Against 76ers, Spurs hope to solve issue with losing teams

One of the anomalies of the first half of the NBA season is that the San Antonio Spurs -- considered a real contender for the league title -- have had problems beating teams with sub-.500 records.

The Spurs -- who have lost 11 times all season, with six of those defeats coming to teams without winning records -- get another chance to re-establish their normal dominant role when they face the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday at AT&T Center in San Antonio.

San Antonio (37-11) comes into the game off a 108-94 win over Oklahoma City on Tuesday. Kawhi Leonard scored 36 points and grabbed eight rebounds. But the Spurs' bench proved to be the difference, helping to turn the tide at the end of the third and the beginning of the fourth after San Antonio squandered an 18-point lead over a horrid seven-minute stretch.

The Spurs' reserves responded by outscoring Oklahoma City 15-2; and, once the starters returned, the Thunder had no answer.

"It's different things at different times," Spurs guard Danny Green said about his team's occasional struggles. "I can't put a finger on one particular thing in each game, but hopefully we will figure it out soon and get that chemistry -- and get the ball rolling -- by the All-Star break."

Overall, the Spurs' bench racked up 32 points to 22 for Oklahoma City's reserves, with most of that damage coming in the pivotal stretch bridging the third and fourth quarters.

"We played more competitively for more of the 48 minutes than we have recently," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "We played good defense in the first half and the fourth quarter, but it's still a 48-minute game. We have to figure that out."

The 76ers head to the Alamo City off a 113-95 loss Wednesday to surging Dallas in which Jahlil Okafor led Philadelphia with 16 points and Ersan Ilyasova added 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Philadelphia, up as many as nine points in the first half, was down only two (62-60) midway through the third. The Mavs finished the period strong to go up 12, and the lead surpassed 20 in the fourth.

Dallas won the rebound battle 51-34 and outscored Philadelphia by 23 points over the final three quarters.

Still, there has been huge improvement from the 76ers (18-30) this season after they won just 10 games last season. On Monday they rallied from a 16-point second-quarter deficit to beat Sacramento and snap a two-game losing streak. They finished January with a 10-5 record, their best month since going 13-4 in January 2012.

"This team has grown a lot," the 76ers' Robert Covington said. "We're showing a lot of poise. And it's still early. There's still a lot of time for us to really grow even more."

Rookie of the Year favorite Joel Embiid didn't make the trip to Texas. He suffered a bruised left knee Jan. 20 and hasn't played in six of the past seven games. He was on the floor in Friday's nationally televised 123-118 loss to Houston, but coach Brett Brown dispelled any notion that Embiid was rushed back for that game.

Before Philadelphia's 122-119 win Monday, Brown said Embiid had more soreness in the knee after playing against the Rockets.

"Nobody needs to feel like there's a conspiracy theory here -- there isn't," Brown said. "It's just that we feel like it's best for him to keep him behind with the resources that we have (in Philadelphia) and to get the rest he needs. We can do the best job for Joel in this environment."

Philadelphia has gone 11-4 since Dec. 30.

The Spurs have won 10 straight against Philadelphia (dating back to a 77-71 road loss on Feb. 11, 2011) and have captured 11 consecutive home games against the 76ers.
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