The 76ers made the stops they needed at the end.
That enabled them to escape with a 122-120 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
With the Sixers up one point, Wilson Chandler blocked DeMar DeRozan’s layup with seven seconds remaining. Corey Brewer went on to split a pair of foul shots with 1.1 seconds left on the ensuing possession. But the Spurs had an opportunity to win the game or force overtime.
However, Ben Simmons broke up a pass intended for former Sixers sharpshooter Marco Belinelli right before time expired.
In all, the home team ended the game with six consecutive stops to close out the contest on a 10-0 run in the final 2 minutes, 15 seconds.
“I thought Wilson was maybe the main reason we won the game,” coach Brett Brown said.
Corey Brewer opened the game on DeRozan. Then he and Chandler would switch on and off the four-time All-Star swingman. But Chandler guarded him in the fourth quarter. That’s when DeRozan scored just four of his team-high 26 points.
“I think when you really zoom in and you look at the plays that Wilson was making, we were comfortable having him on DeRozan,” Brown said of the forward, who had two steals and a block to go with six points.
The victory improved the Sixers to 32-17 heading into their four-game West Coast trip, which begins Saturday against the Nuggets in Denver. Meanwhile, the Spurs dropped to 27-22.
Like in last month’s game against the Spurs, the Sixers had a hard time making defensive stops for most of the game. Unlike in that contest, they made their share of baskets. That helped them keep things close in a game that had 10 lead changes and 11 ties.
San Antonio shot 57.3 percent from the field compared to 50.5 by the Sixers.
“We went back and forth the whole game,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “It was a great game. It lacked defense by both teams. But the offense was pretty good.”
Landry Shamet pulled the home team within three points (120-117) on a three-pointer with 1:44 left. Then JJ Redick gave the Sixers a 121-120 lead after he converted a four-point play with 60 seconds remaining. The shooting guard was fouled while hitting a three-pointer and converted the foul shot.
Chandler went on to post his block 53 seconds later.
“I was just trying to beat him to the spot,” he said. “I stood straight up.”
Joel Embiid finished with game highs of 33 points and 19 rebounds after being a game-time decision for the third straight game with back tightness. Simmons had 21 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds for his eighth triple-double of the season. Redick added 19 points while making six three-pointers.
Jimmy Butler missed his second consecutive game with a sprained right wrist. It was the sixth time he was sidelined since being acquired in a trade from the Minnesota Timberwolves on Nov. 12. The team had hoped that he would be able to play against the Spurs, but Brown was informed on Wednesday morning that he wouldn’t be able to play.
Brewer, who was in the ninth day of a 10-day contract, started in Butler’s place at small forward for the second straight game.
Brewer became a fan favorite after frustrating Houston Rockets guard James Harden on Monday. However, he was unaware of his future with the team before the start of Wednesday’s game. A player can sign a maximum of two consecutive 10-day contracts with the same team before that squad must either sign him for the remainder of the season or release him.
“I find out day by day. I take it day by day," Brewer said of his status.
The 32-year-old admitted that can be tough, but realizes that he can only control what he can control. That’s continuing to make a positive impression by playing hard and being a leader from the beginning.
“What got my respect is when you would see him at practice, see him at shootaround or watch him when he wasn’t playing, grab heavyweights coming off the floor,” Brown said. “He had no problem going to Joel saying, hey, whatever he said."
He did the same to Simmons and Butler. His teammates saw that and respect him for it.
“His voice mattered,” Brown said. “His words mattered early. I was shocked that he was that engaged; he wasn’t just at the end of the bench.”
On Dec. 17, the Spurs rolled to a 123-96 victory over the Sixers at the AT&T Center. A lot of Philly’s shortcomings were self-inflicted.
Offensively, they missed shots, while shooting 40.8 percent. They also failed to score at least 100 points for the first time in 21 games. Their defense was also poor. The Spurs took full advantage, shooting 56.3 percent. This time, the Sixers were able to overcome the Spurs’ hot shooting.
Facing the Spurs always will have a special meaning for Brown and Monty Williams.
Brown is in his sixth season as Sixers head coach. But he learned everything about the NBA from Popovich and general manager R.C. Buford. Meanwhile, Williams, the Sixers’ lead assistant coach, is known for his head-coaching stint with the New Orleans Pelicans. He also had a nine-year playing career with five teams, including the Sixers.
But he cherishes the time spent in San Antonio as a player, assistant coach and front-office executive.