SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- When the Sixers set out on their six-game road trip on Dec. 21, they had not won away from home since Nov 1.
Now, they have four road wins to their name with the last three coming against Western Conference foes.
The latest came in a physical 113-104 win over the Sacramento Kings on Thursday night to move their record to 11-21 on the season (see Instant Replay).
Despite the Sixers allowing the Kings to hit the century mark, their defensive improvement showed again. They held the Kings to 42.2 percent shooting from the field and 30.4 percent three-point range. The Sixers also forced the Kings into 23 turnovers, which they turned into 27 points.
“To see bits and pieces of being rewarded for areas that we have talked about publically and these guys have worked their tails off privately and in film sessions and trying to teach and talk about it, and you see carryover,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said proudly. “That is always a great thing from a coach’s standpoint. You try to help them get better but they are the ones doing it.”
“We are making a concerted effort on the defensive end and offensively we have been sharing the ball as well as we have all season long,” Spencer Hawes said. “Guys are buying in, sharing the ball and it is more fun playing that way.”
The Sixers led 61-51 at halftime. It was the second consecutive game in which they had a double-digit lead at the break.
The Kings had numerous second-half runs that tested the Sixers’ grit, but Brown’s young squad responded each time.
Evan Turner in particular rose to the offensive occasion when the Sixers’ offense seemed to stall. He finished the game with 24 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
“He had timely baskets,” Brown said. “Like you felt the game was in the balance and Jimmer [Fredette] got it going and we weren’t scoring. I felt like we got too stagnant. We were trying to call plays instead of running. It was that fine line of trying to not play afraid and hope the clock runs out and playing.
“Evan came up with some big baskets that kind of got us back on track where we could continue to score.”
Turner wasn’t without help. Thaddeus Young was strong again, scoring 28 points to go along with seven rebounds and six steals.
Kings center DeMarcus Cousins had game highs with 33 points and 14 rebounds. The Sixers needed every big man on their roster to try and slow Cousins down in a very physical affair, especially with Hawes and Lavoy Allen both fouling out.
“You try to be physical with him and wear him out, get him tired more so than anything,” Daniel Orton said of his former University of Kentucky teammate.
“DeMarcus is a great player and he is going to get his. There is nothing you can do except to wear him down and keep going at him. He does take off plays on defense, so I go at him then. But he is going to get his on offense for sure.”
Orton made his presence felt on the floor. He played 19 minutes, the most action he’s seen in over a month. Orton posted five points, four rebounds and three blocks, including a monster stuff on a Derrick Williams dunk attempt with under a minute to play.
The Sixers carried over the balance they started in their win over the Nuggets on Wednesday night. They had 23 assists against the Kings, 58 points in the paint and five players scored in double figures.
All of that equaled a third straight win with all three coming on the road, a feat that seemed nearly impossible when the Sixers set out on the Western Conference leg of this journey eight days ago.
“It is incredibly satisfying, especially for the group of guys that we have and the way that this year has been going,” Orton said. “To lose so many in a row and then come back and win three in a row on the road is huge.”
“It was just a team effort and those are always the sweetest,” Brown said. “Road victories and a true team effort enables a team to grow together and feel a little bit tighter as a group. It was a really good win for this young team.”