The Philadelphia 76ers will carry plenty of momentum as they begin a three-game road trip in San Antonio against the struggling Spurs on Friday.
The 76ers have won eight of their past nine games and will square off against a San Antonio squad that has dropped 15 of its past 17 outings. The Spurs beat Philadelphia on the road in the first week of the season but plenty of water has flowed underneath the bridge since Oct. 22.
Philadelphia’s most recent contest was a 105-94 home win over Orlando on Wednesday behind Joel Embiid’s 28 points and 11 rebounds. James Harden scored 26 points on 6-of-10 shooting from beyond the arc and added 10 assists and nine rebounds in the victory, which avenged a loss to the Magic two days earlier.
“When you play a team twice, it’s going to be a slugfest,” 76ers coach Doc Rivers said. “I didn’t think we played great, but we played good enough to win. You’ll take that. We just didn’t have a great rhythm.”
Tobias Harris tallied 16 points for the 76ers, while Tyrese Maxey added 10 off the bench. Philadelphia led by just four points entering the final quarter but turned it on late with its defense, limiting Orlando to just two points over the final 4:30 of the game.
Harris’ play on the defensive end drew Rivers’ praise.
“That’s like the third game in five or six nights in the second half Tobias has guarded a guard, a big, different positions, and he’s done well for us,” Rivers said. “That’s good for our team.”
The game is the last at home for the Spurs before their annual “Rodeo Road Trip,” in which they play nine straight contests on the road from Feb. 6-28. San Antonio has dropped 10 consecutive games away from home.
The Spurs have lost seven straight games, the most recent a 119-109 decision to Sacramento on Wednesday. Rookie Malaki Branham hit for a career-best 22 points for San Antonio while Josh Richardson had 19 points, Jakob Poeltl added 18 points and 12 rebounds, Keldon Johnson also had 18 points and Zach Collins scored 14 for the Spurs.
San Antonio trailed by just five points but surrendered a 17-5 run over a three-minute span in the middle of the final quarter that was too much to overcome.
“They stick with it -- they play hard every game,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “I have always been pleased with their effort. In the fourth quarter, we had a couple of turnovers that turned into threes for (the Kings) and took a couple of ill-advised fouls. We can’t afford to give up 23 points on turnovers.”
The Spurs played without Tre Jones (left foot) and Jeremy Sochan (lower back) after first-quarter injuries that would keep them out for the rest of the game. The pair’s availability for Friday’s contest is to be determined.
“I wish we would have gotten the win but to just keep building off of this is the main goal,” Branham said. “I was the next guy up and I was doing whatever I can. You gotta have that mentality. Two starters went out.”