Tyreke Evans has helped make the Sacramento Kings one of the NBA's biggest surprises, but in their latest game the stunner was that they won with their star rookie in street clothes.
That success aside, the Kings hope to have Evans back Wednesday night as they look to surpass their Arco Arena win total from last season in a matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers, who are no strangers to big road victories of late.
Evans leads all rookies with 20.3 points per game and has been a big reason the Kings (14-16) have hovered around .500 even with Kevin Martin out with a fractured wrist.
Evans averaged 23.0 points during the first two games of Sacramento's homestand, a 117-104 overtime loss to Cleveland on Dec. 23 and a 112-103 double-OT defeat against the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday, then sat out Monday's game versus Denver with a sore right ankle.
His teammates picked up the slack, as Andres Nocioni scored 21 off the bench and Beno Udrih and Donte Greene chipped in 17 apiece in a 106-101 victory.
"I think it was a long time coming, obviously it hurt with Cleveland and L.A.," said forward Jason Thompson, who had 15 points and 11 rebounds. "There were so many chances ... we were right there. It's good to get this win."
Evans is questionable to face the 76ers (8-22) as the Kings look to improve to 12-5 at Home. Sacramento was 11-30 at Arco Arena last season en route to a 17-65 record.
"I think that the city is appreciating what these young guys are doing," coach Paul Westphal said.
Another big effort from Thompson and Nocioni would help. The Kings are 9-1 when Thompson records a double-double and 9-4 when Nocioni scores at least 13.
Thompson averaged 14.5 points and 9.5 rebounds as Philadelphia swept Sacramento last season. The 76ers have won two straight and three of four at Arco, and despite their troublesome start to 2009-10 they've picked up two big recent wins away from home.
Philadelphia followed its 98-97 win at Boston on Dec. 18 with three straight losses, including the first two stops of their six-game road trip. But the Sixers ended that skid Monday at red-hot Portland, getting 25 points off the bench from Elton Brand in a 104-93 win.
The 76ers shot 65.0 percent after halftime to help overcome a 10-point deficit.
"We attacked. That's really all it was. We attacked," Brand said. "If you look at our record, it's easy to overlook a team like us. But we're talented and this is what can happen."
Brand wasn't the only former No. 1 overall pick to step up for the Sixers. Allen Iverson scored 19 in his return after missing four games with a knee injury.
"He's a finisher. He can get to the line and get the ball to guys at the right time. We've missed that," Brand said.
Sacramento's biggest challenge may be finding someone to guard Thaddeus Young, who averaged 20.0 points in Philadelphia's two wins last season. Some of that duty will fall to the 6-foot-11 Greene, who's guarded LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony over the past three games while also averaging 14.3 points.
"Donte's not afraid," Westphal said. "Maybe he doesn't have enough experience to be afraid but I think he actually concentrates better when things get tougher."