Shorthanded Sixers complete perfect road trip by blocking the beam in wild win over Kings

Shorthanded Sixers complete perfect road trip by blocking the beam

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The sky over Sacramento was a little darker Saturday night than it has been on recent evenings after the Philadelphia 76ers handed the Kings one of the more surprising defeats of the season. Philadelphia, playing without James Harden and Joel Embiid on the last night of a lengthy road trip, fell behind by 21 points in the second quarter of a game many teams would have treated as a schedule loss. Instead, the 76ers, fighting for an undefeated road trip, clawed their way back into the game.

Tyrese Maxey’s 15 third-quarter points sparked the comeback, but the game itself was won on the glass. A 76ers team playing without Embiid managed to pull in 16 offensive rebounds compared to only four for the Kings. Sacramento finished with just 25 defensive rebounds for the game, and the second-chance points they gave a Sixers team that simply wasn’t equipped to outscore them otherwise proved to be the difference. Ironically, though, the Kings had a chance at the biggest rebound of the night, but hey simply couldn’t convert.

Philadelphia’s 129-126 lead appeared safe in the waning seconds, but a Matisse Thybulle foul on a Harrison Barnes 3-pointer gave the Kings hope. The foul was somewhat controversial, as Thybulle was attempting to commit it immediately, and in a natural example of the “ball don’t lie” phenomenon, Barnes missed the first shot. He hit the second, but down two with only a single attempt left, he needed to miss the third and hope for a putback. He did his part, and Domantas Sabonis had a chance to tie the game, but he couldn’t quite put it in.

For the first time since Jan. 7, the Kings will not be lighting the beam after a game. This defeat was their first in two weeks, ending a six-game winning streak that helped them jump up to third place in the Western Conference. Their streak may be over, but Philadelphia’s is ongoing. The 76ers have now won five games in a row, all of which have come on their West Coast road trip, but things won’t get easier when they return home. After facing the banged up Nets, they will face off with Embiid’s MVP rival Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets in one of the more anticipated games of the regular season. If the Sixers can handle the Kings without their two best players, though, they should be ready to face off with the Western Conference’s best team at full strength.

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