With two wins sandwiched around a narrow loss over its last three games, Philadelphia Coach Brett Brown believes his team is finally figuring things out.
Ish Smith scored five of his 18 points over the final 3 1/2 minutes and Jerami Grant made three late free throws to help lift the 76ers to a 110-105 win over the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night.
“We’ve taken a lot of hits, and if there is such a thing as deserving to win, they deserve to win,” Brown said. “They put in the work, they don’t blink. They stay together. I’m proud of them.”
The 76ers have won two of three since acquiring Smith in a trade with New Orleans, improving their NBA-worst record to 3-31. Former University of Kentucky star Nerlens Noel had a season-high 20 points with nine rebounds while Grant finished with 16 points, a career-best 11 rebounds and five blocked shots.
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“I think this team can really go in a lot of different ways,” Noel said. “We’re really rolling and coach Brown has put us in a better position to win some games and be productive. It was only a matter of time. Now it’s starting to click.”
Brown’s squad was last in the NBA in scoring coming into the day, but came up with one of its best offensive nights of the season while handing Sacramento its third straight loss.
Philadelphia shot 42.6 percent from the floor, made nine 3s and had a season-high 53 rebounds, including 16 on the offensive end.
Isaiah Canaan scored 15 points for Philadelphia, and reserve Hollis Thompson had 12.
DeMarcus Cousins had 21 points and 11 rebounds for Sacramento but fouled out with 1:47 left.
“I feel we dropped the ball tonight,” the former UK star said. “Turnovers killed us, paint points killed us. I don’t think the defense was where it needed to be. That’s a young, hungry team, man. They just outplayed us, straight up.”
Philadelphia led by as much as 12 in the second half and was up 95-86 early in the fourth before Sacramento made a late push. The Kings closed to 103-101 on Marco Bellineli’s jumper with 3:03 remaining, but Smith scored on a driving layup after Rudy Gay missed a potential tying shot.
After Cousins was called for an offensive foul, Grant made two free throws and Smith followed with one of his own to help Philadelphia hold on.
Sacramento Coach George Karl remains one win shy of tying Phil Jackson for fifth place on the NBA’s career coaching list with 1,155. Getting the Kings to play better in transition is at the top of Karl’s list of priorities.
“You have to run, space the court and find easy baskets because that’s the best way to play in the game today,” he said. “(With) the frustration of turnovers and too many offensive players worried about shots and touches, our transition defense gets a little shaky.”
76ers: The 110 points are the third-most scored by Philadelphia this season. … Jahlil Okafor was limited to 19 minutes because of soreness in his right knee. The rookie had 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Kings: Cousins needs 34 rebounds to break Chris Webber’s franchise record. … San Francisco Giants reliever Sergio Romo attended the game and sat courtside next to Kings owner Vivek Ranadive. Romo wore a light blue Cousins jersey.