San Antonio Spurs

Sixers vs. Spurs: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

Sixers vs. Spurs: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

Updated: 5:47 p.m. 

Before Saturday night’s game against the 10-3 Miami Heat and Jimmy Butler, the Sixers (9-5) have a good chance Friday to extend their winning streak to three games.

Here the essentials for tonight’s game against the 5-10 San Antonio Spurs:

When: 8 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Wells Fargo Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

And here are three storylines to watch: 

Game 1 of Embiid’s first back-to-back 

Joel Embiid is expected to play both tonight and Saturday vs. Miami, his first back-to-back of the season. According to Brett Brown, keeping Embiid in a rhythm was a key factor in the decision.

“I think that has a lot to do with it,” Brown said. “This whole thing is very, very scrutinized, discussed, studied with a handful of people. Really, I’m not saying led by Joel, but with a significant voice in all of it — an opinion. It had been discussed a while ago that this was going to be one of the first back-to-backs that we were going to look at. We hope that’s true. We hope that’s the wise thing to do. I’m looking forward to getting as much of Joel Embiid as I can.”

After this one, the Sixers’ next back-to-back set is a week from now, next Friday at the Knicks and Saturday vs. the Pacers. 

Richardson out again 

Josh Richardson missed the Sixers’ win Wednesday over the Knicks with right hip flexor tightness and, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium, will be out again tonight. Trey Burke (left knee and ankle soreness) is questionable. 

Without Richardson, Furkan Korkmaz started against New York and shot 1 for 5 in 16 minutes. Burke has gotten minutes over Raul Neto in the Sixers’ past two games and gave the team a needed jolt in the second half Wednesday playing alongside Ben Simmons (see story).

‘I don’t care about that number’ 

The Spurs enter Philadelphia with a seven-game losing streak, their worst since the 1996-97 season, when Gregg Popovich took over the job. 

Brown, a former Popovich assistant, sees that streak as meaningless.

I didn’t even know that number. I don’t care about that number. They’re coached by Gregg Popovich. I know the large majority of their coaching staff that still exists, not as many of their players. I don’t even pay attention to it. I really don’t. My fondness and affection for Pop, and friendship with Pop, has extended two-plus decades. I just don’t care what they’ve been doing. If they’d won 15 in a row, I’d give you the same answer. All I’m doing is looking down there and it's the San Antonio Spurs, and I know we better bring our A-game or we’ll be in for a long night.

Led by DeRozan (21.7 points per game) and LaMarcus Aldridge (17.9 points), San Antonio has the fifth-best offensive rating in the league despite shooting and making the fewest threes in the NBA. However, the Spurs are No. 28 in defensive rating and have allowed 100 points or more in all but two games. 



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Sixers hire Ime Udoka as assistant coach, team source confirms

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USA Today Images/Mark J. Rebilas

Sixers hire Ime Udoka as assistant coach, team source confirms

The Sixers just continue to pluck from the Gregg Popovich coaching tree.

The team is hiring longtime Spurs assistant Ime Udoka, a team source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia. Shams Charania of the Athletic and Stadium was the first to report the news. 

Udoka will take over as Brett Brown’s top assistant after Monty Williams left the organization to take a head coaching job with the Suns. Brown and Udoka crossed paths when Udoka was a player in San Antonio and were on the same staff for one season.

Udoka, 41, has worked under Popovich since 2012, right after he retired from playing. He spent parts of seven seasons in the NBA with the Spurs, Lakers, Knicks, Trail Blazers and Kings. He also spent a few seasons overseas. Udoka’s late father was of Nigerian descent so he also got to play for the Nigerian national team. 

Udoka coached San Antonio’s summer league teams in 2013 and 2014. He was interviewed for the Cavaliers' head coaching job after the season before Cleveland ultimately hired Michigan coach John Beilein. With Ettore Messina entrenched as Popovich’s top assistant, perhaps serving as Brown’s top guy will help boost Udoka’s profile.

The team has also brought in Spurs assistant Cameron Hodges as a player development coach. With Brown, Udoka and Hodges, Popovich’s imprint is clear on the Sixers’ coaching staff.

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Sixers 122, Spurs 120: Sixers pull off improbable comeback

Sixers 122, Spurs 120: Sixers pull off improbable comeback

BOX SCORE 

As any Sixers fan could tell you, the team’s perimeter defense has been a problem throughout the season. It looked like that issue was going to cost the Sixers Wednesday night against the Spurs.

Then the team pulled off a wild, improbable comeback, going on a 10-0 run to end the game and beat San Antonio, 122-120.

JJ Redick’s four-point play gave the Sixers (32-17) the lead, and Wilson Chandler blocked DeMar DeRozan on his drive to the rim. 

Corey Brewer then split a pair of free throws and Ben Simmons knocked away a pass intended for Marco Belinelli on the Spurs’ final possession with 1.1 seconds left. 

Jimmy Butler missed his second straight game for the Sixers with a sore right wrist. Head coach Brett Brown said before the game he doesn’t expect the injury to sideline Butler long term.

• Redick wasn’t having a great game, but give him credit for knocking down a couple of incredible shots late. He’s an invaluable late-game option for the Sixers and never loses faith in his jumper, for good reason. 

• Embiid, a game-time decision again with back tightness, had one of his worst games of the season in the Sixers’ first matchup against the Spurs on Dec. 17, shooting 6 for 17 in a 123-96 loss in San Antonio. 

He came out determined to attack LaMarcus Aldridge, attempting eight shots in the game’s first five minutes. 

Give Aldridge and the Spurs credit for defending Embiid well early, mostly forcing him into contested mid-range shots and avoiding fouls. That said, Embiid did settle for jumpers on several occasions in the first half when he had the space to back Aldridge down in the post.

After shooting 5 for 14 in the first half, Embiid was 9 for 14 in the second. He reached yet another statistical milestone, recording his league-leading 40th double-double of the season with 33 points and 19 rebounds.

• Simmons did an excellent job running the Sixers’ offense. 

He had a triple-double with 21 points, 10 rebounds and 15 assists, including a beauty to Brewer. 

Simmons made two turnaround jumpers, one over his left shoulder and one over his right shoulder.

• Another start, another matchup against an All-Star for Brewer, who was tasked with guarding DeRozan.

The Spurs star did manage 26 points, though most of them came when Brewer was on the bench.

Brewer plays with an infectious joy and passion. His slightly wild smile and fist pump after harassing DeRozan and drawing a travel call, the way he held his follow-through for a couple extra seconds after making a three-pointer — it’s clear to everyone he loves playing basketball and is thrilled to still be doing it at the highest level.

Brewer had nine points, two steals and two assists vs. the Spurs. He’s proven he deserves to be with the Sixers for more than the duration of his 10-day contract. 

• With the way Jonah Bolden is playing, backup center should be far down the list of priorities for the Sixers at the trade deadline. 

We’ve talked plenty before about his athleticism, his flashes of three-point shooting, his impressive defensive instincts, and the rookie continues to deliver all those qualities just about every time he plays.

He had an electric sequence in the second quarter when he blocked Aldridge twice at the rim, then sprinted down the floor for a dunk.

A perimeter defensive player should be much higher on the Sixers’ wish list than a big man, and Wednesday night’s performance provided even more evidence. 

• Marco Belinelli, who became a fan favorite in his short stint with the Sixers last season for his apparently limitless confidence and ability to score in bursts, got a warm round of applause from the Wells Fargo Center crowd when he entered the game. He didn’t hear many cheers late in the first quarter when he knocked down a pair of his patented, off-balance threes, except from a few stray Spurs fans in attendance. 

• The Sixers got some instant offense of their own off the bench in the form of T.J. McConnell, who shot 5 for 7. McConnell entered Wednesday’s game as the best mid-range shooter in the NBA at 56.2 percent, and he feasted in his favorite area vs. the Spurs. 

As is often the case, however, McConnell was a negative on defense. 

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