76ers Head Coach Doc Rivers Named January Eastern Conference Coach of the Month;
Joel Embiid Named January Eastern Conference Player of the Month, Embiid Also Selected to NBA All-Star Game
The 76ers (33-17) are an NBA-best 21-5 since Dec. 9, and now arrive in San Antonio for their next game on Friday night against the Spurs (14-38). It’s the first of three straight road games, with the New York Knicks (Sunday, 6 PM) and Boston Celtics (Wednesday, 7:30 PM) to follow.
On Thursday, the Sixers racked up a couple of awards for their strong month of January, with Doc Rivers and Joel Embiid earning Eastern Conference Coach of the Month and Player of the Month honors, respectively.
Embiid averaged 34.9 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game and Rivers led the Sixers to an NBA-best 11-3 record last month.
The Spurs lost to Sacramento, 119-109, on Wednesday. Domantas Sabonis scored a season-high 34 points for the Kings, while Spurs rookie Malaki Branham posted a season-high 22 points (9-13 fg, 3-5 3fg, 1-2 ft) with five assists as a reserve on the other side. The 19-year-old Branham was the No. 20 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft after one season at Ohio State.
On the injury report as of Thursday night, Embiid (left foot soreness) was once again listed as questionable. Romeo Langford (out - left adductor tightness) has missed the last five games for San Antonio, while teammate Devin Vassell (left knee procedure) remains out. Rookie lottery pick Jeremy Sochan (lower back soreness) is also out, and Tre Jones (left foot soreness) is doubtful.
Friday marks the second and final game in the season series between the teams. The Spurs won, 114-105, on the road at the end of October despite a 40-point game from Embiid.
Most recently, the Sixers bounced back from a Monday loss to the Orlando Magic by getting back in the win column against Orlando, 105-94, on Wednesday. Embiid (28 points, 11 rebounds) and James Harden (26 points, nine rebounds, 10 assists) both notched a double-double in the win.
Harden connected on a season-high six 3-point field goals and was one off his season average of 11.0 assists per game, the most for any NBA player.
“When you play a team twice [consecutively], it’s going to be a slugfest,” Doc Rivers said postgame. “I didn’t think we played great, but we played good enough to win. You’ll take that.”
The Magic scored just 16 points in the fourth quarter.
“Our defense,” Harden identified as a key to the closing run. “Holding them to one shot, turning them over, and just getting out in transition. It makes our job a lot easier when we rebound. When we don't, it makes it more difficult. That's not just tonight, that's every game.”
The Sixers hit the 50-game mark last time out and picked up their 33rd win. Their 33-17 (.667) record is good for third in the Eastern Conference and fourth in the NBA.
“I think we're a team that's never really satisfied,” Shake Milton said. “Every day we go into work, we're continuing to get better. From the defensive end to the offensive end, continuing to be unselfish and playing for one another. I'm excited to see where this team goes.”
Friday’s game is an 8 p.m. ET start in San Antonio.
All Star Again:
On Thursday night, Joel Embiid was named an NBA All Star for the sixth straight season. The 72nd NBA All-Star Game will be played Feb. 19 in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Wednesday’s Top Performances:
- Including his 20-point first half – his 22nd half of the season with at least 20 points – Embiid finished the win over Orlando with a game-high 28 points (9-17 fg, 10-10 ft), plus 11 rebounds, three assists, and one blocked shot.
- On the back of his 6-for-10 shooting performance from 3-point range, Harden netted 26 points and ended the game just one rebound shy of a triple-double with nine boards and 10 assists in 38 minutes.
- Harris contributed across the board with 16 points on 7-for-10 shooting (2-4 3fg), plus five rebounds, five assists, and two blocks in 37 minutes.
Quote to Note:
San Antonio’s Doug McDermott on playing against James Harden and Tyrese Maxey, following the October meeting between the 76ers and Spurs in Philadelphia:
“They’re so talented. Maxey is super quick, it’s hard to contain him. You almost have to run him off the line and make him finish over Jakob [Poeltl], which is kind of what we did. James, he’s a great scorer, but he’s also getting everyone involved. It’s a tough duo and they’re going to be really good this year, obviously. I think they’ll go really far.”