SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Garrett Temple leaned forward, repeated the question asked after the Sacramento Kings avoided their worst home start in 27 years, then gave it some thought.
“A steppingstone victory?” he said after the Kings rallied to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 94-86 on Tuesday after scoring only 10 points in the first quarter. “Yeah, I think so. Definitely, because so many encouraging things happened after so many bad things happened early. But now the thing is, how do we respond? What do we do next?”
It’s the “what’s next” that has made the Kings an intriguing team, if not a winning one, early into season one of their rebuild.
Next up for Sacramento is a home contest against the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday at the Golden 1 Center.
“It feels good to … just have some fun, pass the ball around to everybody to get involved,” Kings rookie forward Justin Jackson said after posting a career-best 16 points against Oklahoma City. “If we can continue to do that and push each other each and every day, I think we’ll be all right.”
Once, Philadelphia was a team as far away from winning as the Kings seem to be now. On Thursday, the 76ers will arrive with their longest winning streak in six years. A 104-97 road victory against the Utah Jazz on Tuesday was Philadelphia’s fifth win in a row. Just four seasons ago, the Sixers won 10 games, period.
At 6-4, they are off to their best start since the 2012-2013 campaign — the last one that ended with a Philadelphia playoff bid.
In other words, they are light years away from the club that lost 28 straight over two seasons from March 2015 to December 2015 and started 1-30 in 2015-16.
They are riding the combined efforts of 6-foot-10 point guard Ben Simmons, the top overall pick in the 2016 draft; center Joel Embiid, the third overall pick in ’14; and power forward Dario Saric, the Rookie of the Year runner-up a year ago.
“I’m not happy with losing,” Simmons told NBC Sports Philadelphia. “I feel like that defines me, and that’s just the way the game is. People are defined by how many rings they have. For me, I just want to win and while I’m in the league be one of those guys that’s a winner.”
Embiid, who did not play against Utah because of a planned rest, is averaging 20.5 points and 10.1 rebounds, both team-leading totals. Simmons, who missed all of last season because of injury, is scoring at a 17.8 clip and is tied with Embiid at 10.1 rebounds. He also has seven double-doubles in his first 10 games, the best run for a rookie since Shaquille O’Neal.
Saric, who scored 25 points and yanked 10 rebounds with Embiid out of the lineup against Utah, is averaging 9.9 points and 5.2 rebounds.
The 76ers have not received much contribution yet from guard Markelle Fultz, the top overall pick in this year’s draft. Fultz is averaging 6.0 points and 1.8 assists in 19 minutes a game, but he hasn’t played since Oct. 23 due to a shoulder injury.
The Kings (2-8) are averaging just 93.8 points a game overall, and they have endured individual quarters of 10, 13, 15, 16 (twice), 17 and 18 over the past five games.
Sacramento forward Zach Randolph has team-leading totals of 12.8 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.