Spurs will be ready for surging 76ers
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Wins by the San Antonio Spurs over Philadelphia have been almost as regular and inescapable as death and income taxes over the past 30 years, but the 76ers have a chance to erase a lot of those bad memories when the teams square off Friday at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas.
Philadelphia has won eight of its past 10 games this season but hasn't defeated the Spurs in the Alamo City since January 2004, a stretch of 13 straight games, and has won only once in San Antonio since 1986.
San Antonio comes into Friday's game off impressive wins over Cleveland at home Tuesday and at Memphis on Wednesday, even though the Spurs had players out for injury and rest in both contests.
In Wednesday's 108-85 victory against the Grizzlies, San Antonio played without leading scorer and All-Star reserve LaMarcus Aldridge, who was left back in the Alamo City to rest after he lead the Spurs to the win over the Cavaliers the night before.
San Antonio found plenty of volunteers to take up the scoring role with Aldridge out, as eight players -- led by Patty Mills' 15 points off the bench and Pau Gasol's 14 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists -- tallied in double figures in the win in the ultimate example of balanced scoring.
"When (Aldridge is) not in the lineup, we just try to maybe create more ball movement, more motion, more flow and then the offense balances itself out," Gasol said after the win over the Grizzlies. "We shared the ball; it was great ball movement, 29 assists, a lot of guys in double figures."
Dejounte Murray scored 11 points and dished out a career-high seven assists; the latter will be his primary role now that he's assumed the starting point guard nod from veteran Tony Parker.
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said Parker has accepted the change and has been a mentor for Murray, who started his third straight game at the point Wednesday.
"(Parker) thought it was good for the team to give Dejounte a chance to see what he could do," Popovich said. "He was mature, and really made it easy on me to make a decision like that. He was fantastic."
The 76ers head to the Alamo City for the only time this season on the heels of a 115-101 home thumping of Chicago on Wednesday. Philadelphia shot 52 percent from the field and 16 of 32 from the 3-point line and never looked in danger after leading by as many as 16 points late in the second quarter.
The 76ers have a team that can end their swoon in San Antonio based on the fact that Philadelphia beat the Spurs earlier this season and because of its set of budding superstars.
Joel Embiid, who will start the All-Star Game, led the 76ers in scoring against Chicago with 22 points, Dario Saric added 21 points with 10 rebounds and Robert Covington chipped in with 16 points.
Even with those impressive performances, Wednesday's game belonged to Ben Simmons, who racked up a triple-double of 19 points with 17 rebounds and 14 assists.
"Ben rebounded and instigated a lot himself," 76ers coach Brett Brown said after the win over Chicago. "He was able to control stuff when he rebounds, he can rebound and takeoff. I still think that is the hardest thing to guard -- that the style of the game, rebounding. It allowed him to put his thumbprint on this game in a big way early."
The 76ers' resurgence is one of the hottest topics in the NBA and rightfully so. Philadelphia is 9-3 since Christmas Day, two games better than .500 for the season, and outscoring opponents by eight points a night. They have two of the brightest young stars in the sport, conducts of a system that has turned the team from doormat to must-see.
"The pain that we endured is actually producing some fruits of our pain," Brown said after the win over the Bulls.
Updated January 25, 2018