The Philadelphia 76ers picked up their third win of the season, and the second win during their current six game road trip, Wednesday night in Sacramento, where they defeated the Kings 110-105.
The win improves the Sixers to 2-1 since acquiring point guard Ish Smith from the New Orleans Pelicans.
The Sixers were led by a balanced attack on the offensive end, with six players scoring at least 10 points in the game. Nerlens Noel led the Sixers with 20 points on 8-12 shooting from the field, while also adding 9 rebounds, 4 steals, and 2 assists.
Noel is now averaging 17.3 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.3 blocks, and 3 steals per game since the Sixers acquired Smith, while shooting 78.6% from the field over that span.
Noel was joined by Ish Smith (18 points on 7-14 shooting, 9 assists, only 1 turnover), Jerami Grant (16 points, 11 rebounds, 5 blocks, 2 steals), Isaiah Canaan (15 points,), Hollis Thompson (12 points in 12 minutes), and Jahlil Okafor (10 points, 10 rebounds off the bench) in double figures.
The Sixers won despite shooting just 29.0% (9-31) from three point range and 61.8% (21-34) from the free throw line.
Where the Sixers were able to make up for their shooting struggles was by getting extra possessions, as they had 9 fewer turnovers than the Kings and collected 16 offensive rebounds, including a pair down the stretch by Ish Smith and Jerami Grant which led to free throws, helping the Sixers ice the game.
The Sixers have the highest turnover ratio in the league, coughing the ball up on 18.6% of their offensive possessions, per nba.com/stats. Over the last 3 games that has fallen to a much more manageable 16.8%, including just 12.3% against the Kings.
* In the second quarter the Sixers defense, and the transition game that came as a direct result of that, was eerily reminiscent of last season. Nerlens Noel was incredibly active on the defensive side of the court, forcing turnovers on the perimeter, altering shots at the rim, and crashing the defensive glass. He looks much quicker and “bouncier” of late, and it’s amazing what getting easy buckets can do for his offensive game. Also amazing: how much better he is catching the ball above his shoulders than below.
* Ish Smith was once again fantastic. The Smith -> Noel pick and roll is going to get a lot of attention, and deservedly so, as the frequency they’re able to pull it off is pretty amazing: they connected on the play at least 3 times against the Kings. But another big benefit of the Smith addition is turnovers: the Sixers were able to play at the frenetic pace that they prefer, but only turned the ball over 13 times to the Kings 22. Winning the turnover battle with any kind of consistency would be huge for this team.
* I mentioned earlier today that for all the good he was providing, the 32.6% usage rate that Ish Smith had during his first two games was too high. It was much better tonight at just 20.6%, the 6th highest rate on the team.
* Noel and Smith were fantastic, but Jerami Grant may have been the star of the game. He was absolutely everywhere defensively and finished with 16 points, a career-high 11 rebounds, 5 blocks, 2 steals, and 2 assists. He was altering shots at the rim, blocking perimeter three’s, forcing turnovers, and getting out in transition, and even made 2 out of 3 three pointers. It may have been the most complete game he’s put together as a professional.
* There’s just an activity level right now, on both ends of the court, that the team hasn’t played with for much of the season. Playing some less-than-stellar opponents on this road trip has certainly helped, but Smith has certainly been the injection of life this team desperately needed.
* Robert Covington came off the bench for the second game in a row. He struggled early on, as he didn’t make a shot in the first three quarters of play. He made two huge three pointers down the stretch for the Sixers, however, and getting him back on track would do wonders to open up the offense.
* Outside of a brief stint where Richaun Holmes was on the court, Brett Brown didn’t run any two big man lineups, instead matching up with the Kings small-ball power forwards. Brown started Noel at center, bringing Jahlil Okafor off the bench, and rotated them in for each other pretty much the entire game.
* Okafor struggled a bit offensively, shooting just 4-11 from the field for his 10 points. I thought he did a pretty good job defensively, though, both in his man-to-man defense on DeMarcus Cousins and when defending the pick and roll. It was Okafor’s first game back since missing the previous two games because of knee soreness.
* Speaking of Cousins, he took two charges late in the fourth quarter while holding five fouls, both of which could have gone either way. Cousins eventually fouled out with 1:47 left and the Kings down 4. He finished with 21 points on 4-10 shooting, and had he made more than 13 of his 20 free throw attempts, this could have been a different game.
* The Sixers had all kinds of trouble stopping Marco Belinelli, who finished with 28 points on 11-17 shooting, including 3-6 from three point range. The Kings did an excellent job of running Belinelli off of screens, something that the Sixers struggled to defend.
* Nik Stauskas made a couple of passes off of the pick and roll early on, but really struggled with his shot, connecting on just 1 of his 7 field goal attempts on the game.
* Kendall Marshall did not play, and it appears to be from a coaches decision. Ish Smith played 32+ minutes at the point, with T.J. McConnell getting the final 15 minutes and change.
* Overall, the Sixers’ movement on the offensive end was as good as it’s been all year. Guys were cutting off of Okafor, moving around the perimeter to give him an outlet when he posted up, and there were guys cutting to the hoop off the ball on pick and rolls. Through the first third of the season the Sixers’ offense could get stagnant with alarming regularity, and for the most part that wasn’t true tonight.
* It’s too early to really care, but the game was a positive outcome for the Sixers’ lottery chances. The Sixers have the right to swap picks with the Kings, assuming the Kings pick falls within the top-10. Essentially what this comes down to is the Sixers get free ping pong balls for May’s lottery. The 5-10 slots in the lottery are currently extremely bunched up, with 6 teams within two wins of each other, including the Kings, who lost their 3rd straight game and 4th in their last 5 to fall to 12-20 on the season, just a half game out of the 6th worst record in the league.
* Per ESPN Stats & Info, the Sixers had trailed at some point in the second half in 69 consecutive games. That streak ended against the Kings, as the Sixers led for the entire duration of the second half.
* Both the Lakers and the Sixers won tonight and will square off Friday night in Los Angeles. Neither team has won two games in a row yet this season.