Instant Replay: Sixers 113, Kings 104

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Instant Replay: Sixers 113, Kings 104

BOX SCORE

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The Sixers started their season by surprising fans and people around the league with three straight wins.

Some tough times followed that perfect start, including a 13-game road losing streak that was snapped against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.

The Sixers were presented with another opportunity to win three games in a row on Thursday night when they played the Sacramento Kings at Sleep Train Arena. Mission accomplished.

The Sixers earned a physical 113-104 win to improve their record to 11-21 and push their mark to 3-1 on this West Coast swing.

For a second consecutive night, the Sixers scored more than 60 first-half points. They led 61-51 at the break.

Both Lavoy Allen and Spencer Hawes fouled out late in the fourth quarter, an indication how tough a guard DeMarcus Cousins is on the court.

Turning point
The third quarter’s numerous runs proved to be key in the game’s outcome.

The Sixers built a 15-point lead early in the third quarter before the Kings used a brief run to cut that lead to nine.

The Sixers ripped off their own burst to build their advantage to a game-high 18 points only to allow the Kings to go on a 12-2 run of their own.

The Sixers weathered the storm yet again and were able to hold a 15-point advantage heading to the fourth quarter.

Follow the leader
Thaddeus Young had 11 third-quarter points before finishing with a team-high 28. Tony Wroten scored 21 points on 6-of-12 shooting.

Evan Turner added 24 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.

Cousins had 22 points by halftime, but foul trouble limited his playing time after intermission. He finished with 33 points and 14 rebounds.

Isaiah Thomas had 23 points and Rudy Gay added 18.

Stat-egic
The Sixers held the Kings to 42.2 percent shooting and just 7 of 23 from three-point range. They also forced the Kings into 23 turnovers.

If defense has been the Sixers’ focus post-Christmas, it is definitely showing.

Take a bow
Jimmer Fredette had all of his 15 points in the fourth quarter. He made his first four shots in the quarter, including two three-pointers. As he did during his BYU playing days, Fredette ignited the crowd with every made basket. He finished 5 of 9 and grabbed four rebounds in his 16 minutes.

What’s next?
The Sixers will conclude their six-game road trip on Saturday night against the Trail Blazers.

Portland has the best record in the Western Conference at 26-7.

The Blazers beat the Sixers, 139-105, on Dec. 14 behind LaMarcus Aldridge’s 20 points and 16 rebounds.

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.