76ers Blog: Pre-Game Notes ~ 1/2/2014 @ Sacramento Kings
1/2/2014 9:38:00 PM
The 76ers (10-21; T3rd-Atlantic Division, T10th-Eastern Conference) make a stop at Sleep Train Arena to play the Sacramento Kings (10-20; 4th-Pacific Division, 14th-Western Conference), suddenly having found some fresh momentum. Of all places, the Sixers - with consecutive victories for the first time since their season-opening three-game streak - have gotten into a groove on the road. They had dropped 13 away games in a row.
Sacramento, like the 76ers, is in its first season with a new head coach. Mike Malone had spent his previous 12 years as an NBA assistant coach, building up a solid reputation through stints with the New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers, and - most recently - the Golden State Warriors.
Also like the Sixers, the Kings have spent a good deal of time trying to shore things up defensively. The Sixers rank last among the NBA's 30 teams by allowing an average of 111.2 points per game, while Sacramento places second-to-last in the league by giving up 104.0 points per game.
A key ingredient to the 76ers' 114-102 win last night at the Denver Nuggets was the production of the bench. When starters Spencer Hawes and Hollis Thompson picked up two personal fouls in the first quarter, and Michael Carter-Williams was whistled for his second and third personal fouls in the second quarter, it became clear the Sixers would need a few reserves to step up. Step up a few reserves did.
Lavoy Allen produced a season-best 13 points, to go along with five rebounds, and James Anderson finished with 12 points. The duo positioned the Sixers' second-stringers to out-score their counterparts from Denver by eight points. Allen and Anderson were particularly valuable in the third quarter, when they helped the Sixers weather a push from the Nuggets.
"It was a tough win, one of them wins we had to grind it out," said starting forward Thaddeus Young. "Our second unit came in and they were big for us. They came in and actually picked up the energy and got the lead up for us, and I think that was a reason why we really won the game."
The Sixers' back-ups have now won the bench scoring battle 12 times in 31 games this season.
Sacramento is three games removed from a 113-100 home loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, a performance that prompted a frank reaction from rookie head coach Mike Malone.
"How many times do you have to hit rock bottom? I mean, look at our record," said Malone, whose Kings were 8-19 at the time. "Maybe some of these guys are so used to losing, they're accustomed to it. I'm not. I'm used to being in the playoffs and being a competitive team that takes pride in its defense. Right now, we don't have a lot of guys that do that. I'm not sure what their rock bottom is, but I hit my rock bottom about one week into the season."
Since being given that assessment, Sacramento has responded. The very next game, the Kings toppled the Miami Heat in overtime, 108-103. Then, after falling in a close game at the San Antonio Spurs, 112-104, Sacramento bounced back on New Year's Eve for a 110-106 win at the Houston Rockets.
Sacramento - as a franchise - has been through a lot over the past year. A new management team, lead by a California-based investor, purchased the organization in May, and spared it from the real possibility of a move to Seattle. The Kings have also made several significant personnel moves this season; they acquired Derrick Williams - the 2nd overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft - from Minnesota just prior to Thanksgiving, and traded for Rudy Gay - another former top 10 pick - in early December as part of a seven-player deal with the Toronto Raptors. Williams is averaging 8.9 points with Sacramento, while Gay has generated 19.9 points per game since joining the Kings.