Balanced effort leads Sixers to 97-78 victory over Spurs

76ers Spurs Basketball
Sixers’ guardT.J. McConnell, left, and forward Robert Covington celebrate a basket during the first half of the team’s win over the Spurs on Friday.

SAN ANTONIO – This was another typical 76ers outing.

When you think they’ll win, they lose. And when you think they’ll lose, they win.

Well, the Sixers showed up in the Alamo City and sprinted away with one thing no one envisioned they would get at the beginning of the season. The Sixers exited the AT&T Center Friday night with an unlikely 97-78 victory over the San Antonio Spurs. It was San Antonio’s lowest scoring output of the season.

Before Friday night, the Sixers (24-21) had a 13-game losing streak to the Spurs in San Antonio. Their last victory here was an 83-77 decision on Jan. 3, 2004. That win snapped what had been 17 straight losses in this city.

Friday’s victory marked just their 12th win in 46 series meetings in San Antonio.

That’s “the old Sixers,” Ben Simmons said of the Sixers ‘ past struggles here. “We have to come in with a new mentality and leave the past behind and play the way we play.”

He said the new mentality is come into games to win and play hard.

Friday’s victory enabled the Sixers to sweep a season series against the Spurs (32-19) for the first time since the 2003-04 season.  They defeated San Antonio, 112-106, at Wells Fargo Center, back on Jan. 3. The win also improved the Sixers to 10-3 since Christmas and into sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

The game was won with a balanced attack.

Simmons had a game-high 21 points on 10-for-11 shooting. The point guard also finished with a game-high seven assists to go with five rebounds and a team-high two steals.

Joel Embiid added 18 points to go with a game-high 14 rebounds. Dario Saric (15 points),  reserve Justin Anderson (12) and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (10) were the Sixers’ other double-figure scorers.

“Philadelphia was great,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “They were physical. Brett’s [Brown] has got them really executing well and playing with confidence. And they did it at both ends of the floor.”

LaMarcus Aldridge led the Spurs with 18 points.

Both teams were undermanned on Friday night.

The Spurs were without two-time NBA All-Star Kawhi Leonard (injury management), Manu Ginobili (right thigh contusion), and Rudy Gay (right heel bursitis). Meanwhile, the Sixers didn’t have JJ Redick (left knee fracture), Jerryd Bayless (sore left wrist) and Markelle Fultz (shooting rehabilitation).

“Great win. I’ll take it, but you always want to play against the best,” said Embiid, pointing out the Spurs were without three standouts.

“I’ll take the win,” he added. “I think we did a good job. You can’t take way what we did tonight.”

The Sixers dominated early, leading 25-13 after the first quarter while not committing a turnover. They built a commanding 25-point lead (80-55) on T.J. McConnell’s three-pointer with 1 minute, 17 seconds left in third quarter.

They finished with a season-low 10 turnovers, after just one in the first half. The Sixers also outrebounded the Spurs, 50-36.

“We played really well, defensively,” Embiid said. “We were physical. We got the stops we needed. Offensively, we took care of the ball.  We moved the ball. And we knocked down some shots.”