De'Aaron Fox

Sixers falter late in 4th quarter as win streak snapped by Kings

Sixers falter late in 4th quarter as win streak snapped by Kings

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Brett Brown felt there were more than enough breaks in the action late to get his desired instructions to his team in case things went down to the wire.

What he didn’t expect was for the young Sixers to disregard those plans and do their own thing.

The Sixers allowed rookie De’Aaron Fox to drain a pull-up jumper with 13.4 seconds remaining and then failed to execute the called offensive set on the other end in a 109-108 loss to the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center on Thursday (see observations).

“That particular play is most disappointing because we had all the stoppages,” Brown said of the last play. “We had talked. I didn’t need to take a timeout. The game was stopped for a minute. We didn’t need to waste a timeout. 

“We had a play designed. We’ve been doing well closing out games and we went rogue. We didn’t show the discipline. That thing you’re talking about is the end result of chaos.”

On that final possession, Ben Simmons dribbled up the court and passed to JJ Redick on the right wing. Redick hesitated before he fed Joel Embiid at the foul line. Embiid pivoted on Willie Cauley-Stein and then put up a jump shot that rolled off the rim to officially snap the Sixers’ five-game win streak.

Not exactly the execution you want to see from an upstart team looking to make a name for itself around the league.

“It’s a tough one for sure, but it’s a lesson,” said Robert Covington, who had a team-high 24 points. “We’re going to go back and watch the small things, what caused the outcome of this game. What we’re going to do is learn from the mistakes, fix them and move on to the next one.”

This version of the Sixers was supposed to be over those type of crucial mistakes, although you couldn’t tell on Thursday night. They had 17 turnovers, which led to 19 points. The Sixers also committed 28 personal fouls compared to 19 for the Kings.

Still, the Sixers were in the hunt for yet another road win because their dynamic duo of Embiid and Simmons overcame some early adversity.

Embiid, who was back in the lineup after missing Tuesday’s game in Utah for “load management,” looked like the time off didn’t serve him well early on. The center (22 points on 7 for 20 shooting, 15 rebounds, two assists, three blocks, five turnovers) appeared lethargic throughout much of the game before coming on strong in the clutch (see highlights).

Embiid had nine points, six rebounds and two blocks in the fourth quarter as the Sixers went up by as many as six with 1:38 left on the clock.

Simmons was held in check for a good portion of the matchup, mainly by his own doing. The rookie point guard committed his fourth personal foul just 1:17 into the second half and was forced to the bench.

When Simmons returned in the fourth, he made up for lost time. He scored seven of his 18 points in the final frame (see highlights).

But the play by the Sixers’ starters proved to be too little, too late as Fox and the Kings’ reserves (56-17 scoring advantage over the Sixers’ bench) closed the show.

“We tried really hard. We had a couple of mistakes at the end of the game,” Dario Saric said. “This is the NBA. Like JJ said in the locker room, sometimes it’s hard to get a win, especially on the road in this game, in this league. It’s the best league in the world.”

The road doesn’t get any easier for the Sixers as they now travel to face the best team in the best league in the world: the champion Golden State Warriors.

Sixers-Kings observations: Unable to survive in Sacramento

Sixers-Kings observations: Unable to survive in Sacramento

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Teams looking to take that next step finish off games and opponents like this one.

The Sixers battled back in the second half before ultimately suffering a 109-108 loss to the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center on Thursday night.

De’Aaron Fox hit a pull-up jumper with 13.4 seconds remaining in regulation to put the Kings ahead by one. The Sixers struggled to find a decent look on the other end before Joel Embiid rimmed a jumper to seal the defeat.

The loss snapped the Sixers’ five-game win streak and dropped their record to 6-5.

• After missing Tuesday’s win over the Utah Jazz, Embiid returned to the lineup against the Kings.

The extra rest didn’t appear to do Embiid any favors early on as he looked rusty and lethargic for much of the first half. However, the big man came on strong late to still notch 22 points (7 for 20 shooting), 15 rebounds and three blocks.

• How does a team that’s last in the NBA in scoring (93.8 points per game) put up 64 points in the first half? It simply shoots 50 percent from the field and 61.5 percent from three-point range.

• That effort has a lot to do with the Kings’ bench. Led by Justin Jackson (19 points) and Fox (11 points, seven assists), Sacramento’s reserves sparked the team’s charge. The Kings won the battle of the bench points, 56-17.

• It appears the only way to slow down Ben Simmons is to get him in foul trouble. Simmons was limited to a season-low 27 minutes as he picked up five fouls in the contest. He still managed to put up 18 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals in the game.

• You’ve heard the phrase “California cool” before, but one incident on Thursday night was a little bit different. Robert Covington was fouled by Bogdan Bogdanovic shooting a three-pointer early in the first quarter. Covington stepped to the stripe and nailed the first two free throws before several players for both teams began to run down the court the other way. They clearly forgot it was a three-point attempt and had to come back down for the final free throw, which Covington sank.

• Speaking of Covington, that wasn’t the only time he was fouled on a three-pointer. It actually happened three times in the game. The other two went in to give Covington chances at the four-point play. He pulled off the feat once.

Overall, it was another strong outing for the swingman. He finished with 24 points on 7 of 16 shooting (6 of 12 from long range). 

While most Americans are counting the days to Thanksgiving, Covington has his eyes set a little bit earlier to Nov. 15. That marks the day he can officially begin working on a new deal with the Sixers. #PayThatMan

• Embiid and Simmons continue to carry the offensive load for the Sixers, but the dynamic duo is also leading the way with miscues. Embiid and Simmons combined for nine of the team's 17 turnovers in the loss. The Kings had nine turnovers as a team on Thursday night.

• Sixers special advisor Jerry Colangelo joined the broadcast for a stretch during the first and second quarters. He touched on several topics, including  his thoughts on the team’s early-season performance.

“I’m very pleased,” Colangelo said. “I’m very excited about the future and the development of some of the young players. It truly is a process in terms of how long. It will take a while for them to mesh. At midseason we’re gonna have a much better feel for who they are.”

• Jerryd Bayless (left wrist contusion) and Markelle Fultz (right shoulder soreness/scapular muscle imbalance) were sidelined for the Sixers. Vince Carter (illness) and Harry Giles (rehab for both knees) were the only players out for the Kings.

• The Sixers’ road trip continues in California on Saturday night with a matchup against the champion Golden State Warriors (8:30 p.m./NBC Sports Philadelphia).

Key matchups for Sixers' 5-game road trip

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Key matchups for Sixers' 5-game road trip

The Sixers are riding high at the moment.

They rallied last Friday for a 121-110 win over the Indiana Pacers at the Wells Fargo Center. It marked the Sixers’ fourth straight win, the first time they have accomplished that feat since a stretch from Dec. 29, 2013 to Jan. 4, 2014.

The victory also pushed the Sixers’ record to 5-4. That means they are above .500 for the first time since Nov. 13, 2013.

Now comes a real test. The Sixers open up a difficult five-game road trip on Tuesday night against the Utah Jazz.

How they handle this stretch could go a long way toward determining the Sixers’ standing around the league.

With that said, let’s break down a key matchup that might help determine the outcome of each game.

Sixers-Jazz (Backup centers vs. Rudy Gobert)
You had to know it was coming. You just didn’t know when.

Joel Embiid was ruled out for Tuesday’s clash in Salt Lake City for what was deemed “load management.” The big man has played in eight of the Sixers’ nine games to this point, and with a lengthy road trip on tap, he was always likely to sit out at least once.

That means the Sixers’ backup bigs such Amir Johnson and Richaun Holmes (does Jahlil Okafor even count at this point?) will have to deal with the forceful Rudy Gobert. Gobert is averaging 13.9 points, 9.9 rebounds and a league-leading 2.5 blocks per game this season. 

About the only thing the Sixers have going for them in this instance is that the Jazz’s balanced attack allows for Gobert to have a usage rate of only 17.1 percent.

Either way, good luck climbing “The Stifle Tower” without Embiid.

Sixers-Kings (T.J. McConnell vs. De’Aaron Fox)
This spot would have been reserved for a battle of lottery selections with Markelle Fultz lining up against the speedster Fox. However, the No. 1 overall pick is still sidelined with a shoulder injury.

That doesn’t mean a battle between McConnell and Fox should be any less intriguing. 

Fox has proven to be a solid contributor early on. The No. 5 overall pick leads the Kings in points (12.7) and assists (5.0). He also averages 3.7 boards a night. Despite his sagging shooting percentages (41.2 from the field and 27.3 from three-point range), the lightning-quick lefty has provided a serious spark off the bench.

McConnell will certainly be accepting of the challenge as he relishes being a stopper on defense. He has already locked horns this season with superstars John Wall, Kyrie Irving and James Harden, so Fox will be just another high-profile name on the log.

Sixers-Warriors (Ben Simmons vs. Kevin Durant)
Ordinarily, the point guard Simmons would be matched up on is two-time league MVP Stephen Curry. But shortly into his NBA career, Simmons has proven to be anything but ordinary.

The rookie is coming off his second triple-double with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists in the Sixers’ win over the Pacers. He also contributed three blocks and two steals.

While Simmons’ offensive ability is not at all in question, his defense will be put to the test against Durant. The supreme scorer has looked even more lethal coming off his first NBA championship. 

Durant is still pouring in the points with 25.2 a game. However, it’s his shooting percentages that have really set him apart to this point in the 2017-18 campaign. He entered Monday shooting career highs from the field (54.2 percent) and three-point range (49.2 percent).

Simmons will likely switch with Robert Covington throughout the game guarding Durant, but that would potentially mean he’ll just shift to Klay Thompson. Pick your poison.

Sixers-Clippers (Dario Saric vs. Blake Griffin)
Saric has started to find his footing after a bumpy start to the season.

But next Monday he’ll get a close look at arguably the best power forward playing the game right now.

After Chris Paul’s departure for the Houston Rockets, Griffin has completely taken over the offensive load for the Rockets. The veteran is averaging 23.7 points, 8.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists. More importantly, his increased offensive load hasn’t affected his efficiency as Griffin is scoring at a 49.3 percent clip from the field and a career-best 42.2 percent clip from long range.

The Clippers have cooled off (5-4) after winning their first four games to start the season. Still, Griffin is a legit early-season MVP candidate, and Saric better be prepared or he could find himself on one of those infamous posters.

Sixers-Lakers (Everyone vs. Lonzo Ball)
This one doesn’t need much setup. You all know the deal by now.

It started throughout the pre-draft process when LaVar Ball continually made it known that he wanted his son to play for the Lakers. After the storied franchise selected the UCLA product at No. 2, the elder Ball proclaimed on draft night that his son would also take the team to the playoffs. 

That evoked a tweet of “crazy pills” from Simmons, as well as Embiid asking Simmons to dunk on Lonzo Ball so hard that his dad would have to come save him (see story).

The tweets only stoked the flames as LaVar Ball proceeded to say the Sixers need to get off Twitter and get in the gym. That didn’t sit too kindly with Embiid, who bluntly said on July 4, “F--- LaVar Ball” in a video, which drew a fine from the league (see story).

Things between the Sixers and the Ball family have pretty much calmed down since that point (unless you’ve checked out the Twitter account of Simmons’ sister Olivia in the recent past).

But expect the Sixers to try to go at Lonzo early and often in that game, with LaVar likely sitting courtside for a clear view of the action.