Sixers ride strong start to road win over Hawks

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Sixers ride strong start to road win over Hawks

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA -- Sixers head Doug Collins spent a significant amount of time during Thursday’s practice at Georgia Tech in conversation with two of his young leaders -- Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday.

It was not a talk about blame. Instead, it was an exchange about the importance of starting games right and not easing into a contest. The coach shared statistics and examples with the players to explain the importance of a quality start.

That message appeared to certainly sink in with Holiday, Turner and the entire team as the Sixers scored 40 points in the first quarter en route to a 101-90 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night (see Instant Replay).

The Sixers’ 40 points in the first period were a season high for the team in a quarter this season. They also shot 73 percent and had 10 assists on 16 made field goals in that dominant opening frame.

“We were just really, really sharp,” Collins said. “I thought Evan came with a very good first quarter. I thought Jrue did even though he didn’t score that much. Thad (Young) was active, Spencer (Hawes) and Damien (Wilkins).

“I mean it really set the tone for the game and then we found a way to close it out. It wasn’t pretty at the end. That is a really good road win for us against a playoff team.”

Getting off to a good start was particularly important for Holiday, who was trying to put Wednesday’s 2-for-24 shooting nightmare behind him.

Holiday connected on 2 of 3 shots in the first quarter for four points to go along with four assists.

The All-Star point guard did struggle again overall from the field, evidenced by his final line of 3-for-14 shooting for just nine points. However, Holiday’s ability to set the pace of the game early and get everyone involved put the team on the right track.

“I am not sure if I really had that good of a start. It was me more trying to facilitate and getting other guys going,” Holiday said. “Again, just getting into the paint. Sometimes when you see the numbers they can either hurt your feelings or you see it as criticism and you learn from it.”

The Sixers rode that fast start to a 13-point halftime advantage. They increased that total to as much as 19 points in the third quarter, mainly behind a good performance from Turner.

Turner scored 10 of his game-high 24 points in the third quarter. He also grabbed 11 rebounds in the game.

“We won and that is always fun,” Turner said. “We all played well. Everyone contributed and that helps a lot.”

“I thought this was the best game Evan has played in a while,” Collins said. “He was really sharp and it makes me feel good because I spent a lot of time with he and Jrue sitting around and talking at the practice facility, talking about getting yourself prepared to play, especially coming down the stretch.”

The Sixers sputtered in the late stretches of the game, but they were able to put it away thanks to their balance.

Hawes (19 points and 12 rebounds), Young (14 points and 13 rebounds) and Wilkins (16 points) each seemed to come up with a key play when the Sixers needed it to help secure the win.

"These games are important for us," Collins said. "I've got young players. Little things that you keep teaching, that's why we're going to coach and teach and play these games to the finish."

The Sixers return to the court on Saturday in Miami against the Eastern Conference-leading Heat.

Best of NBA: Harden's 38-points fuels Rockets past Bucks

Best of NBA: Harden's 38-points fuels Rockets past Bucks

HOUSTON -- James Harden had 38 points, eight assists and six rebounds, and the Houston Rockets beat the Milwaukee Bucks 111-92 on Wednesday night.

Harden drilled a straightaway 3-pointer with six minutes left to give Houston a 13-point lead and shimmied his shoulders down the court in a celebratory dance as the Bucks called timeout.

After losing three of four, the Rockets regained their form while improving to 17-4 at home this season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 32 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and three blocks for Milwaukee (see full recap).

Rose powers slumping Knicks past Celtics 117-106
BOSTON -- Derrick Rose matched his season high with 30 points, and the slumping New York Knicks beat the Boston Celtics 117-106 on Wednesday night.

New York played without injured starters Kristaps Porzingis and Joakim Noah, but Mindaugas Kuzminskas and Willy Hernangomez each scored 17 points to help make up for their absence. It was just the third win in 14 games for the Knicks.

Isaiah Thomas led Boston with 39 points, his 13th time this season with 30 or more points. Jae Crowder added 21 for the Celtics, who lost for only the fourth time in 17 games.

Al Horford, Boston's big free-agent acquisition during the summer, had five points on 2-of-14 shooting. He was 1 for 8 on 3-point attempts.

Boston closed to 97-96 on Jaylen Brown's two free throws with just under eight minutes to play, but Justin Holiday and Courtney Lee nailed 3-pointers 29 seconds apart, pushing New York's lead back to seven. Rose then capped an 8-0 spree by putting in his own miss after Thomas missed a jumper -- his seventh straight shot that was off (see full recap).

Home cooking: Wiz top Grizz 104-101, 13th win in row in DC
WASHINGTON -- A vastly different team at home, the Wizards won their 13th consecutive game in Washington by edging the Memphis Grizzlies 104-101 Wednesday night behind two late layups from John Wall, who finished with 25 points and 13 assists.

James Ennis III missed a potential tying 3-pointer at the buzzer for Memphis.

The Wizards are just 4-13 on the road but now 18-6 at home, where they've compiled their longest winning streak since a 15-game run in the 1988-89 season.

Washington never trailed and led by as many as 19 points in the first half, then held on after a 10-0 run by Memphis made it a two-point game with 2 1/2 minutes left. That's when Wall took over, scoring on consecutive drives (see full recap).

Walker, Hibbert lead Hornets past Blazers 107-85
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Kemba Walker scored 23 points, Roy Hibbert provided a huge boost off the bench, and the Charlotte Hornets stopped a five-game slide with a 107-85 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night.

Nicolas Batum added 17 points for the Hornets, who limited the Trail Blazers to 35 percent shooting and snapped an eight-game streak of allowing at least 100 points. But it was the 7-foot-2 Hibbert who stole the show.

Hibbert, who came in averaging 5.2 points per game, had a season-high 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting.

Damian Lillard scored 21 points and C.J. McCollum had 18 for Portland, which has lost three straight and 16 of 22 since Dec. 5 (see full recap).

Instant Replay: Sixers 94, Raptors 89

Instant Replay: Sixers 94, Raptors 89

BOX SCORE

The Sixers proved their recent success is for real with a grind-it-out 94-89 win over the Raptors on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center. 

Facing the Eastern Conference’s second-best team, the Sixers beat the 28-win Raptors in what they had identified as their most challenging matchup during this stretch of success. They now have won seven of their last nine games.

The Sixers closed out this victory with late-game execution and fended off a Raptors comeback attempt. DeMar DeRozan gave Toronto a one-point lead, 86-85, with just under two minutes to play. The team that had struggled greatly with fourth quarters showed poise and composure down the stretch against a veteran playoff contender, as the Sixers sealed a win that seemed unlikely just a few weeks ago.

Embiid knotted the score with a free throw and grabbed a key defensive rebound before T.J. McConnell converted a layup and two free throws on back-to-back possessions, handing the Sixers a 90-86 lead. On the ensuing trip down the other end, Robert Covington and Embiid delivered blocks on Kyle Lowry, all but putting Toronto away for good with 20 seconds left.

The Sixers improved to 14-26 and the Raptors dropped to 28-14. 

Inside the stats
• Embiid recorded his 10th straight game of 20-plus points, scoring 26 and grabbing nine rebounds for a plus-20 rating.

• Ersan Illyasova put up 18 points on 7 of 14 shooting.

• DeRozan scored 25 points, while Lowry poured in 24.

• The Sixers snapped a 14-game losing streak to the Raptors.

• The Sixers posted seven blocks as Embiid, Dario Saric and Nik Stauskas all had two apiece.

• Saric finished with eight points and nine rebounds off the bench.

• The Sixers turned the ball over 22 times. Every player other than Illyasova had at least one turnover.

Super Dario
Saric blocked Jared Sullinger at the basket during the fourth quarter, sending the Sixers into a frenzy (see video). He followed that play up with getting tied up for a jump ball and minutes later knocking down a three. These aggressive plays were signs of growth for the rookie, who is visibly getting more comfortable as the season progresses and playing more aggressively with each game. 

Embiid snapshot
Embiid went through a 44-second span that encapsulated the versatility of his game. Check out these key plays in the fourth quarter, listed in order of time remaining: 

• 10:32: Dunk

• 10:03: Three-point shot

• 9:48: Draws offensive foul against Lowry

Injury scare
DeMarre Carroll hit the ground halfway through the third after his head collided with teammate Pascal Siakam’s knee during a tie-up at the Sixers' basket. He lay on the floor while members of both medical staffs tended to him. Carroll walked very carefully off the court on his own while being held on to by Raptors personnel (see video). The Raptors conducted tests during the game, which came back clear. Carroll was diagnosed with a sore neck and was unavailable to return.

Up next
The Sixers host the Trail Blazers (18-25) on Friday for their first meeting of the season. Then they travel to Atlanta for a back-to-back against the Hawks (24-17).