Tonight in NBA: Nets try to extend streak

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Tonight in NBA: Nets try to extend streak

Behind the type of leadership Doug Collins wanted out of Thad Young, Jrue Holiday and Jason Richardson, the Sixers downed the Rockets, 107-100, to end their five-game losing streak (see story).

Meanwhile, Philly native Marcus Morris is finally getting his opportunity to display his skills on the professional level with the Houston Rockets (see story).

Here's a look at some of Sunday's NBA action:

Pacers at Nets, 6 p.m.
Despite dealing with a coaching change, the Brooklyn Nets are in the midst of a strong stretch.

To win six straight games for the first time in nearly seven years, they'll have to end Indiana's own four-game streak on Sunday in Brooklyn.

Making things tougher, the Nets (21-15) might be without Deron Williams, who is the team's second-leading scorer at 16.7 points per game, after he suffered a thigh contusion in Friday's 99-79 win over Phoenix.

That victory marked Brooklyn's third straight by 20 or more points, the first time the franchise has accomplished that in its NBA history. The Nets are 7-1 since firing Avery Johnson and naming P.J. Carlesimo interim coach on Dec. 27. They had lost five of six before letting Johnson go.

Timberwolves at Spurs, 7 p.m.
After failing to break out of their road funk despite Tony Parker's heroics, the San Antonio Spurs look to continue their dominance at home.

The Spurs appear primed to get back in the win column and capture their 12th straight home victory Sunday night when they meet the slumping Minnesota Timberwolves.

San Antonio has won 15 straight home games in the series by an average of 12.9 points and haven't lost to a visiting Minnesota team since the Kevin Garnett era in 2003-04.

While they've dropped seven of nine on the road following a 101-98 overtime loss at Memphis on Friday night, the Spurs are riding their longest home winning streak since a franchise-record, 22-game run Dec. 3, 2010-March 4, 2011. Sunday's game is the first of three straight and seven of 10 at home.

Thunder at Trail Blazers, 9 p.m.
Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder have taken their high-scoring act on the road, where they'll mostly spend the rest of January.

The Portland Trail Blazers, though, have been pretty stingy at home recently.

Oklahoma City looks to end Portland's nine-game home winning streak by earning a fifth straight victory in the series Sunday night.

The Thunder (28-8) rank near the top of the league averaging 105.7 points and improved to 23-0 when scoring more than 100 with Friday's 116-101 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.

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In 1st game post-Ersan Ilyasova, Dario Saric shines as Sixers' starting PF

In 1st game post-Ersan Ilyasova, Dario Saric shines as Sixers' starting PF

When Ersan Ilyasova was traded to the Hawks on Wednesday, it became Dario Saric's time to shine.

And shine he did in the Sixers' 120-112 win over the Wizards Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center. In the first game coming off the All-Star break, Saric got the starting nod at power forward. He certainly looked the part, posting 20 points (10 of 19 from the field), 11 rebounds and four assists.

Saric, now the only true four on the roster, was proud of his team's performance against one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

"We have a lot of veterans who can share the ball and that's how you're supposed to play," Saric said. "For me I'm not surprised if we [beat the third-best team] in the East, but I believe these guys can play very good basketball."

Saric was excellent in the starting role, but his exceptional play dates back before the All-Star break. Including Friday, he's averaged 20.5 points, eight rebounds and 2.5 assists over his last six games. The Sixers are 4-2 in that span.

Head coach Brett Brown is seeing what he expected to see from the Croatian rookie.

"He's a professional basketball player," Brown said. "He has been that for a while. His love of the game, his passion for the game is contagious. It's a thing that we loved maybe more than anything about him when we did the deal with Orlando, knowing however many years ago with the trade with Elfrid Payton and Saric. That was a calculated move."

Saric played almost 33 minutes Friday night. So what did Brown do to give Saric a breather? He sent out Robert Covington.

Covington has played the position most of his life but has spent his entire Sixers career on the wing. In a time of need, he stepped up for a team still adjusting to roster changes.

The 6-foot-8 Covington held his own against the likes of Philly native Markieff Morris. It didn't seem to faze his offensive game, either. Covington scored 25 points on 9 of 14 from the field (5 of 9 from three). He also added 11 rebounds and three assists.

Covington has also been a catalyst for the Sixers during their recent success. He's averaging 17.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 steals in his last six. He's also shot a ridiculous 46 percent from three (19 of 41) in that span.

"We can only control what we're able to control on the court," Covington said. "Everything outside of what they do in management doesn't include us. We can only focus on what we can control on the court, and that's what our main focus was on these last few days."

Saric continues to show that he was worth wait while Covington continues to prove that he's a keeper.

They've certainly had different paths. Saric was a lottery pick and regarded as one the top young players in Europe. Covington went undrafted out of Tennessee State and spent the 2013-14 primarily with the Rockets' D-League affiliate.

Bryan Colangelo has identified Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons as the team's "transformational players." That's likely true, but every NBA team needs guys like Saric and Covington to complement their stars.

Covington is impressed with the progress of Saric in his rookie season.

"Dario's a very special player," Covington said. "He's able to do so much on the court. Tonight, you saw every aspect of his game. He'll guard, defending, rebounding and making plays on the offensive game. That's what Dario does. Now that he's going to play more in the starting lineup, it's really going to help him."

Saric may be the frontrunner to take home the Rookie of the Month for February. He's second only to Joel Embiid in double-doubles (seven) and 20-point games (six) among rookies. Whether it's Saric or Embiid, it appears the Rookie of the Year will be a Sixer.

His promotion to the starting lineup and wins against teams like the Wizards should only help Saric's cause.

"Maybe you see [me start consistently], maybe not," Saric said. "The game first time here I try to find myself. I got a couple rebounds, but still I try to find myself with the new role. I've tried to move around, catch the rhythm of the game, that's the most important thing in basketball."

He appeared to find himself just fine Friday night.

What do Justin Anderson, Tiago Splitter bring to Sixers?

What do Justin Anderson, Tiago Splitter bring to Sixers?

Justin Anderson and Tiago Splitter arrived in Philadelphia on Friday for their first game with the team. Anderson, in fact, got there just a few hours before tipoff Friday after missing the bag check-in window on his first flight and experiencing a delay on his second one.

The Sixers' project them have very different roles -- one as a veteran voice and the other as a versatile contributor. Both explained what they will bring to the Sixers.

Justin Anderson
Anderson was just getting over the departure of his veteran teammate, Deron Williams, when he was informed he, too, was leaving the Mavs. Anderson had met with the Sixers during the pre-draft process and made a memorable mark on Brett Brown.

"When I interviewed him a few years ago, he was polished, he was articulate, he was Virginia, he was tough," Brown said.

Anderson was impressed by Brown mentioning parts of their meeting when the coach called him after the trade.  

"When I found it was here, I was very excited because it's a young organization that wants to get out and play hard, play fast and try to make change and try to turn things around," Anderson said. "I want to blend right in like a chameleon."

The 6-foot-6 Anderson played point guard through power forward on the Mavericks. Brown envisions him sliding into a backup four spot behind Dario Saric at times. Brown said Anderson will need to work on his shot, but considers him to be "developable."

"Just tough, hard play," Anderson said of his game. "Offensively, being able to shoot the ball, space the floor. Being able to use my athleticism, get to the rim, get fouled. Defensively, just being able to rotate, block shots, guard best player, take on challenges and do whatever I can."

Tiago Splitter
Splitter has been sidelined all season after undergoing hip surgery one year ago Saturday. He still is dealing with what he describes as "muscle imbalance" including his calves. Splitter had been participating in full practices with the Hawks prior to the trade and would like to return this season.

In the meantime, Splitter can share his title-winning experience with the younger Sixers. He captured a title with the Spurs while Brown was on the coaching staff.

"I know what a team needs to be championship caliber," Splitter said. "I'm not saying I'm going to come here and change anything now; I'm just going to see what I see and help the young guys to develop into great players. There are a lot of great players here already. You guys have seen how the team is playing some nights here, it’s unbelievable. They just have to do that every night on a consistent basis. I hope I can help them, they can help me also get back on the court."

Splitter could share some of his fundamentals with the bigs.

"He's just a blue collar work house that is an elite screener, an elite roller," Brown said. "I know in my Spurs days with him, he was as good as we had coached on the assist from the roll."

Splitter’s time with the Sixers most likely will be brief. His contract expires this and the Sixers will try to help him get healthy to approach the free agent market.

"As far as long term, him fitting in and being part of something, I don’t see that at this date," president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said. "But once again, it's certainly something that we'll look at if he happens to fit. I think his anticipation, though, is just landing somewhere, getting the chance to finish out the season, showing that he's healthy and then setting himself up for an opportunity to play somewhere next year."

What about Bogut?
Andrew Bogut was included in the trade from the Mavericks with Anderson. The veteran center will not be with the Sixers for at least a week, according to Colangelo, and may not come to Philadelphia at all.

"He's got some personal things that he's dealing with at home, family-related," Colangelo said. "There's a possibility that he'll want to go play somewhere in the playoffs. In order to accomplish that, that would take some sort of a buyout."