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Spurs try for 13th straight win over 76ers
PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia 76ers will be looking to end a 12-game losing streak to the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night, and they will likely be doing so without center Joel Embiid.
Embiid, Philadelphia's leading scorer and rebounder, is listed as doubtful after spraining his right hand in Sunday's 123-110 victory over the Phoenix Suns. The Sixers (17-19) are 2-7 in games he has missed this season, though they beat the Denver Nuggets without him Saturday night.
"If you saw the palm of his hand, you would see the bruising and the swelling and the discoloring," Sixers coach Brett Brown told Philly.com. "If it was his non-shooting hand, you might feel more confident. But we'll all learn more (Wednesday)."
Philadelphia has won two straight and three of four. It is the Sixers' first winning streak since they took three in a row (Nov. 20-25).
The Sixers received more good news Tuesday, when rookie guard Markelle Fultz, the top overall pick in the 2017 draft, played four-on-four in practice. It is the most he has done since he was shut down four games into the season because of a shoulder injury. Though no definitive timetable has been announced for his return, he is in the "final stage of his return-to-play program," according to a news release.
"He's moving well and starting to get excited about his return to play," Brown told Philly.com. "What I saw today was just encouraging to see him play with his teammates and playing live basketball."
The Spurs (26-12) saw encouraging signs themselves Tuesday from forward Kawhi Leonard, who in his seventh game of the season scored a season-high 25 points as San Antonio beat the New York Knicks 100-91.
Leonard, widely viewed as one of the NBA's best all-around players, missed the first 27 games with a quadriceps injury. The Spurs nonetheless survived his absence, in part because of the strong play of veteran forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who poured in 29 points Tuesday and leads the team with averages of 22 points and 8.4 rebounds a game.
Tuesday's victory, San Antonio's fourth in five games and seventh in nine, was also the 1,176th in the career of coach Gregg Popovich, giving him sole possession of fifth place on the NBA's all-time list. Popovich, whose .694 winning percentage is fourth-best among coaches with at least 250 games, broke a tie with George Karl.
"I don't remember scoring any points or getting any rebounds," Popovich, a five-time NBA champion, told reporters after Tuesday's game. "It means I've had good players and I've been coaching for eons."
The Spurs' 12-game winning streak over Philadelphia dates back to the Sixers' 77-71 victory on Feb. 11, 2011. The last eight of those victories have come with Brown, a former Spurs assistant, on the Philadelphia bench.
The Spurs are without veteran forward Rudy Gay, who has bursitis in his right heel. The Sixers continue to be without guard/forward Justin Anderson, who is bothered by shin splints.
Updated January 3, 2018