Sixers hold off Kings for third straight road win


Sixers hold off Kings for third straight road win


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.”

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

The crowd erupted as Joel Embiid stepped to the free throw line. They chanted a phrase Embiid has been repeating for the past two years, a fitting welcome to his NBA debut.

“That was great,” Embiid said after the Sixers' 103-97 loss to the Thunder on Wednesday in the season opener (see Instant Replay). “That’s my motto, 'Trust the process.'”

After two years of rehabbing foot injuries, Embiid has his first regular-season game behind him. Embiid scored a team-high 20 points, shooting 6 for 16 from the field, 1 for 3 from long range and 7 for 8 from the line. He also recorded seven rebounds, two blocks, four turnovers and four fouls in over 22 minutes. 

“The beginning I was nervous, but once you make that first shot, it just goes away,” he said. “The fans were so into the game that it was fun. I love having fun.”

Sixers head coach Brett Brown enjoyed watching Embiid on the court as much as the big man liked being on it. Brown has seen the 7-foot-2 center grow and develop during his rehab. Finally, he was able to utilize his versatile skills in a real game setting.

“I can't say this loud enough,” Brown said. “For the city to be rewarded with a player that we all understand has unique gifts, special gifts, for him to go through all the things he has been through and play like he did on opening night, the city deserves it. Most importantly, he deserves it.”

Now that Embiid has been cleared to play, he would like to do so for longer periods of time. He began the preseason at 12 minutes and was increased to 20 in segmented spurts for opening night. Even though he exceeded that limit by over two minutes, Embiid is itching to be cleared to play more extensively. 

“It sucks,” Embiid said. “I feel like I could have played more but you know you’ve got to trust the process, got to trust those guys. If I have my minute restriction at 20 minutes, I guess I’m going to go with that. But obviously I want to play more and more and I think it can help the team better. But they have a plan for me and I’ve got to follow it.”

Embiid has maintained he wants to be a clutch player. Brown looked to him toward the end of the game as the Thunder pulled ahead late in the final quarter. He drained a fadeaway jumper to tie the game at 97 apiece with 50.7 to go. 

Later trailing by four with 10 seconds left, the Sixers went to Embiid. While he was whistled for an offensive foul, Brown was glad to have a go-to unlike in years past. 

“You have a target,” Brown said. “We tried to get the ball to him a lot. … By and large, to have somebody like Joel, where the mystery is solved like, 'What do you do?' You get him the ball as much as you can.”

The more the Sixers found Embiid, the more the Thunder had to try to defend him. Thunder head coach Billy Donovan knew what his team was going up against. He watched Embiid as a high schooler and coached against him during his tenure at Florida. 

“He’s gifted and skilled,” Donovan said. “It was probably our guys' first time seeing him … I knew the talent, the gifts. The one thing with him is, he’s got great footwork. He’s hard to guard because he’s herky-jerky. He moves. He’s got a lot of [Hakeem] Olajuwon to him.”

Opening night had been two years in the making. Even though the Sixers didn't win, the significance of the evening didn't disappoint. 

"I thought this moment was going to be special," Embiid said, "and it was just great."

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

NEW ORLEANS -- Jusuf Nurkic scored 23 points, Will Barton added 22, and the Denver Nuggets survived a dominant performance by Anthony Davis to defeat the New Orleans Pelicans 107-102 in both teams' regular season opener Wednesday night.

Davis had 50 points, 16 rebounds, seven steals, five assists and four blocks. His production helped New Orleans trim a deficit as large as 14 late in the second quarter down to two points in the waning minutes. He simply didn't have enough help.

The rest of the Pelicans combined to shoot 21 of 58. Tim Frazier scored 15 for the Pelicans. E'Twaun Moore added 10 points, but missed a 3-point attempt that could have tied it with 24 seconds left.

Danilo Gallinari scored 15 for Denver and Wilson Chandler added 12 points (see full recap).

Celtics top Nets in Horford's home debut
BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas had 25 points and nine assists, Jae Crowder added 21 points and Al Horford pitched in 11 in his Boston debut on Wednesday night as the Celtics survived a late scare to beat the Brooklyn Nets 122-117 in their season opener.

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 21 for Brooklyn, including a 3-pointer to make it 120-117 with 47 seconds left after the Nets erased most of a 23-point deficit against the Boston bench. But he missed one with a chance to tie it after Joe Harris intercepted Thomas' cross-court pass, and the Celtics were able to hold on.

Justin Hamilton came off the bench to score 19 points and grab 10 rebounds for the Nets in coach Kenny Atkinson's debut (see full recap).

Turner's opening act leads Pacers past Mavs in OT
INDIANAPOLIS -- Myles Turner scored 30 points, tied his career high with 16 rebounds and made a 3-pointer with 1:18 left in overtime to start an 8-0 run that allowed the Indiana Pacers to close out a 130-121 victory Wednesday night over the Dallas Mavericks.

Three-time All-Star Paul George added 25 points, including another 3 with 55 seconds left to seal Indiana's fifth season-opening win in six years.

Deron Williams scored 25 points, while J.J. Barea and Dirk Nowitzki each added 22 as the Mavs lost their fifth straight in the series. They still haven't won in Indianapolis since February 2014.

Dallas didn't tie the score or take a lead until the fourth quarter, yet still forced overtime when Harrison Barnes' open 3-pointer made it 115-all with 2.3 seconds left.

Turner could have won it with a long buzzer-beating 3, but it bounced off the back of the rim (see full recap).