Instant Replay: Spurs 113, Sixers 91

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Instant Replay: Spurs 113, Sixers 91

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SAN ANTONIO -- Sixers head coach Brett Brown received some friendly greetings in his return to San Antonio, but all the warmth was gone once the game started against the Spurs.

The Sixers lost their 25th straight, with an early run at success giving way to a lopsided 113-91 loss to the veteran Spurs on Monday.

Brown served as an assistant under San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich for seven seasons prior to being named the Sixers' head coach this past offseason.

It was the Sixers' ninth straight loss to the Spurs and their sixth straight in San Antonio. The Sixers dropped both games to San Antonio this season by a combined 46 points.

Turning point
Success proved to be the Sixers' downfall.

Elliot Williams’ dunk over Tim Duncan tied the game at 19 all, leading Popovich to call timeout with 3:44 remaining in the first quarter.

Whatever “advice” the fiery Spurs coach gave his team resulted in the Spurs going on a 26-5 tear, capped by a 19-0 run.

Byron Mullens’ three-pointer ended a six-and-half-minute drought, but San Antonio had a 45-27 lead and would never trail by less than 10 points the remainder of the game.

Follow the leader
Seldom-used Austin Daye led San Antonio with 22 points, going 6 for 10 on three-pointers in falling six points shy of his career high. Duncan had 19 points and five rebounds in 23 minutes while sitting out the fourth quarter.

Thaddeus Young and Michael Carter-Williams scored 17 points each and Mullens added 15 points for the Sixers.

Taking a break
San Antonio sat starters Tony Parker, Danny Green and Tiago Splitter.

Stat-egic
The Sixers only had seven players score, and six of those were in double figures.

Put me in coach
After averaging just 2.3 minutes while seeing action in only four games since being acquired from Toronto on Feb. 20, Daye played 29 minutes in the victory. He finished 8 for 13 from the field and had six rebounds.

Quotable
Popovich was asked prior to the game if he felt bad for Brown, who he described as “one of my best friends.”

“I feel terribly for him, but I don’t feel sorry for him. I feel badly for him because he has to go through it, but I don’t need to feel sorry for him. He would be angry if he knew I felt sorry for him because he doesn’t want anyone to feel sorry for him.”

What’s next?
A date with infamy?

The Sixers will get to enjoy a little sun before facing the Houston Rockets on Thursday in the second game of a Texas two-step.

A loss in Houston would be the 26th straight for the Sixers, matching the dubious league record set by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010-2011 for most consecutive losses.

The Rockets rolled to a 100-89 victory over Charlotte on Monday night, their fourth straight win.

MRI on T.J. McConnell's wrist comes back negative; Nerlens Noel has ankle sprain

MRI on T.J. McConnell's wrist comes back negative; Nerlens Noel has ankle sprain

The Sixers will be without their starting point guard for the time being, as T.J. McConnell has left the team to return to Philadelphia to receive treatment for a right wrist strain and will miss Monday's game vs. the Bucks in Milwaukee.
 
An MRI taken on McConnell’s right wrist came back negative, according to Sixers coach Brett Brown.
 
“He has a strain,” Brown said. “There’s no structural damage. In relation to what that means with regards to his return to play, I don’t know that yet.”
 
McConnell is averaging 4.8 points and 5.4 assists in 38 games. He has started Philadelphia’s last seven games, a stretch during which the Sixers have gone 5-2.

With McConnell out, Sergio Rodriguez will start at point guard Monday against Milwaukee.

Rodriguez started 29 of the first 30 games he played this season, his first in the NBA since 2009-10. The 30-year-old is more of an offensive threat than the defensive-minded McConnell, averaging 8.8 points and 5.8 assists.  

“You immediately go to losing that defensive energy T.J. is known for,” Brown said. “Sergio is a more gifted scorer. T.J. is a more gifted defender. To have Nerlens (Noel) and Joel (Embiid) behind the scenes, we can make up some ground with Sergio.
 
“People understand Sergio’s pedigree. He’s a 30-year-old legend in Europe. He has a wealth of experience. He’s a medalist and an MVP of the Euro league. He also was our starting point guard for a while. We’re happy to give him back that responsibility.”

No Noel
In addition to McConnell, the Sixers on Monday will also be without the services of Nerlens Noel, who is dealing with a left ankle sprain. Noel came down with a season-high 12 rebounds in Saturday's loss to the Wizards.

Still restricted
Sixers center Joel Embiid will still be on a 28-minute restriction Monday against the Bucks.

Embiid sat out Saturday’s 109-93 loss to Washington after playing 28 minutes in a 102-93 win over Charlotte on Friday. He has reached 30 minutes just once in his 27 games this season.

Sixers-Bucks 5 things: Joel Embiid back to face the 'Greek Freak'

Sixers-Bucks 5 things: Joel Embiid back to face the 'Greek Freak'

Sixers at Bucks
3:30 p.m. - CSN/CSNPhilly.com/streaming live on the NBCSports App

The Sixers (12-26) look to get back in the win column when they face the Milwaukee Bucks (20-19) at the Bradley Center in a Martin Luther King Day matinee.

Let's take a closer look at Monday afternoon's matchup:

1. Back on the Embiid express
The Sixers have started to show flashes of coming together and finally turning the corner on their massive rebuild. However, they are nowhere near the point that they can remove the biggest piece of the puzzle and still expect to win games.

The Sixers found that out again on Saturday night, as they were pummeled during the second half of a 109-93 loss to the Washington Wizards with Joel Embiid sidelined for rest.

The team didn't want to use the rookie phenom's absence as an excuse, but it was clear his presence was missed.

“We didn’t have that extra oomph,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said after the loss. “Obviously, the omission of Joel Embiid clearly is impactful, but that’s the challenge. We just didn’t have it tonight.”

Embiid and his 19.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game will be back in the lineup against the Bucks.

2. Freak of nature
The Sixers won't be the only squad with a star in the making on the court Monday afternoon.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has shown plenty of potential since he was selected by the Bucks 15th overall in the 2013 draft (Anthony Bennett, who was recently released by the Brooklyn Nets, was taken No. 1 overall that year, for those of you keeping track at home). But the man known as "The Greek Freak" has taken his game to new heights this season.

Antetokounmpo is averaging 23.4 points on 53.5 percent shooting in addition to 8.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.8 steals per game this season - all career highs. He's also coming off a 33-point, eight-rebound and six-assist performance in the Bucks' 111-98 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday.

With Antetokounmpo playing point guard full time now and the Bucks' starting five boasting players all above 6-foot-7, it's hard to determine how the Sixers will match up on defense. Whatever the plan is to slow down "The Greek Freak," it will have to be a total team effort.

3. Protect the paint
All of that size and athleticism for the Bucks is a big reason they attack the rim so much. Milwaukee is tied with Oklahoma City for the league lead in points in the paint with 50.6 per game.

The Sixers were dominated on the low block for 54 points by the Wizards on Saturday with Embiid out. For the season, they rank 14th in the league in points in the paint allowed at 42.3 a night.

One thing that might help the Sixers is their shot blocking. They swat 5.6 shots a game (sixth in the NBA), which could deter some of those romps to the rim by the Bucks.

4. Injuries
T.J. McConnell (right wrist), Ben Simmons (foot) and Jerryd Bayless (wrist) are out for the Sixers.

Khris Middleton (hamstring) is out for the Bucks.

5. This and that
• The Sixers have lost 12 of their last 14 games to the Bucks.

• Ersan Ilyasova spent the first seven seasons of his NBA career with the Bucks (see story on his return to Milwaukee). This will mark the fourth time he has faced his former team.

• Jabari Parker, selected No. 2 overall in the 2014 NBA draft right before Embiid, has emerged this season with 20.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game.