76ers try to avoid letdown against Kings
The Philadelphia 76ers look to avoid a letdown Saturday night when they continue a Western swing with a visit to the Sacramento Kings.
The 76ers (34-18) are coming off one of the signature wins of their "Process," a 113-104 triumph over the Golden State Warriors in a nationally televised affair on Thursday night.
The Kings (26-25), meanwhile, have not played since a 135-113 home shellacking of the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday, giving them ample opportunity to tune in and watch the 76ers' impressive effort at Golden State.
Joel Embiid dominated his head-to-head matchup with ex-King DeMarcus Cousins in Oakland, recording a 26-point, 20-rebound double-double.
Jimmy Butler had a hand in a defensive effort that held Golden State to 14 points below its season average, while JJ Redick and Landry Shamet complemented Embiid's interior brilliance with a combined seven 3-pointers.
But the 76er most observers were raving about in the wake of the team's second straight win was Ben Simmons, who contributed 26 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three steals to the win hours after learning he'd been named to his first All-Star team.
"I thought Ben had, in my eyes, his best NBA game," 76ers coach Brett Brown gushed afterward to reporters. "I don't know if it's the awareness that he now is an All-Star, if there was extra pressure or burden that was self-inflicted that was removed. I don't know. What I do know is that he was incredible."
Simmons had a somewhat similar effort -- 13 points, 12 rebounds, nine assists and three steals -- in a home loss to the Kings last season. Earlier, he'd had 18 points in a loss at Sacramento.
So the second-year standout has never beaten the Kings, who had split the season series with the 76ers for four consecutive seasons before sweeping last year's pair.
A third consecutive Kings win in the series would prevent them from dropping back to .500 for the fifth time since they were 19-19 on Jan. 3. Sacramento has followed each of its last three wins with a loss.
Then again, the Kings haven't been riding the momentum of a 22-point win since the last time they faced the Hawks, a 146-115 win in Atlanta on Nov. 1.
Alas, that time Sacramento followed up with a 144-109 loss at Milwaukee.
The Kings will attempt to build upon their success -- this time at home, where they have won five straight.
Sacramento coach Dave Joerger insisted Thursday even the modest improvement has created a different impression of his young team away from the arena.
"It's exciting because, just going around town ... everybody's about the Kings," he insisted to reporters. "It's fun to talk hoop. It's fun for me to feel it. I know our players feel it when they're out and about. It's just a good feeling. It's a good vibe. There's a lot of love from the fans, and it's not just about winning. I think it's about the hope for what these guys can become over the next couple of years."
One of the club's young stars, rookie big man Marvin Bagley III, will face one of the league's toughest tests Saturday in his matchup with Embiid.
Bagley had what Joerger labeled his best game of the season against the Hawks, amassing 17 points and 12 rebounds in just 28 minutes.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 1, 2019