The Philadelphia 76ers didn’t need star center Joel Embiid to run their winning streak to five games on Tuesday, but they won’t be sad to see him return to the lineup. Embiid is expected to get the start when the 76ers continue their five-game road trip by visiting the Sacramento Kings on Thursday.
Embiid was the most high-profile rookie on the Philadelphia roster last season but he wasn’t the only talented first-year player, and Dario Saric picked up the slack for his fellow NBA sophomore by pouring in a season-high 25 points in Tuesday’s 104-97 win at Utah. “I felt this can be my night,” Saric told reporters. “You need to stay focused all game, try to keep my mind with what coach (Brett Brown) says, stick with the plays, stick with my game, too. How to score in my role.” The Kings have a roster packed with young players as well but leaned on a veteran to snap a seven-game slide on Tuesday. Power forward Zach Randolph, 36, scored all 18 of his points in the second half as Sacramento earned a 94-86 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in the opener of a brief two-game homestand.
TV: 10 p.m. ET, NBCS Philadelphia-plus, NBCS California (Sacramento)
ABOUT THE 76ERS (6-4): Philadelphia is trying to grow and improve with each game, and staring down a five-game road trip is just the next step for the young roster. With Embiid (load management) sitting out, Saric jumped into the starting lineup and rookie Ben Simmons once again filled up the stat sheet with 16 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, three steals and three blocks to mark his third straight game with at least a double-double and the second consecutive game in which he collected multiple blocks and multiple steals. “It shows a lot about our team, that we pushed, how we fought through it, and there were guys who stepped up,” Simmons told reporters. “...We just want to win.”
ABOUT THE KINGS (2-8): Tuesday’s win over the Thunder marked Sacramento’s best defensive effort of the season, holding the Thunder to 33.7 percent from the floor, but also included another strong offensive effort from shooting guard Buddy Hield. The second-year pro is thriving in three games since moving to a reserve role, averaging 17 points on 19-of-31 shooting after managing 10.3 points on 35.4 percent shooting as a starter last month. Hield is joined on the second unit by rookie guard De’Aaron Fox, who is averaging 12.4 points and 5.3 assists while working behind veteran starter George Hill.
1. 76ers SF Robert Covington is 14-of-25 from 3-point range over the last three games.
2. Randolph is averaging 16.3 points on 54.7 percent shooting in the last four contests.
3. The teams split the two-game series in each of the last four seasons.
PREDICTION: 76ers 106, Kings 98