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.

Sixers beat Pelicans without Joel Embiid leading the way

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Sixers beat Pelicans without Joel Embiid leading the way

BOX SCORE

NEW ORLEANS -- Joel Embiid shot just 5 for 15 from the field and the Sixers … wait … the Sixers won. 

Surprising? Actually, that’s just how the Sixers envision finding success.

It’s not about Embiid having a relatively quiet night on offense with 14 points, especially going 0 for 5 from three. It’s about other players getting involved and taking the burden off the rookie. Embiid has proved he can do a lot of things, but carrying a team each night in his first season isn’t what the Sixers have in mind. 

“I think that’s when we’re at our best,” Nik Stauskas said after the Sixers beat the Pelicans 99-88 (see Instant Replay). “Obviously there are a few guys in the NBA like a LeBron (James), KD (Kevin Durant) or Steph (Curry) that can single-handedly win a game throughout the entire season. But most of the teams are going to rely on bench players to step up and make shots and make plays. I think that’s when we’re most effective.”

Embiid entered Thursday night averaging 24.3 points and shooting 48.9 percent in Sixers wins (three games played). His 14 points against the Pelicans were his fewest in a victory this season. He also grabbed seven boards with four blocks and three steals as the team snapped an overall eight-game losing skid and an 23-game road losing streak. 

Instead of being powered offensively by their centerpiece, the Sixers received solid efforts from the starters and reserves. Ersan Ilyasova scored 23 points (along with eight rebounds) for the second straight game. Sergio Rodriguez chipped in 16 points and eight assists. Off the bench,  Stauskas hit three treys en route to 14 points while Dario Saric scored 10 points with five rebounds. 

Embiid’s teammates attribute their success to the fact he is such a focal point of the opponents’ defense. In comparison to the beginning of the season when Embiid was getting stifled by double-teams, he has been learning how to pass out of them. Embiid expects to see two defenders every game and has been making adjustments to create opportunities for others to shoot rather than committing turnovers. 

“We’re not standing around a lot and just focusing on what Jo can do,” Robert Covington said. “Jo is making great moves to find guys that are open. He’s willing to pass. We’re starting to build the chemistry that everyone’s been looking for.”

Ilyasova has noticed a change in the flow of the offense and has capitalized on defensive mismatches when opponents swarm Embiid. 

“We just share the ball well,” Ilyasova said. “I find myself open. Obviously Joel does a great job of as far as when there is a double-team, just kicking out. When I see the open look, I try to knock that shot down.” 

This style of play is mutually beneficial for both Embiid and his teammates. Just because Embiid is passing out doesn't mean he's not getting his looks. Oftentimes, dishing out of a double-team allows him to get a better look on the next touch. 

“It’s a team effort," Covington said. "We’re doing so much as a unit that we’re not just focusing on just get Jo the ball and let him do his thing. He’s getting the ball, he’s surveying the floor and then he’s making his moves. He’s reading the defense really well. He’s doing a lot of [kicking out]. Then we find him a lot of re-posts and finding the open shot and making it easy for him to find the easy bucket.” 

Embiid is capable of scoring 20-plus in spite of his 28-minute restriction. The Sixers are making strides, though, by finding ways to win when he isn’t the running up the scoreboard. 

“I think there’s no doubt Jo is our best player and our offense is going to revolve around him most of the time,” Stauskas said. “But we’re playing our best when he’s posting up and kicking out to guys and they’re hitting threes or we’re taking pressure off him by making plays and the defense can’t just be solely focused on him. In a game like tonight, that’s kind of what you saw.”

Instant Replay: Sixers 99, Pelicans 88

Instant Replay: Sixers 99, Pelicans 88

BOX SCORE

NEW ORLEANS — The Sixers avoided setting a franchise mark of consecutive road losses with a 99-88 win over the Pelicans in New Orleans.

Prior to Thursday’s victory, the Sixers had lost 23 straight away from Philadelphia. Their last road win was Jan. 20, 2016, against the Magic. They also had dropped 23 consecutive games on the road from March 29-Dec. 23, 2015. 

The Sixers held Anthony Davis, the NBA’s leading scorer, to 26 points, below his season average of 31.6. They were led by Ersan Ilyasova, who dropped 23 points again after scoring 23 in the Sixers’ last game against the Grizzlies. 

Third-quarter transformation
The Sixers trailed the Pelicans, 57-52, at halftime and struck back defensively in the third. They held the Pelicans to 5 for 25 shooting from the field and 2 for 12 from three in the quarter. The Sixers outscored the Pelicans, 19-12, in the quarter to regain the lead. 

Inside the box score
• Davis recorded a 26-point, 11-rebound double-double. He shot 8 for 21 from the field, 0 for 2 from three and 10 for 12 from the line. 

• Ilyasova scored 23 points (9 for 16 from the field, 2 for 6 from three, 3 for 4 from the line) to go with eight rebounds and four assists.

• Joel Embiid contributed 14 points (5 for 15 from the field, 0 for 5 from three, 4 for 5 from the line), seven rebounds, two assists, four blocks and three steals in 27 minutes.

• Sergio Rodriguez gave a solid 16 points (6 for 13 from the field, 4 for 8 from three) and eight dimes.

• Nik Stauskas and Dario Saric combined for 27 points off the bench.

• St. Joe’s alum Langston Galloway dropped 19 points (8 for 16 from the field, 3 for 6 from long range) off the Pelicans’ bench.

Trusting the process in New Orleans
It follows Embiid on the road. Fans chanted “trust the process” while he was at the free throw line. The volume was more quiet than at the Wells Fargo Center, but the effort was there nonetheless. 

Injury updates
The Sixers were without Jahlil Okafor, who remained in Philadelphia battling gastroenteritis. Jerryd Bayless also missed the trip because of left wrist soreness. Former Sixer Jrue Holiday sat out with turf toe. 

Up next
The Sixers will return home to Philadelphia to get in some practice before heading back on the road. They will play the Pistons in Detroit on Sunday.