An injured Joel Embiid unexpectedly played.
Kawhi Leonard, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Rudy Gay and Danny Green did not.
The Sixers seized the opportunity Wednesday against the shorthanded Spurs with a 112-106 win to snap a 12-game losing streak vs. San Antonio that dated back to 2011.
Overall, the Sixers have won three in a row to improve to 18-19.
• Embiid played through a sprained right hand as he shook off the injury from Monday’s game to notch 21 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and four blocks in over 35 minutes. He initially was ruled out, but after he went through pregame warmups, he was cleared to go.
The change in availability came as a surprise considering Embiid’s description of his injury just over an hour before tipoff.
“It’s just tight in general, pretty swollen, and I can’t really use it, can’t shoot,” he said.
• Ben Simmons scored a cool, calm and collected 26 points (11 in the fourth), including 10 of 15 free throw attempts. The Spurs sent him to the line often late in the game, when he shot 5 for 9 in the fourth.
“He shot 15 free throws; that in itself is a huge win for me when he gets back to the line,” Brett Brown said after the game. “It’s a mentality more than it is a skill, and that mentality of him attacking the basket and going to the free throw line then growing the confidence that you’re referring to, that’s a hell of a package and it starts with getting there.”
• The Spurs were missing their star power between injuries and rest in the second night of a back-to-back: Gay (right heel bursitis), Ginobili (rest), Green (left groin tightness), Leonard and Parker (both return from injury management). Veterans Patty Mills (26 points) and LaMarcus Aldridge (24 points, 14 rebounds) led the Spurs.
• More third-quarter problems: The Sixers led by 16. Then came the third. You know the rest. The Spurs outscored the Sixers 35-28 in the quarter and cut the lead to four points going into the fourth. The Sixers had to fend off the Spurs, including climbing back out of a quick deficit.
“I thought Philly was great,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said. “Their aggressiveness, their physicality was really good. I thought they executed really well. We got a pretty good punch in in the second half and they hung in and went and took the game. It was a good win for them.”
• The Sixers committed only 13 turnovers, below their season average of 17.5 (most in the NBA). More importantly, there were only two in the fourth, including none by point guard Simmons.
• The Sixers made their mark at the free throw line. They took 20 more attempts than the Spurs (43 to 23) and had a 13-point advantage. In addition to Simmons’ 15 attempts, Embiid shot 9 for 11.
• Justin Anderson remains sidelined with shin splints (left leg).
• The last time the Sixers beat the Spurs was Feb. 11, 2011. They started Jrue Holiday (37 points), Jodie Meeks, Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand and Spencer Hawes. Just how long ago was that? Darius Songalia logged four minutes.
• Brown joined the Sixers in 2013 after working over 11 years on the Spurs' coaching staff. He had not won against his former team until Wednesday.
“It’s a program that I have tremendous fondness and respect for,” Brown said (see story). “It’s a team that didn’t have their full-strength roster, but in my eyes, it’s still the San Antonio Spurs. … You can put in whoever you want, they’re still going to play and compete and be organized. From that perspective, the win is satisfying.”