Not even 40 points from Joel Embiid was enough on Sunday as Philadelphia’s winless start to the NBA season continued, suffering a shock 114-105 loss to San Antonio.
The defeat saw the Sixers drop to 0-3 but given the first two losses came against championship contenders in Boston and Milwaukee, there was a delay on hitting the panic button.
The Spurs, on the other hand, are expected to join the tank train for likely top NBA draft pick Victor Wembanyama and had given up 266 points in their first two games this season.
It was an all-round team effort for San Antonio though, with six players hitting double digits in points, led by Keldon Johnson (21 points) and Devin Vassell (22).
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Philadelphia got plenty of production from its key starters as Embiid put up a strong stats line of 40 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, two blocks.
James Harden (12 points, 12 assists, nine rebounds) and Tyrese Maxey (24 points, five assists, three rebounds) were also solid while Tobias Harris added 15 points.
But there were just 13 points from Philadelphia’s other six players, with three members of the bench failing to put up a single point. San Antonio’s second unit, meanwhile, scored 40.
Philadelphia is now at risk of slipping to last place in the Eastern Conference should the Orlando Magic defeat the Boston Celtics on Sunday.
The Sixers took a 25-19 lead after the first quarter, with Tobias Harris (seven points, three rebounds), Joel Embiid (six points, three rebounds) and James Harden (four points, three rebounds, six assists) all contributing early in the game.
Tyrese Maxey (five points), meanwhile, had a pair of buckets in transition to get the offence going while Tre Jones (four points) led the way for the Spurs.
Devin Vassell entered the second quarter with three points but quickly exploded to power the Spurs back into the game with 17 points, bringing his total to 20 by the half after shooting 8-for-10 from the field.
The Sixers, on the other hand, struggled to find their shooting rhythm after going 37.2 per cent from the floor in the first half, with Harden just 2-for-10 from the field.
Harden was making an impact in other ways though, already with six of Philadelphia’s 10 assists at that point.
But having dropped their first two games of the season, Philadelphia fans’ patience was wearing thin, with boos ringing out after Josh Primo drained a 3-pointer to give the Spurs a 49-41 lead.
Those boos turned to cheers when Maxey hit one from deep to cut into the lead, with Harris also draining a 3-pointer as the Sixers rallied late to trail 54-51 at halftime.
Once again though, the Spurs pushed ahead in the third quarter, taking a 85-77 lead into the final 12 minutes of the game.
Keldon Johnson made his impact felt in the third quarter for San Antonio, scoring nine points while also stepping up on the defensive end with two rebounds and a steal.
“When you’re playing against teams like this, just like when the Sixers were on the other side of the coin and they were rebuilding, you can’t take nights off,” 76ers commentator Alaa Abdelnaby said.
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The challenge for San Antonio though would be to maintain the pressure, with Philadelphia guaranteed to push back.
Unfortunately for the Spurs, they missed their first four shots of the fourth quarter as the Sixers went on a 9-0 run to take a 86-85 lead.
Harden and Embiid started to stand up when the 76ers needed them most, with the duo involved in all nine of those points.
But Philadelphia could not maintain that early dominance, with San Antonio then going on a 15-5 run of its own to take a 101-90 lead into the final five minutes of the game and eventually took out rhe win.
The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Keith Pompey tweeted that it “could go down as one of the worst Sixers losses” he had seen since he started covering the team.
“When you come across games like this, these are the kinds of games that are already by design must-have because you are clearly the better team,” Abdelnaby said.
“To come out after struggling for two games against elite competition and perform like you did today is discouraging for the coaching staff of the 76ers.
“This is clearly a struggling and rebuilding team, this should have been a W.”