On a night when the Spurs were missing Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker, Danny Green, Rudy Gay and Manu Ginobili, the team made a good showing late and almost pulled out a win with LaMarcus Aldridge dominating late after a slow start, and Patty Mills’ best game of the season. The Spurs couldn’t complete the comeback as Joel Embiid made key plays down the stretch and Ben Simmons hit his free throws to close out the game for the Sixers.
LaMarcus Aldridge opened up the scoring with a layup that slipped out of his hands and into the basket. The 76ers came back strong with with baskets from Embiid, Covington and Simmons to take a 9-4 lead. The size and quickness of the Sixers bothered the Spurs inside and they had trouble scoring as Philly built a nine point lead. But a late 10-1 run capped by a Bertans triple brought the Silver and Black even at 20 with 2 minutes left. After a late run from the Sixers, they led 27-22 at the end of one quarter.
Darrun Hilliard, Joffrey Lauvergne, and Brandon Paul got some court time in the second quarter and the Sixers took advantage of their inexperience to build a 13 point lead with crafty plays from JJ Redick and Dario Saric. The Sixers turned turnovers into points and stretched the lead to 16 late in the quarter. Kyle Anderson’s defense and quirky inside moves helped to limit the damage late as Sixers cruised to a 60-49 lead at the half.
Ben Simmons scored the first four points of the third quarter on a couple of layups, but Bryn Forbes answered with a pair of buckets for San Antonio to maintain the margin. Kyle picked up his fourth foul early in the quarter and had to sit, but the Spurs were able to keep pace for most of the quarter despite his absence. Patty Mills got hot late and cut the lead to 4 with a 4 point play with 2:30 left in the quarter. Embiid used his size to get free throws late, but the Spurs scored last on a Brandon Paul dunk and were down 88-84 after three.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Spurs squandered opportunities with turnovers as they couldn’t get the ball to Aldridge inside and the Sixers stretched their lead to nine. But a Kyle steal and slow break layup brought the Spurs back. This game wasn’t over yet. Finally, LaMarcus Aldridge tied the game at 96 with a step-back jumper with just under five minutes left. The Spurs took their first lead at 101-100 on a Patty Mills three a few minutes later. The Spurs began a hack-a-Ben intentional fouling strategy, but Simmons made them pay by hitting his shots to tie it up at 103. An and-one by Simmons put the Sixers up three. The Spurs had a couple of chances to tie it up with open looks from Davis Bertans, but they missed and the Sixers extended the lead to 110-104 with 21 seconds left. A pair of free throws from Mills shrunk the lead to 4 with just 14 seconds left, but a pair of free throws from Saric iced the game as Philly won 110-106.
- Pre-game reports had Joel Embiid out, but he started the game. He’s always been an incredibly skilled and athletic player, but he’s missed more games than he’s played so far. If he could be available for most of the games, Philly could start to reckon in the playoff standings in the East.
- The Spurs starting guard tandem of Dejounte Murray and Bryn Forbes was a preview of the future Spurs backcourt. Although they’re both listed as point guards, they have different skill sets that are pretty complementary.
- If there’s the opposite of style over substance, it’s probably called Kyle Anderson.
- Davis Bertans had a bad turnover early, but stayed aggressive and confident after a chewing out from Pop. I like his toughness.
- Aldridge was held in check for most of the first half by the Sixers length. So much for Kawhi holding him back. He was better in the second half, but the athleticism of Embiid bothered him. Late in the game, he finally found his aggressiveness and outworked Joel when it counted.
- The offensive rebounding of the 76ers kept them in the game when they couldn’t hit shots late.
The Rest of the Story
The Spurs record is now 26-13 and they are in third place in the Western Conference. They return to the AT&T Center Friday night and face the Phoenix Suns at 7:30 pm. The Suns have exciting players with Devin Booker and Marquese Chriss and have been playing well lately, so it should be an exciting game.