While the rest of his teammates started hot, Elton Brand needed a little more time to find his rhythm.
The old veteran has hit his stride.
Brand had a season-high 21 points and 10 rebounds, and the Philadelphia 76ers routed the Sacramento Kings 112-85 Tuesday night for their sixth straight victory.
The Sixers are 7-2 and lead the Atlantic Division. It’s their best start since Allen Iverson helped them open 10-0 on their way to the NBA finals in 2000-01.
Brand, the oldest starter on a young squad, was averaging just 8.1 points and 7.1 rebounds entering the game. He didn’t mind sharing the spotlight.
”I wasn’t frustrated at all,” Brand said. ”If we win, I’m happy. I always have confidence in my game. I’m not impatient. I knew eventually my time would come where I’ll be the go-to guy.”
Rookie Jimmer Fredette scored seven points in his first start for Sacramento. Filling in for injured leading scorer Marcus Thornton, the former BYU sensation shot 2 for 7. DeMarcus Cousins led the struggling Kings with 17 points.
”We didn’t have our regular rotation so the other guys had to make adjustments,” Kings coach Keith Smart said. ”Their bench is their strength and gave them a huge lift.”
Evan Turner had 16 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, and Jrue Holiday added 17 points for Philadelphia, which had six players reach double figures. With second-year coach Doug Collins calling the shots and a deep roster, the Sixers are relevant again in sports-crazed Philadelphia.
After winning 41 games and losing to Miami in five games in the first round of the playoffs last year, the Sixers are one of the NBA’s up-and-coming teams. They’ve won five games by at least a 20-point margin.
”Our guys came back in great shape, we’re young, we’re resilient,” Collins said.
This game quickly turned into a rout early in the third quarter. An 11-0 run featuring three baskets from Brand extended the lead to 63-42. It reached 84-60 when Jodie Meeks hit his third 3-pointer of the quarter.
A 10-2 run to start the fourth quarter made it a laugher. Lou Williams scored six in a row and Thaddeus Young capped it off with a dunk that put Philadelphia up 94-62.
That allowed the reserves at the end of the bench to see rare action. Andres Nocioni played in his third game. Tony Battie and Lavoy Allen entered for just the second time this season.
But this was Brand’s night.
”He was struggling and he wants to work twice as hard,” Collins said. ”He’s such a pro, he has an incredible routine. It was fun for our team to see him smile.”
Brand shrugged it off in typical fashion.
”To me, it doesn’t matter if it’s Andre (Iguodala), Thad or Spencer (Hawes) stepping up, we’re a team,” Brand said.
Fans roared when Meeks hit a jumper midway through the fourth to give the Sixers 100 points, which means fans can take their ticket stubs to McDonald’s for a free Big Mac on Wednesday.
The only negative for Philadelphia was an injury to Hawes, the starting center. He didn’t play the second half because of a strained lower back. Collins said Hawes could return Wednesday night at New York.
The Sixers had another slow offensive start and trailed 11-8 midway through the first. Turner’s driving layup with under a minute left gave Philadelphia a 22-20 lead, and it led the rest of the game.
Thornton missed his first game with a bruised left thigh. The Kings already were without starting forward Chuck Hayes, who is expected to miss three to four weeks with a dislocated left shoulder.
”They have a great bench,” Tyreke Evans said. ”They just put a whipping on us. We just broke down in the third quarter.”
NOTES: The Sixers go on the road to play their third game in three nights Wednesday at the New York Knicks. … The Kings have lost four in a row on the road to start the season for the first time since 2008. They are 1-2 under Smart. Paul Westphal was fired last week after Sacramento opened 2-5. … Former Sixers center Darryl Dawkins, known as ”Chocolate Thunder,” was introduced at center court before the game. … This was Philadelphia’s highest-scoring game of the season. … Evans, from nearby Chester, scored 15.