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Sixers aim to stop skid against improving Pelicans

Sportsnaut
Dec 17, 2021; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Pelicans guard Devonte' Graham (4) dribbles up court against the Milwaukee Bucks in the second quarter at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 17, 2021; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Pelicans guard Devonte’ Graham (4) dribbles up court against the Milwaukee Bucks in the second quarter at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

On Dec. 11, the Philadelphia 76ers earned arguably their biggest win all season when they beat the Golden State Warriors.

The Sixers haven’t won since.

Philadelphia will look to snap a three-game losing streak when they host the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday night.

The maddening part is that in Philadelphia’s past two losses, to the Miami Heat and Brooklyn Nets, both opponents were extremely short-handed.

The Sixers fell in Brooklyn without injured Tyrese Maxey and Furkan Korkmaz, who had a non-COVID illness. Georges Niang also is in the league’s health and safety protocols.

“You have no choice. My job right now as a coach is to keep them positive,” Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said. “Let’s keep holding water, let’s win a couple games, let’s stay above .500. This stretch coming up is important if we can get healthy because we get a lot of rest. … We have two days off the following week, we have four days off the week after that.

“It’s like they made us play all these games and they’re gonna give us a chance to gather ourselves. But it won’t matter unless we’re healthy,” Rivers added.

Joel Embiid scored 32 points and Seth Curry added 29, but Tobias Harris shot 3 for 17 in the loss to the Nets. In the last three games, all losses, the Sixers have lacked balance in scoring throughout their roster.

The Pelicans, who have struggled for much of the season without Zion Williamson, will suddenly be searching for their third straight win.

New Orleans defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 113-110 on Wednesday and followed with a 116-112 overtime win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday. Giannis Antetokounmpo sat out in the league’s health and safety protocols.

Devonte’ Graham hit eight 3-pointers and scored 26 points to carry the Pelicans, who are 8-7 in their last 15 games.

“Obviously, you can’t shoot the ball like that every game,” Graham said. “You try to ride the wave. You get hot and you try to stay as hot as you can for as many games as you can.”

“We have the utmost and extreme confidence in Devonte’ and his ability to shoot the ball and play-make for us,” Pelicans coach Willie Green added. “I just like the fact that he’s being more aggressive. Those are shots he can make. We want him taking them with confidence.”

The Pelicans also received 24 points from Jonas Valanciunas, 22 from Brandon Ingram and 11 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists from Josh Hart.

But it was Herb Jones who provided a stunning lift with 17 points and a clutch basket down the stretch. Jones was the No. 35 overall draft pick out of Alabama.

“He was great, all over the place,” Green said of Jones. “Offensively, his cutting, his ability to offensive rebound. Defensively, he was a monster. His instincts, they’re incredible. And we need him on the floor.”

–Field Level Media