Joel Embiid had 33 points and 10 rebounds and the Philadelphia 76ers beat San Antonio 137-125 on Friday night, sending the scuffling Spurs to their eighth straight loss.
Tyrese Maxey had 25 points and James Harden added 16 for Philadelphia, which has the third-best record in the Eastern Conference.
“Tonight was one of those games where it was difficult to get up,” Harden said. “But you’ve got to still be professional. You’ve got to be an elite team. That’s where we are trying to get to consistently. We weren’t consistent enough tonight.
"We got a win, but we’ve got to try to be better overall.”
San Antonio rookie Malaki Branham set a season high for the second straight game with 26 points, eclipsing his 22-point outing Wednesday in a loss to Sacramento.
Keldon Johnson added 18 points and Jakob Poeltl had 16 points and 10 rebounds in San Antonio’s final home game before embarking on a nine-game road trip that ends Feb. 28.
The Spurs are 9-37 since opening the season 5-2.
Embiid, Harden and Tobias Harris returned to the court with five minutes remaining after San Antonio trimmed Philadelphia's 22-point lead to just 10 at 122-112. Embiid and Harden combined for eight points and three rebounds in 3 1/2 minutes to seal the victory.
“A couple of us older guys on the bench were happy for them when they brought it back all the way to like 10 or nine points,” Poeltl said. “Made them bring their starters back in. It was fun to watch them out there just playing free, playing aggressive.”
Embiid, who was listed as questionable with a sore left foot, was 10 for 18 from the field, 2 for 3 on 3-pointers and 11 for 13 on free throws in an efficient 29 minutes. Named an All-Star reserve Thursday, Embiid added four assists and two steals.
The Spurs were without injured starters Devin Vassell, Jeremy Sochan and Tre Jones, as well as Romeo Langford, who has started 19 games.
Their absence contributed to San Antonio committing 18 turnovers that led to 26 points for Philadelphia.
“Giving up 26 points off turnovers makes it impossible (to win),” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “That was the most disappointing part of the game. Their grunt and their ability to just play the game is super, but taking care of the basketball is pretty important and we didn’t do that tonight. That was the bad part of the game.”
Philadelphia started the game with three straight turnovers in falling behind 8-1. The 76ers rallied to end the first quarter tied at 26 and then outscored the Spurs 47-35 in the second quarter.
The run included a one-handed alley-oop dunk by Embiid on a pass from Harden followed by a fastbreak dunk by Harris in building a 66-49 lead.
The second unit then began a charge that ended in Philadelphia’s bench outscoring San Antonio’s 67-42.
“That’s what we’re going to need from them,” Harden said. “Consistently they run their sets. With that unit, it’s about just getting stops. We get stops, we give ourselves a chance to get out in transition.”
76ers: Harden said he was fine after exiting for the locker room with a second remaining in the first half after falling on his elbow late in the first half. Harden returned early for warmups and started the second half. ... Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers was honored before the game as part of the Spurs’ 50th anniversary celebration. Rivers played his final two seasons in the NBA with the Spurs, beginning in 1994. ... Play was stopped midway through the first quarter so the 76ers could tend to a minor cut near Embiid’s right thumb that was bleeding. Embiid drained a 3-pointer on the next play.
Spurs: San Antonio’s next home game is March 2 against Houston. ... San Antonio has the league’s second-longest active losing streak, trailing New Orleans’ 10-game skid. ... Popovich received a technical foul with 5 minutes remaining in the first quarter after stomping down the sideline and screaming at official Mousa Dagher. Popovich was upset no foul was called on a reverse layup attempted by Keldon Johnson.
76ers: At Los Angeles Lakers on Monday.
Spurs: At Chicago on Tuesday.
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This story originally appeared in San Diego Union-Tribune .
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