PHILADELPHIA (AP) — From anguish to flourish, the 76ers are suddenly a better team with Ish Smith.
Chalk up another win to Smith’s double-double.
Credit Philadelphia’s hot streak – by the franchise’s feeble standards, not the rest of the NBA’s – to Jerry Colangelo’s first shrewd deal.
Smith had 21 points and 11 assists and Richaun Holmes scored 17 points to lead the Philadelphia 76ers to 109-99 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night.
Still the worst team in the NBA at 4-33, the Sixers have won three of six games and have a new confidence since they named Colangelo chairman of basketball operations last month.
Colangelo’s first big move was acquiring Smith from New Orleans in a Dec. 24 trade that cost them nothing but second-round draft picks. Smith averaged 13.4 points and 7.6 assists since the deal and has made his teammates feeling bullish of late.
He may have been at his best against the Timberwolves, with eight points in the decisive fourth quarter.
“We’re young, we play fast,” Smith said. “We’re constantly trying to get better. Good win, let’s celebrate the night, let’s move on to the next game.”
Smith, 9 of 16 from the field with three steals, keyed a fourth-quarter run that helped the Sixers push the lead to double-digits and broke open a game that had 21 lead changes and 12 ties.
The 76ers won with leading scorer Jahlil Okafor on the bench. With the team rolling, coach Brett Brown had Okafor watching the white towel in support of his teammates.
Trying to keep a recent hot streak alive, Smith’s 14-footer late in the fourth gave the Sixers a seven-point cushion. Jerami Grant blocked Shabazz Muhammad‘s layup and Nerlens Noel, who scored 10 points, capitalized on the other end with a dunk. Carl Landry added another dunk off an assist from Smith for a 103-92 lead.
Smith, who was not re-signed by the Sixers in the summer, hit back-to-back 19-footers and the Sixers suddenly pulled away to another win.
“I think we have such a young team that his personality pairs up with their youthful spirit a lot,” Brown said.
The Sixers won two games on a five-game road trip that not only gave them a needed dose of confidence, but inched them closer toward the 10-win mark needed to keep them from going down with the worst record in NBA history.
Muhammad led the Timberwolves with 20 points and Gorgui Dieng had 14 points for Minnesota.
Timberwolves: Andrew Wiggins was held to 16 points on 4 of 9 shooting after scoring 32 in the season’s first meeting. … Minnesota has lost four straight road games. … The Timberwolves have lost six of the last eight against the 76ers in Philadelphia.
76ers: Looking to add some veteran leadership in the locker room, the Sixers signed forward Elton Brand. “I know I can affect change and be a part of something,” the 36-year-old Brand said. Brand played for the Sixers from 2008-2012. … The Sixers also waived forward Christian Wood. … Okafor and guard Kendall Marshall distanced themselves from recent comments made by their fathers. Marshall’s dad tweeted white players are getting more chances under Brown even when they aren’t playing well. Okafor’s father was accused by fans of heckling Brown during a recent road trip. Marshall said he did not share his father’s opinion. “That’s not coming out of my mouth. That’s not my social media,” he said.