By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)
San Antonio 111, Philadelphia 103 – Box Score
Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown’s relationship with his former club in San Antonio is truly that of a mutual admiration society. Whether it’s bearlike embraces from former players like Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills, or glowing remarks from Gregg Popovich, it’s clear there’s a lot of love from both sides. Which is good, because one thing Coach Brown can’t love is actually having to face the Spurs on the basketball court, after San Antonio prevailed for its 12th straight win over the Sixers Wednesday night.
Playing without Joel Embiid for the 6th straight game, the Sixers gamely hung around for the entire contest. Philadelphia did an uncharacteristically good job taking care of the basketball, only turning it over 8 times as a team and enjoying a 20-5 advantage in points off turnovers. That faithful stewardship of the rock kept them in the game while San Antonio shot an outstanding 52.7% from the field and 50.0% from three. As usual, Kawhi Leonard was the catalyst in that robotically efficient attack, scoring 32 points by hitting a perfect 11-11 from the line, to go along with 6 rebounds and 5 assists.
With the eyes of New Orleans, Chicago, and who knows who else watching, Jahlil Okafor had what was probably his best game of the season. Okafor came oh-so-close to the proverbial roll out of bed and drop 20 & 10 game, tallying 20 points and 8 rebounds. It was a more efficient scoring outing than usual for Jah, who made a career-high 10 free throws on 11 attempts. He even put forth some defensive effort a time or two.
Of course, Okafor still finished with a team-worst -12. While plus/minus is far from a perfect stat, the fact that Jah consistently ranks among the worst on the team in that category speaks volumes about the sort of non-box score attributes that he fails to bring to the table. This on a night where Okafor actually played pretty well.
Getting demoted to the bench after more than 20 straight starts, Nik Stauskas took a liking to being back on the Night Shift. Sauce had a great all-around game with 16 points on 4-7 shooting from three, 7 rebounds, and a career-high 7 assists without a single turnover. It’s kind of a chicken or the egg type of question, but with Stauskas seeing his shot falling, it looked like he was more aggressive attacking the basket and operating as a playmaker. Then again, maybe some successful drives got him in the rhythm to knock down those perimeter shots. Either way, good to see Nik break out of his slump.
Speaking of shaking off slumps, Dario Saric had his best shooting outing in quite some time, hitting 4 of 5 threes (and 8 of 11 field goals overall) for 20 points. I’m hoping Bryan Colangelo finds it in his veteran-loving heart to parlay the expiring contract of Ersan Ilyasova into a decent return at the trade deadline and free up even more time for Dario down the stretch.
The Sixers have now lost 5 straight games and have announced Embiid will be out again against Orlando Thursday, making a 6th straight loss a distinct possibility. Instead of playoffs, Sixers fans are right back to looking at how the lottery odds are shaking out. At least we have plenty of practice in that regard.