Instant Replay: Sixers 113, Kings 104

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Instant Replay: Sixers 113, Kings 104

BOX SCORE

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The Sixers started their season by surprising fans and people around the league with three straight wins.

Some tough times followed that perfect start, including a 13-game road losing streak that was snapped against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.

The Sixers were presented with another opportunity to win three games in a row on Thursday night when they played the Sacramento Kings at Sleep Train Arena. Mission accomplished.

The Sixers earned a physical 113-104 win to improve their record to 11-21 and push their mark to 3-1 on this West Coast swing.

For a second consecutive night, the Sixers scored more than 60 first-half points. They led 61-51 at the break.

Both Lavoy Allen and Spencer Hawes fouled out late in the fourth quarter, an indication how tough a guard DeMarcus Cousins is on the court.

Turning point
The third quarter’s numerous runs proved to be key in the game’s outcome.

The Sixers built a 15-point lead early in the third quarter before the Kings used a brief run to cut that lead to nine.

The Sixers ripped off their own burst to build their advantage to a game-high 18 points only to allow the Kings to go on a 12-2 run of their own.

The Sixers weathered the storm yet again and were able to hold a 15-point advantage heading to the fourth quarter.

Follow the leader
Thaddeus Young had 11 third-quarter points before finishing with a team-high 28. Tony Wroten scored 21 points on 6-of-12 shooting.

Evan Turner added 24 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.

Cousins had 22 points by halftime, but foul trouble limited his playing time after intermission. He finished with 33 points and 14 rebounds.

Isaiah Thomas had 23 points and Rudy Gay added 18.

Stat-egic
The Sixers held the Kings to 42.2 percent shooting and just 7 of 23 from three-point range. They also forced the Kings into 23 turnovers.

If defense has been the Sixers’ focus post-Christmas, it is definitely showing.

Take a bow
Jimmer Fredette had all of his 15 points in the fourth quarter. He made his first four shots in the quarter, including two three-pointers. As he did during his BYU playing days, Fredette ignited the crowd with every made basket. He finished 5 of 9 and grabbed four rebounds in his 16 minutes.

What’s next?
The Sixers will conclude their six-game road trip on Saturday night against the Trail Blazers.

Portland has the best record in the Western Conference at 26-7.

The Blazers beat the Sixers, 139-105, on Dec. 14 behind LaMarcus Aldridge’s 20 points and 16 rebounds.

Tim Quarterman: Ben Simmons at PG will 'work out well' for Sixers

Tim Quarterman: Ben Simmons at PG will 'work out well' for Sixers

There are only a handful of people who have played basketball extensively with Ben Simmons, given he has been sidelined thus far into his rookie season with a foot injury. Those who spent Simmons’ freshman year at LSU with him have firsthand insight into the NBA player he has the potential to become.

“He's definitely a team player,” Blazers rookie guard Tim Quarterman, who played with Simmons at LSU, said Friday. “He's a pass-first person. He wants to see his teammates do well. I think when he comes back to play, that's what he'll bring to Philly. He's not one of those people who just tries to go out there to get a 100 points. He's a good teammate.”

Quarterman left school after his junior year and earned a spot on the Trail Blazers' roster. He and Simmons have different stories: Simmons was the first overall pick; Quarterman went undrafted. Simmons has has been out since training camp; Quarterman, while playing sparingly, has experienced live NBA action. Still, the two have shared in the journey of life in the league. 

“It's a cool process going through our rookie season together,” Quarterman said before the Trail Blazers faced the Sixers Friday. “Even though he's not playing right now, he's working to get on the court. I'm sure he'll do great when he gets back out there. I got a chance to talk to him last night. Everything's been good so far.”

The Sixers got a small glimpse of Simmons during training camp before he suffered a Jones fracture on the final day. He recently began participating in 5-on-0 drills. Simmons also has been putting up shots after practice and doing light courtwork during pregame warmups. 

Brett Brown has said he intends to start the 6-foot-10 Simmons at the one spot when he returns. As part of his multi-faceted rehab, Brown has been giving Simmons written tests in which he has to navigate various in-game situations as the point guard. Simmons played point-forward at LSU, where he averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists. 

“He'll be able to space the floor,” Quarterman said of Simmons at the point. “He can see over the defense and make passes that some little guards can't. He can defend. He can move his feet well. I think it'll work out well.”

It remains to be seen when the former teammates will both be suited up in the same NBA game. There is no timetable set for Simmons’ return. The Sixers face the Trail Blazers for their second and final meeting of the regular season on March 9 in Portland. 

“It's cool for both of us to be making the best of our opportunity,” Quarterman said.

Sixers-Hawks 5 things: Looking to keep win streak alive without Joel Embiid

Sixers-Hawks 5 things: Looking to keep win streak alive without Joel Embiid

Sixers (15-26) at Hawks (25-18)
7 p.m. on CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 6:30

Coming off a thrilling comeback win over the Trail Blazers on Friday, the Sixers travel to Atlanta to take on the Hawks at Phillips Arena in the second game of a back-to-back. 

1. Going streaking
It's been a long time since the Sixers have had anything resembling a winning streak. No longer is that the case, as the Sixers have won three straight games, with Friday's win capping their fifth-straight home win. 

The Sixers have also won eight of their last 10 games — with only the Warriors posting a better record during that span — and are playing with a confidence and energy that hasn't been seen in Philly for years. 

One streak they'll try to end, however, is their recent losing streak to the Hawks, as the Sixers haven't beaten Atlanta in six straight matchups.

2. Injury scare
Fans at the Wells Fargo Center held their breath Friday night as Joel Embiid came down awkwardly on his left knee and came up limping. 

Embiid ran to the locker room on his own and was cleared to return to the game, though he never did. He was diagnosed with a left knee contusion and said after the game that everything was fine.

"I'm great," he said. "The knee's fine. They did an MRI and stuff, and everything looked good."

Despite not having Embiid for the final minutes of Friday's game, the Sixers were able to pull together and rally for a 93-92 win over the Blazers. 

Injury precaution aside, Embiid won't travel with the Sixers to Atlanta, as he was scheduled to miss the game against the Hawks because it was the second game of a back-to-back. 

3. Playoffs?
Hey, crazier things have happened, so let's not rule this one out. 

With the Sixers in the midst of their hottest stretch in recent years, Embiid has the team and city thinking playoffs. After notching yet another win Friday night, the Sixers are just 4½ games back from the eighth seed in the East. 

"I look at it every day," Embiid said Friday. "We’re coming for those playoff spots. We’re going to keep on getting better, keep working and winning games."

If the wins actually do keep coming, this might be something to keep an eye on as we get deeper into the season. 

4. Tall task 
With Embiid scheduled to miss Saturday's game against the Hawks, the Sixers will lean on Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel to carry the load in place of their superstar center. 

A night after facing a dynamic backcourt featuring Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, the Sixers will turn their attention to the dominant frontcourt duo of Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard. 

Millsap comes in averaging 17.8 points and 8.1 rebounds, while Howard averages 13.7 points and an incredible 13 rebounds per game. Without Embiid, the Sixers might have a hard time stopping Millsap and Howard from having their way in the paint. 
 
5. This and that
• The Sixers have made three go-ahead field goals in the final five seconds of the fourth quarter/OT this season — the most in the NBA.

• The Sixers have 15 wins at the halfway point of the season. They had just 10 wins total all of last season. 

• Jahlil Okafor last played on Jan. 14 against the Wizards, posting 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the floor. 

• The Sixers are 13-17 with Embiid, but just 2-9 without him.