Game Recap: Spurs 92, 76ers 83
With just over three minutes remaining in regulation, the 76ers (0-10) found themselves down by only four points to the veteran, experienced San Antonio Spurs (7-2). Turnovers on the Sixers’ next four possessions spoiled any chance of a road upset, as the Spurs made enough plays down the stretch to fend off the Sixers, 92-83, at the AT&T Center on Saturday. The loss marked the Sixers’ 12th in a row in San Antonio.
Jahlil Okafor, one day after being kept in check for a season-low six points, bounced-back by delivering the second double-double of his career. He deposited a game-high 21 points, and snagged a team-best 12 rebounds, all while contending with the likes of Tim Duncan, LaMarcus Aldridge, and David West. Jerami Grant was the only other Sixer to finish in double-figures, generating a season-best tying 12 points.
Duncan, one of the NBA big men most admired by Okafor, not only helped kickstart San Antonio early in the first quarter, but also powered his team to the finish line with a critical jumper in the final 25 seconds. The 19-year veteran totaled 15 points and four rebounds. The Spurs were paced by LaMarcus Aldridge’s 17 points and season-high 19 rebounds. Tony Parker, who on Saturday became the 34th player in league history to reach 6,000 career assists, tacked on 16 points in 25 minutes. Both Manu Ginobili (adductor tightness) and Kawhi Leonard (respiratory infection), the Spurs’ leading scorer, were held out of the game.
Trailing by 16 points with seven and a half minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Sixers summoned up some of their basketball of the night. Jahlil Okafor served as the spark, converting an and-1 that seemed to energize the Sixers on both ends of the floor. Suddenly, they were making shots, and clamping down defensively. During a rejuvenating 14-2 surge, Okafor generated seven of his nine fourth quarter points, while his teammates forced the Spurs into three turnovers that further fueled the Sixers’ run. When T.J. McConnell nailed a cross-over mid-range jump shot with 3:07 left on the game clock, the score was suddenly 87-83. San Antonio, however, didn’t flinch, holding the Sixers without a point the rest of the way. Still, statistically, the Sixers ended up owning the fourth quarter. They outscored the Spurs by seven, 23-16, and hit 52.6 percent of their field goal attempts. San Antonio, on the other hand, went six for 18 from the floor over the final 12 minutes.
Brett Brown Said - On the Sixers' performance in defeat against the Spurs:
“When you get down 19 points on teh road against the Spurs, it would be easy to hang your heads and we didn't. We didn't roll over, there wasn't any backpedaling from our group. It's a quality I've seen from our group most nights since we've been coaching.”
Brett Brown said it himself Saturday. Gregg Popovich’s “impact on [Brown’s] coaching and many other things is pretty well-documented.” To review, Brown’s big NBA break came as a member of the Spurs’ basketball operations staff during the 1998-1999 season, the first of the organization’s five championship runs under Popovich. Brown then returned to San Antonio for the 2002-2003 campaign, which produced another title. The Spurs won twice more with Brown on the bench, in 2005 and 2007. In total, he worked 12 seasons for Popovich.
“There’s not one specific thing. It’s a combination of things,” Popovich said when reflecting on his reasons for initially hiring Brown.
Popovich went on, in part, “In Brett’s case, he loved the game. He loved to talk the game in the sense of O’s and X’s and philosophies. I enjoy having people around that I can argue with, and think out of the box with. [Brown] enjoys that. Another thing is humor. We had a lot of fun, and I enjoy being around people that can laugh at themselves, and enjoy humor, and can give and take it. And Brett can certainly do that. He’s one of the funniest guys I know. After that, his work ethic. And, he’s the most positive individual that I know.”
Since Brown decided to leave San Antonio for his first NBA head coaching opportunity, the Spurs lifted the 2014 NBA Championship banner into the rafters of the AT&T Center.
“I have not one regret taking the Philadelphia job,” Brown said without hesitation, adding he sees “daylight all the time.”
“I would take this job all day every day. I love the city of Philadelphia. For whatever reason I feel connected to their people. I feel a responsibility to make something special and deliver something special. And I love coaching my 20-year olds. I truly see my job that way.”
Brown spent a portion of Saturday taking in San Antonio’s downtown River Walk.
Prior to tip-off, Gregg Popovich made a statement about Brett Brown’s youthful, scrappy Sixers, and it proved to be prophetic.
“Those guys play from the first minute to the 48th minute,” said Popovich.
And that’s exactly what the Sixers did, putting a scare into the Spurs late.
“These guys just keep playing at a certain level,” Popovich said, referring to the Sixers’ persistence. “The work ethic is a tribute to their character, and Brett’s ability to keep them fighting for a standard and trying to progress I think is incredible.”
“He honest to god loves coaching that team,” continued Popovich about Brown. “What he’s all about is not skipping steps, setting standards. He knows the way to do things. He communicates great, and it all shows in the way those guys play.”
Since Friday’s terrorist acts in Paris, France, support for the European nation has understandably been pouring in from all parts of the world. On Saturday, American sports was just one of the many platforms used to honor the reported 129 victims killed, and over 350 people injured in the attacks. At West Point, Army’s football team raced onto the field carrying the French flag prior its home game against Tulane. The New Jersey Devils arranged their practice pucks in the form of the Eiffel Tower. Inside the AT&T Center on Saturday night, prior to the American national anthem, “Le Marseillaise,” the French national anthem, was played over the public address system. A “Pray for Paris” logo was also displayed on video boards throughout the arena. Two members of the Spurs, Tony Parker and Boris Diaw, are French citizens. Parker grew up in France while his father was playing professionally. Diaw was born in northern France, and was named the French League French Player’s MVP in 2003, his final season overseas before joining the NBA. Both are on French national team.
The Sixers play their second game in a row against a team from Texas; however, instead of staying in the Lone Star State, the Sixers will be back in South Philadelphia on Monday, welcoming the Dallas Mavericks (6-4) to The Center at 7:00 PM ET. Dallas faced Houston on Saturday, dispatching the Rockets, 110-98. Dirk Nowitzki, 37-years old and averaging 17.8 points per game, didn’t play. After missing the playoffs for the first time since Nowitzki’s second year in the NBA, the Mavericks returned to the post-season this past spring, but were knocked out by the Rockets in the Western Conference Quarterfinals. The Mavs have now failed to get beyond the opening round in each of their last three playoff appearances since winning the NBA title in 2011. A week and a half ago, Dallas announced that head coach Rick Carlisle had been signed to a five-year extension through 2022.