Sixers top Kings to finally earn back-to-back wins

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Sixers top Kings to finally earn back-to-back wins

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After two months and nine missed opportunities, the Sixers have finally done it.

After their 89-80 victory over the Sacramento Kings at the Wells Fargo Center on Friday night (see Instant Replay), the 76ers feel as though they have turned a corner.

“Two in a row,” head coach Doug Collins said. “Finally.”

And why not? For a change the schedule seems to have broken in their favor. After taking care of Washington and Sacramento, the Sixers (20-26) do not play again until Monday night when the lowly Orlando Magic come to town.

Orlando has won just twice in its last 21 games.

Perhaps the Sixers have regained their winning ways as the All-Star break and trade deadline loom. Though they remain three games behind Boston for the No. 8 playoff spot, things are looking up. Andrew Bynum is expected to play in actual basketball games this month, and there are only four games on the road until March 3.

Still, the DVD of Friday’s victory is not one that will be shipped to the Naismith Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. In fact, there are parts of it, particularly in the third quarter, which will be mulled over intensely in Saturday’s film session. Most notably, there was the 19-point lead that the Sixers ever so slowly gave back to the Kings. From the 7:31 mark of the third quarter to its close, the Kings went on a 24-10 run. Then, to start the fourth quarter, the Kings actually took the lead by a point with 10:35 to go in the game.

“We didn’t finish the quarter very well,” Collins said. “We had 20 turnovers and we’ve got to clean that up. We can’t turn it over like that. We just make it too hard for ourselves.”

Fortunately for the Sixers, the Kings’ run ended almost as soon as they took the lead. After Thad Young drilled an 18-footer with 9:50 left for the Sixers to regain the lead, the Kings missed their next nine shots and closed the game on a 2-for-15 skid.

Actually, the Kings shot 3 for 19 in the fourth quarter, which included 3 for 14 in the paint and 0 for 5 from everywhere else.

Is that good defense or bad offense?

“We were getting shots, getting stops and maybe they were missing shots,” Jrue Holiday said. “Again, I think in the third quarter, they had a lot of fast break points and we kind of kept that up. It kind of came down to our defense. The last couple minutes we played defense really well.”

Regardless, a win is a win is a win and the Sixers aren’t after style points. It’s a good thing, too, considering the Sixers committed 20 turnovers, with Holiday the all-star accounting for eight of them.

Additionally, center Sencer Hawes grabbed just one rebound in 26 minutes while shooting 4 for 13 from the floor, and Evan Turner shot 3 for 9 in 31 minutes to go with just seven points off the bench.

But Nick Young scored 20 points on 12 shots, and Holiday got his points -- 21 of them -- on 9-for-17 shooting. Better yet, Thad Young turned in his 12th double-double of the season, piling up 23 points and 15 rebounds, taking advantage of the Kings’ choice to attack the Sixers with a small lineup.

“When they went small, I kept Thad in the game,” Collins said. “I thought that was key because Thad could guard [Sacramento’s guards]. I don’t know if he would want me to match small or not, but we left Thad out there. Thad could play the perimeter and I think he had six or eight points in one stretch just ducking in and around the basket. That was very important for us.”

After a week in which Thad Young was matched up against Carmelo Anthony, Zach Randolph and Nene, an evening in which he didn’t have to hang out in the paint was welcomed.

Next up, the Sixers have an open practice at the The Palestra at 11 a.m. on Saturday before taking off on Sunday. That sets up a week in which Orlando, Indiana and Charlotte visit the Wells Fargo Center.

Let’s see if the Sixers can put some more wins together.

Tim Quarterman: Ben Simmons at PG will 'work out well' for Sixers

Tim Quarterman: Ben Simmons at PG will 'work out well' for Sixers

There are only a handful of people who have played basketball extensively with Ben Simmons, given he has been sidelined thus far into his rookie season with a foot injury. Those who spent Simmons’ freshman year at LSU with him have firsthand insight into the NBA player he has the potential to become.

“He's definitely a team player,” Blazers rookie guard Tim Quarterman, who played with Simmons at LSU, said Friday. “He's a pass-first person. He wants to see his teammates do well. I think when he comes back to play, that's what he'll bring to Philly. He's not one of those people who just tries to go out there to get a 100 points. He's a good teammate.”

Quarterman left school after his junior year and earned a spot on the Trail Blazers' roster. He and Simmons have different stories: Simmons was the first overall pick; Quarterman went undrafted. Simmons has has been out since training camp; Quarterman, while playing sparingly, has experienced live NBA action. Still, the two have shared in the journey of life in the league. 

“It's a cool process going through our rookie season together,” Quarterman said before the Trail Blazers faced the Sixers Friday. “Even though he's not playing right now, he's working to get on the court. I'm sure he'll do great when he gets back out there. I got a chance to talk to him last night. Everything's been good so far.”

The Sixers got a small glimpse of Simmons during training camp before he suffered a Jones fracture on the final day. He recently began participating in 5-on-0 drills. Simmons also has been putting up shots after practice and doing light courtwork during pregame warmups. 

Brett Brown has said he intends to start the 6-foot-10 Simmons at the one spot when he returns. As part of his multi-faceted rehab, Brown has been giving Simmons written tests in which he has to navigate various in-game situations as the point guard. Simmons played point-forward at LSU, where he averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists. 

“He'll be able to space the floor,” Quarterman said of Simmons at the point. “He can see over the defense and make passes that some little guards can't. He can defend. He can move his feet well. I think it'll work out well.”

It remains to be seen when the former teammates will both be suited up in the same NBA game. There is no timetable set for Simmons’ return. The Sixers face the Trail Blazers for their second and final meeting of the regular season on March 9 in Portland. 

“It's cool for both of us to be making the best of our opportunity,” Quarterman said.

Sixers-Hawks 5 things: Looking to keep win streak alive without Joel Embiid

Sixers-Hawks 5 things: Looking to keep win streak alive without Joel Embiid

Sixers (15-26) at Hawks (25-18)
7 p.m. on CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 6:30

Coming off a thrilling comeback win over the Trail Blazers on Friday, the Sixers travel to Atlanta to take on the Hawks at Phillips Arena in the second game of a back-to-back. 

1. Going streaking
It's been a long time since the Sixers have had anything resembling a winning streak. No longer is that the case, as the Sixers have won three straight games, with Friday's win capping their fifth-straight home win. 

The Sixers have also won eight of their last 10 games — with only the Warriors posting a better record during that span — and are playing with a confidence and energy that hasn't been seen in Philly for years. 

One streak they'll try to end, however, is their recent losing streak to the Hawks, as the Sixers haven't beaten Atlanta in six straight matchups.

2. Injury scare
Fans at the Wells Fargo Center held their breath Friday night as Joel Embiid came down awkwardly on his left knee and came up limping. 

Embiid ran to the locker room on his own and was cleared to return to the game, though he never did. He was diagnosed with a left knee contusion and said after the game that everything was fine.

"I'm great," he said. "The knee's fine. They did an MRI and stuff, and everything looked good."

Despite not having Embiid for the final minutes of Friday's game, the Sixers were able to pull together and rally for a 93-92 win over the Blazers. 

Injury precaution aside, Embiid won't travel with the Sixers to Atlanta, as he was scheduled to miss the game against the Hawks because it was the second game of a back-to-back. 

3. Playoffs?
Hey, crazier things have happened, so let's not rule this one out. 

With the Sixers in the midst of their hottest stretch in recent years, Embiid has the team and city thinking playoffs. After notching yet another win Friday night, the Sixers are just 4½ games back from the eighth seed in the East. 

"I look at it every day," Embiid said Friday. "We’re coming for those playoff spots. We’re going to keep on getting better, keep working and winning games."

If the wins actually do keep coming, this might be something to keep an eye on as we get deeper into the season. 

4. Tall task 
With Embiid scheduled to miss Saturday's game against the Hawks, the Sixers will lean on Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel to carry the load in place of their superstar center. 

A night after facing a dynamic backcourt featuring Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, the Sixers will turn their attention to the dominant frontcourt duo of Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard. 

Millsap comes in averaging 17.8 points and 8.1 rebounds, while Howard averages 13.7 points and an incredible 13 rebounds per game. Without Embiid, the Sixers might have a hard time stopping Millsap and Howard from having their way in the paint. 
 
5. This and that
• The Sixers have made three go-ahead field goals in the final five seconds of the fourth quarter/OT this season — the most in the NBA.

• The Sixers have 15 wins at the halfway point of the season. They had just 10 wins total all of last season. 

• Jahlil Okafor last played on Jan. 14 against the Wizards, posting 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the floor. 

• The Sixers are 13-17 with Embiid, but just 2-9 without him.