A number of things had to go wrong for the Sixers to fall behind the Spurs, 120-112, with 2:48 left Wednesday night.
Jimmy Butler was sidelined for a second straight game with a right wrist injury; Joel Embiid missed eight of his first 11 shots, JJ Redick 10 of his first 14; the team's perimeter defense wasn't very good.
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From that point, almost everything had to go right for the Sixers to win. And that's exactly what happened, as the Sixers pulled out an extraordinary 122-120 victory over the Spurs (see observations).
Redick's four-point play with a minute remaining gave the Sixers the lead for good.
His shot came off one of the Sixers' favorite late-game plays, in which Redick runs up from the baseline to either screen for Ben Simmons, receive a dribble handoff, or flare behind the three-point line. Embiid is stationed on the strong side wing, and the Sixers have another million or so options involving their big man.
Here's what it looks like when Redick sets the screen.
And here's a common variation in which Redick flares, Simmons hits Embiid on the wing, and Embiid hands it off to Redick then seals his man.
You get the idea - The Sixers can do a lot of different things out of the action. You can understand why Brett Brown keeps returning to it when he needs a score.
The Christmas Day one we all step back and talk about, ‘Why wouldn't you give it to Joel?' or whatever. We've had success with the play. It's never as perfect as you'd hoped, but tonight it was. … When you have somebody like Stephen Curry, JJ Redick, the great shooters who are now participatory in screen-setting, it's confusing.
According to Redick, the Spurs decided to switch a hair too late, creating the space for him to launch a three-pointer, one he admitted he never got a good glimpse at.
"As soon as I shot it I was just trying to figure out a way to land and not sprain my ankle, to be honest with you," he said.
The Sixers still needed to stop the Spurs after Redick's shot. That was a problem for most of the night, but with the game on the line, it wasn't.
"There were times tonight I thought we had lapses," Brown said, "but when it mattered and it mattered most, defensively, we were there."
As expected, the Spurs put the ball in DeMar DeRozan's hands with a chance to take the lead. Brown countered with Wilson Chandler, and Chandler denied the four-time All-Star at the rim.
"I thought Wilson was really the main reason we won the game," Brown said. "We scored the last 10 points in regulation and when you really zoom in, you look at the plays Wilson was making, we were comfortable having him on DeRozan. I thought he did a good job on a bunch of different people. … I trusted the physicality that he brought to the table."
The Spurs had one final inbounds play with 1.1 seconds left. Simmons knocked away a pass intended for his former teammate Marco Belinelli and, despite all the things that went wrong in the game's first 45 minutes, the Sixers left Wells Fargo Center feeling pretty good about where they stand four games into a brutal, pre-All-Star break stretch.
"We're all trusting in each other for each one of us to do our job the right way," Simmons said. "I think we're just stepping up. We're learning and everyone is really getting better."
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