The San Antonio Spurs played without stars Tony Parker and Tim Duncan on Monday night, but still managed to beat the struggling 76ers 109-103 in Philadelphia.
The Spurs improve to 13-4 while the Sixers stay winless at 0-17, making it their worst losing streak to start a season in franchise history.
NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard picked up the slack for the missing Duncan (rest) and Parker (bruised ribs) as he led all scorers with 26 points and completed the double-double with 10 rebounds. The Sixers mounted a late-game comeback, but Leonard put a stop to it with a dunk as he got fouled and completed the three-point play with the free-throw.
The spurs got help from Aaron Baynes (15 points) and both Manu Ginobili and backup point guard Cory Joseph scored 14 to extend the defending champions’ winning streak to eight.
Michael Carter-Williams also had a double-double; he scored 24 points, got 11 rebounds and added seven assists. Sixers' leading scorer Tony Wroten sat out Monday’s game with a knee injury that has forced him to miss Philadephia's last two games. Rookie Nerlens Noel sat out as well with a hip injury he suffered in practice Sunday. Philadelphia is one loss shy of the NBA record for worst start; the Brooklyn Nets started the 2009-10 season 0-18. They can tie the record Wednesday night when they travel to Minnesota to play the Timberwolves.
Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich had high praise for the 76ers and head coach Brett Brown, who served as an assistant to Popovich for seven years.
“I’ve seen lots of teams, at every level, just give in and give up,” said Popovich. “These guys came at us with everything. It's hard to come out night after night and not get wins. It's amazing to me and a testament to their character and the stick-to-itiveness of the coaching staff. It's really impressive."