Instant Replay: Rockets 120, Sixers 98

ap-sixers-james-anderson.jpg

Instant Replay: Rockets 120, Sixers 98

BOX SCORE

HOUSTON -- As expected, the 76ers didn’t give the Houston Rockets much of a game on Thursday at Toyota Center. The Sixers' youthful, inexperienced roster couldn’t keep with the likes of James Harden and Dwight Howard, losing 120-98.

With the loss, the 76ers tied the NBA's single-season record for most consecutive defeats at 26, matching the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers. The Sixers' last win was on Jan. 29 at Boston when Evan Turner, who is no longer with the team, made a buzzer-beating layup.

The Sixers have lost 12 straight road games. Since winning a season-high four games, the Sixers are 3-36.

Turning point
After the 76ers tied the game 43-43 on a reverse layup by James Anderson, a Howard alley-oop dunk from Jeremy Lin gave the Rockets a 45-43 lead with 5:59 remaining in the second quarter. After Anderson’s basket, the Rockets outscored the Sixers 20-6 to take a 63-49 halftime advantage.

Follow the leader
Anderson had a good shooting night for the 76ers with a game-high 30 points, making six three-pointers. Thaddeus Young added 15 points and nine rebounds for the 76ers.

Harden had an outstanding overall game, collecting 26 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds in only three quarters. Howard had 17 points and 13 rebounds.

Stat-egic
The Sixers took 36 three-pointers, making 14.

Through three quarters, the Rockets had 30 points off the break, matching their season-high in fast-break points. They ended up with 34 fast-break points.

Take a bow
The Rockets’ excellent ball movement was something the youthful 76ers can look at as an example of what it takes to win in the NBA. If the remainder of the season is to be used as a learning tool for the 76ers, they should look at the Rockets as a model.

Early exit
Rockets starting point guard Pat Beverley left the game in the first quarter with a right knee sprain and did not return.

What’s next?
The 76ers will attempt not to set the NBA record for most consecutive losses when they host Detroit on Saturday. The 76ers are 0-3 this season against the Pistons, 0-1 at home.

On Jan. 10 at the Wells Fargo Center, Detroit won 114-104 despite the Sixers jumping out to a 19-4 lead.

The Sixers have lost 18 straight home games.

Sixers respond to blowout with skid-snapping road win over Bulls

Sixers respond to blowout with skid-snapping road win over Bulls

BOX SCORE

CHICAGO -- The Sixers' win over the Bulls on Friday was a culmination of recent successes, losses and learning experiences.

One could call it a makeup for Wednesday's 25-point defeat to the Thunder; a lesson learned from blowing late leads against the Warriors and Magic; or a carryover from maintaining their poise in a victory over the Celtics. 

Take those games (and more) and roll them into a 117-107 victory (see Instant Replay). It marked the Sixers' first win over the Bulls since Nov. 2, 2013, to snap a 12-game skid.

That victory included coming back from a 10-point first-quarter deficit, pushing a lead up to 26, and holding on for a win when the Bulls got back within 10 in the fourth. They also withstood 36 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds from Jimmy Butler. 

"The better team wins today," Dario Saric said. "We controlled the game like 45 minutes maybe or all the time and we deserve this win. A little bit scared in the end when they came within 11, 12 because we lost a couple games like that this season. We were up around 15 points, 20 and we lost because sometimes a young team, we don't have experience, but I think we will learn something from that and I think this will be something that's good for us."

There were key performances throughout the game that impacted the Sixers' success in different ways (see highlights).

Saric scored a career-high 32 points. He made it a double-double with 10 rebounds. Saric scored 13 in the fourth, including a late three-pointer that halted the Bulls' momentum. 

The rookie said he tried to play smarter, including shooting with more balance, finding his spots on the floor and dribbling more frequently. That seemed to be accurate as Saric shot 12 of 19 from the field.

"Huge," Brett Brown said of Saric's game. "I thought in that fourth period he sort of willed his way to the basket and found multiple ways to score and at big times when the game really fell in the balance."

On the opposite end of the court, Brown praised Sergio Rodriguez for his defensive efforts in the second quarter. Rodriguez was a plus-17 as the Sixers held the Bulls to just 18 points in the quarter. 

"Defensively is where we have been on him relentlessly," Brown said. "He has taken it, he has allowed us to coach him. He has improved and so we rode him out in that second period and he really set the table, I think, for the rest of the game."

And sometimes it's an unlikely player who provides that extra spark needed to defeat a team with playoff aspirations. Shawn Long, who spent most of the season in the D-League, scored a career-high 18 points along with seven rebounds in only 19 minutes off the bench. How efficient was he? Long finished a massive plus-31. 

"I think the main reason maybe is because Shawn Long, where he comes in from the bench, he gave some kind of energy. He was tough," Saric said. "I think he is the guy who brings us some changes than the game before."

The Sixers have been through the ups and downs of wins and losses in just a week. Their victory over the Bulls was a high mark in the roller coaster of results. 

"I think how teams respond is always an interesting litmus test for coaches," Brown said. "We responded in a way that I expected them to. We played well against a team that is fighting to get into the playoffs, and all over the place, we leave here proud of our guys."

Jahlil Okafor gives special treat to his high school team in return home

Jahlil Okafor gives special treat to his high school team in return home

CHICAGO -- Jahlil Okafor was not able to play in front of friends and family on Friday because of right knee soreness. He did, however, have a special evening in his hometown the previous night.

Okafor took the entire boys basketball team from his alma mater, Whitney Young High School, to dinner to celebrate its recent state championship. He estimates there were 35 people with him at Fogo de Chao, a Brazilian steakhouse.

"It was pretty cool," Okafor said. "Two of the guys that were on that team were guys I actually played with, they were freshmen when I was a senior. They already had one state championship (with Okafor). It was cool for me to go back and do something like that for the team."

Okafor won a 4A state title as a senior before playing one season at Duke. His career has been so fast-tracked that Okafor, 21, is only three years removed from high school. He encouraged the players to be in the moment and enjoy every game and accomplishment as they happen.

"My message is just enjoy it," Okafor said. "Just enjoy high school. To the seniors, enjoy going to college. Just enjoy it all. My process went by a lot faster than the average person, so I told them to just enjoy everything."

Okafor would have enjoyed playing Friday. He banged his knee against Victor Oladipo in Wednesday's game against the Thunder. Okafor remained in that game but experienced soreness later. Friday was his eighth game missed this season because of the injury.

"I was in discomfort but I was just thinking I didn't want to miss another game," Okafor said. "I know against Boston (on Sunday) I didn't play the second half and I didn't want that to be the same case. So I was pretty much just trying to tough it and just trying to play."

Richaun Holmes got the start in place of Okafor. He scored eight points and grabbed three rebounds in 29 minutes of the Sixers' 117-107 win over the Bulls (see Instant Replay). Backup Shawn Long had another efficient game, scoring a career-high 18 points off 8 for 10 shooting. He also pulled down seven rebounds in just over 19 minutes.