Corey Brewer spiked the ball, then roared at midcourt.
Fitting that his primal scream came on top of a logo with pickaxes since it was Brewer who dug the Denver Nuggets out of an improbable hole in a streak-saving 101-100 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday night.
With the victory, the Nuggets extended their franchise record with a 14th straight win, a mark that would’ve ended if it weren’t for Brewer’s heroics.
Denver trailed by five before the sixth-year small forward out of Florida fought his way open for a clutch 3-pointer with 9.2 seconds left that made it 100-98. After nearly stealing the inbounds pass, Brewer then fouled Philadelphia’s Evan Turner, who missed both free throws to give the Nuggets a chance to force overtime or win the game.
“It’s crazy. To be honest, I didn’t think we had any chance of winning,” Brewer said. “Then he missed those free throws and I was like, ‘OK, we’ve got a little chance.’ He gave us life.”
After a timeout with only 6.8 seconds left, Anthony Miller inbounded to Danilo Gallinari. Brewer took the handoff from Gallinari and quickly shot a 3-pointer that missed. However, 76ers shooting guard Damien Wilkins made more than enough contact with Brewer’s left arm to draw a whistle with 2.1 seconds left.
That sent Brewer to the free-throw line for three pressure-filled shots from the line. He nailed the first as the crowd held its breath as much as it could in the Mile High City.
“I was just trying to be calm. I knew I needed to make two out of three, and once I made the first one, a little pressure’s off,” Brewer said.
He would sink the next two to put the Nuggets ahead to stay. Wilkins’ final attempt for Philadelphia was blocked by Anthony Randolph to secure the win.
Brewer finished with a career-best 29 points, 11 of them coming in the fourth quarter, to go with five steals and one block. The win clinched a playoff spot for a dialed-in Denver squad that holds the fifth seed in the West but is only 2.5 games back of the Oklahoma City Thunder for the second seed.
While the Miami Heat’s 24 straight wins have gotten just about all the attention in the NBA, the Nuggets’ 14-game tear is just now starting to show on the radar. Over the course of the two teams’ streaks, Miami is beating its opponents by 10.9 points per game. Denver is beating its opponents by 10.5 points per game.
The Nuggets got their latest victory without point guard Ty Lawson (bruised heel) and Wilson Chandler (dislocated shoulder). Brewer stepped up by going 5-of-6 from 3-point range, overcoming a slump in March that’s seen him go 6-for-26 (23.1 percent) from deep.
However, the transition specialist is still having his best month of the season, averaging 14.9 points a game in March despite the recent struggles from long range. He’s having his best season since his third year in the NBA with Minnesota, averaging 11.9 points and 1.4 steals in just about 24 minutes a game.
Brewer is one of the many reasons Denver will be a true contender in the West based on how the team has fared this season against the best in the conference. Here’s a breakdown of the Nuggets’ record against the best in the West:
No. 1 seed San Antonio – 1-1 (still play them twice)
No. 2 seed Oklahoma City – 3-1 (won the last three)
No. 3 seed Memphis – 3-1 (won the most recent meeting)
No. 4 seed L.A. Clippers – 2-1 (won the last two by 14 points and 15 points, respectively)
That’s a total record of 9-4, and all those series are done except for the one with the Spurs. Denver can win that one depending on how they do against the Spurs this Wednesday at San Antonio and on April 10 at Denver.
But every Nuggets game will get an extra eye as the “other streak” continues.
Thanks to Brewer.