Instant Replay: Spurs 109, Sixers 85

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Instant Replay: Spurs 109, Sixers 85

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There is no question that the San Antonio Spurs are the gold standard in the NBA. They are on pace to win at least 50 games for a 15th consecutive season.

The Sixers were no match for the men in black during Monday's 109-85 loss to the Spurs at the Wells Fargo Center. The defeat dropped the Sixers’ record to 4-4, while the Spurs moved to 7-1.

Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich rested future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan because the team was playing on back-to-back nights. Clearly, the Spurs didn’t need the 37-year-old power forward on this night.

They scored 31 points in the first quarter and never looked back.

Turning point
The Spurs separated themselves from the Sixers during the final two and a half minutes of the opening period. San Antonio went on a 12-0 run to stretch a six-point lead to 18 points. That scoring spurt capped off a quarter in which the Spurs shot 53 percent, compared to 27 from the Sixers.

Follow the leader
Tony Parker controlled the game, scoring 14 points and handing out nine assists. Five other Spurs scored in double figures.

Evan Turner led the Sixers with 20 points. Spencer Hawes had his fifth double-double of the season with 17 points and 13 rebounds.

Stat-egic
The Sixers died on the three-point sword yet again against the Spurs.

San Antonio entered the game shooting 38 percent from behind the arc. The Spurs are averaging seven made-threes per game, and had one more than that at halftime.

By game’s end, San Antonio had made 13 of 28 from three-point range. Meanwhile, the Sixers were 5 for 19 from distance.

Take a bow
Three years ago, Danny Green played 16 games in the NBA’s Developmental League. He averaged 20 points and 7.5 rebounds per game while shooting 43 percent from long range. He appeared in only eight games with the Spurs that season.

By last year, Green had found his way into the Spurs’ starting lineup and averaged 10.5 points a night.

This season, Green, the 46th overall pick in 2009, is averaging just 8.6 points per game. However, against the Sixers, the sharpshooter connected on 5 of 7 three-point attempts and finished with 18 points.

What’s next?
After Brett Brown faced his former employer Monday, president/general manager Sam Hinkie will see his former franchise when the Houston Rockets come to town on Wednesday. Hinkie worked for the Rockets for eight seasons, and was last the executive vice president of basketball operations before leaving to join the Sixers.

The Rockets are led in scoring by James Harden, who is averaging 24.7 points per game. Dwight Howard is averaging a double-double with 17.6 points and 13.6 rebounds per night.

Sixers beat Pelicans without Joel Embiid leading the way

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Sixers beat Pelicans without Joel Embiid leading the way

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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

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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.