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.

Instant Replay: Sixers 99, Pelicans 88

Instant Replay: Sixers 99, Pelicans 88

BOX SCORE

NEW ORLEANS -- The Sixers avoided setting a franchise mark of consecutive road losses with a 99-88 win over the Pelicans in New Orleans.

Prior to Thursday’s victory, the Sixers had lost 23 straight away from Philadelphia. Their last road win was Jan. 20, 2016 against the Magic. They also had dropped 23 consecutive games on the road from March 29 - Dec. 23, 2015. 

The Sixers held Anthony Davis, the NBA’s leading scorer, to 26 points, below his season average of 31.6. They were led by Ersan Ilyasova, who dropped 23 points again after scoring 23 in the Sixers’ last game against the Grizzlies. 

Third-quarter transformation
The Sixers trailed the Pelicans 57-52 at halftime and struck back defensively in the third. They held the Pelicans to 5 for 25 shooting from the field and 2 for 12 from three in the quarter. The Sixers outscored the Pelicans 19-12 in the quarter to regain the lead. 

Inside the box score
• Davis recorded a 26-point, 11-rebound double-double. He shot 8 for 21 from the field, 0 for 2 from three and 10 for 12 from the line. 

• Ilyasova scored 23 points (9 for 16 from the field, 2 for 6 from three, 3 for 4 from the line), eight rebounds and four assists.

• Joel Embiid contributed 14 points (5 for 15 from the field, 0 for 5 from three, 4 for 5 from the line), seven rebounds, two assists, four blocks and three steals in 27 minutes.

• Sergio Rodriguez gave a solid 16 points (6 for 13 from the field, 4 for 8 from three) and eight dimes.

• Nik Stauskas and Dario Saric combined for 27 points off the bench.

• St. Joe’s alum Langston Galloway dropped 19 points (8 for 16 from the field, 3 for 6 from long range) off the Pelicans’ bench.

Trusting the process in New Orleans
It follows Embiid on the road. Fans chanted “trust the process” while he was at the free throw line. The volume was more quiet than at the Wells Fargo Center, but the effort was there nonetheless. 

Injury updates
The Sixers were without Jahlil Okafor, who remained in Philadelphia battling gastroenteritis. Jerryd Bayless also missed the trip because of left wrist soreness. Former Sixer Jrue Holiday sat out with turf toe. 

Up next
The Sixers will return home to Philadelphia to get in some practice before heading back on the road. They will play the Pistons in Detroit on Sunday.

Nerlens Noel joins Sixers in New Orleans, may play Sunday vs. Pistons

Nerlens Noel joins Sixers in New Orleans, may play Sunday vs. Pistons

NEW ORLEANS — Nerlens Noel made another step toward his return from arthroscopic left knee surgery by joining the Sixers in New Orleans for their game against the Pelicans.

Noel arrived on Wednesday with Robert Covington, who is slated to start after missing the last three games with a left knee sprain. Noel is not cleared to play, but Brown doesn’t think it will be long until he suits up. 

“I don’t think far away,” Brown said of Noel’s regular-season debut after shootaround.

When asked about the possibility of Noel playing this weekend when the Sixers face the Pistons on Sunday in Detroit, Brown replied, “Maybe.” 

Noel has missed the entire regular season recovering from elective surgery for an inflamed plica in October. He completed the first phase of his rehab in Birmingham, Ala. and has been continuing his work with the Sixers. This trip to New Orleans is the first time he has been with the Sixers on the road. 

“[He is] integrating with the team, studying a lot of tape, scripting with his teammates with the understanding that we have a chance to see him soon,” Brown said. “All that trying to ramp it up where he can go to an NBA court more comfortably.”

Noel spoke out about his displeasure with the Sixers crowded frontcourt at the start of the preseason. He recently stuck with his stance, saying, “I don’t think the roster’s changed.”

Brown is working to keep the team moving forward as a unit while still being aware of and recognizing Noel’s perspective. 

“It does,” Brown said when asked if Noel’s open frustration concerns him as it pertains to team cohesiveness. “But I feel like it’s so much a part of what we try do around here that it’s not like you’re going to blink and you’ve forgotten something that equals camaraderie, that equals team, that equals trying to keep this together, and you’ve left it for a week … 

“It’s a day-to-day focus for me and it’s a very candid conversation with me and the player. The team hears it, the individual hears it, we all understand it … We need to coexist and we need to understand the reality of it all, too. There’s a human side you understand. It’s also pride, it’s competitiveness, it’s do your job, it’s nothing is given, you’ve got to take stuff, draw your own line in the sand, competitors rule the day.”

Last season Noel averaged 11.1 points and a team-high 8.1 rebounds per game. The Sixers will look forward to having him back on the court in that once-crowded frontcourt that is now shorthanded. Jahlil Okafor remained in Philadelphia with gastroenteritis. Ben Simmons still is rehabbing from a right foot fracture. 

"Soon you’re going to see Ben Simmons coming to a team bench where he doesn’t come out with boots and have to push him in some type of wheely apparatus," Brown said. "We’ve dealt with so many injuries trying to find that balance of dealing with their health and so on, and then trying to integrate them back into a team is part of growing a program."