The 76ers have been one of the NBA’s elite teams.
The Sacramento Kings, in turn, have a 33-34 record after Thursday night’s 126-120 road loss to the Boston Celtics.
The Sixers (43-25) boast the league’s second-best starting lineup behind the Golden State Warriors. Meanwhile, three of the Kings starters have been in the league fewer than four seasons.
Yet, Philly will be the squad looking to a snap a three-game losing streak against the Kings when the teams meet on Friday night game at the Wells Fargo Center.
So why do the Kings have the Sixers’ number?
“I wouldn’t go that far,” coach Brett Brown said, “but …we haven’t performed well against them. I don’t know. When you look at it, you get down to some basic stuff with defensive problems, and different things offensively.
“I hope it’s not something you look in and say, ‘It’s Sacramento’ and you don’t know with a spirit you need to come in [for] an NBA game.”
The King defeated the Sixers, 115-108, on Feb. 2 at Golden 1 Center after sweeping last season’s two games.
But in reality, the Sixers are a different team since the last meeting with the Kings. Back then, shooting guard JJ Redick was given the night off to rest. And that was before they acquired standout power forward Tobias Harris and reserves Boban Marjanovic, Mike Scott, James Ennis III and Jonathon Simmons
This Sixers squad must not make the same mistake of giving Buddy Hield too much space. The Kings shooting guard torched them for a game-high 34 points. The third-year veteran made 7-of-13 three-pointers and 12-of-21 shots overall.
Second-year point guard De’Aaron Fox also had a solid game with 19 points and 8 assists, while fourth-year center Willie Cauley-Stein had 19 points and 9 rebounds.
The Sixers had very little contribution outside of Butler and All-Stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. The trio combined to score 80 of Philly’s 108 points.
Putting the Sixers on his back, Butler scored 18 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter. He made 4-of-8 three-point attempts in the fourth after not attempting a three in the first three quarters. Embiid added 29 points and game highs of 17 rebounds and four blocks for his 43rd double-double of the season. Simmons had 22 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists.
In that game, Butler converted a four-point play to give the Sixers a 98-97 lead with 4 minutes, 30 seconds left. The teams exchanged the lead on the next seven possessions. But the Kings had a 111-106 lead after reserve rookie post player Marvin Bagley’s putback with 59.9 seconds left. After Butler answered with a three-pointer, Cauley-Stein made a foul shot. Then Hield scored the next three points from the foul line to make it 115-108 with 21 seconds left.
In addition to Heild, Bagley and Fox, second-year player in Bogdan Bogdanovic made up the Kings’ young nucleus.
“This year’s team, especially, it’s got some bounce,” Brown said. “It actually has some firepower. Fast forward that team out three to five year if they can hold into their core. It’s impressive.”
Corey Brewer, who had two 10-day contracts with the Sixers this season, is a reserve shooting guard for the Kings.
The Sixers’ turnovers have become a hot topic after they committed 22 in Tuesday’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The team is averaging the NBA’s the second-most turnovers a game at 15.2. Embiid and Simmons are tied for the league’s seventh-most turnovers at 3.6 per game.
Brown was asked if he was focused on cutting down the turnovers.
“Somebody sent me a text saying if Joel or Ben had one less turnover a game, we’d be seventh [most]," the coach said. "I dig into, like, why, because they are unforced turnovers. Things that are on me, things that are on the players.
“I think that people that played the game and coached the game understand that being first is not what I strive for. Somewhere better than what we are is where I strive for.”
Brown said certain areas produce the most turnovers from a team structure standpoint. He added that one has to ask who are the main culprits and where do they produce the most turnovers.
“Then you study that and I have to coach that,” Brown said."Somewhere in the middle of everything I just said, ‘I hope to do better.’"