28. It got to five. … It’s that perfect storm of how do you lose that lead?”

NOTES: Sixers G Tony Wroten, out since Jan. 14 after partially tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament, underwent successful surgery Tuesday in Gulf Breeze, Fla. The procedure was performed by Dr. James Andrews, according to a team statement, but no timetable was given for Wroten’s return. … Philadelphia G Michael Carter-Williams started after missing the second half of Monday’s loss to Cleveland with a bruised right shin. Carter-Williams does not believe it will affect his participation in the Rising Stars Challenge on All-Star weekend. Carter-Williams also said there is a possibility he will take part in the skills competition. … Denver C JaVale McGee missed the game because of illness, but F Kenneth Faried and F Darrell Arthur returned after missing Saturday’s game against Charlotte for the same reason. … The Nuggets gathered for dinner Monday night at the suburban Philadelphia home of G Jameer Nelson. “It’s something that players don’t do much anymore,” coach Brian Shaw said.

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