When T.J. McConnell bags a triple-double to seal a 10th-straight win at the Wells Fargo Center, you know this ain’t the same old Sixers.
I suppose it’s validation for those who supported the Process, the apex performance (for now) of a guy who a lot of people didn’t think was NBA quality. One of them writes for Crossing Broad, but we’ll allow him to remain anonymous. McConnell isn’t just a feel good story in 2018, but a legitimate rotation player, a guy who seems to have hustle though, ambition, flow, inside his DNA, just like Kendrick Lamar.
And those were the elements that allowed the Sixers to overcome a relatively slow start last night, at least by their standards. They didn’t build up a big lead and hang on to win. They didn’t slap around an inferior Knicks team. They had to pull away in the third quarter on the strength of defensive stops, steals, and transition offense, and it just felt like the effort and enthusiasm was a bit different in the second half.
Ironically enough, and I’ve mentioned this before, but Dario Saric brought up the Eagles’ Super Bowl win post-game, unprompted, explaining that he feels like the energy levels inside of the Wells Fargo Center have been different lately, which is rubbing off on the team. I asked Brett Brown about that last week, and he felt like there was something to it, invoking the “Pygmalion Effect” in explaining the palpable rubbing off of Super Bowl success on his neighboring basketball team.
So whatever’s in the Philly air, it must be some shit, because last night it transformed T.J. McConnell into John Stockton.
First time, long time
A lot of good stats out there to showcase T.J.’s performance, like this one:
— Sixers Stats (@SixersStats) February 13, 2018
And this one:
Since starts were first recorded in 1970-71, @sixers G @TJMcConnell is the fourth reserve ever to post a triple-double with at least five steals. Joins @Timfraz23, John S. Williams and Mickey Johnson, according to @EliasSports.
— Sixers Stats (@SixersStats) February 13, 2018
And if we’re being honest, I think the six steals were the most impressive part of T.J.’s game. Think about how difficult it is to put up six swipes in a game, then think about how it allows a strong transition team to… get out in transition.
He had two in rapid succession which allowed the Sixers to open up an eight-point lead from a game that was previously tied:
New York wouldn’t get any closer than seven points after that sequence right there. It was really the hustle and injection of energy that was more important than any tangible contribution that went onto the stat sheet.
A second tech?
Not to poo-poo a nice win, but Joel Embiid was lucky to escape a second technical last night.
The first took place on one those Covington dunks I just showed you, where Joel was whistled for taunting a posterized Michael Beasley:
Covington just threw down a dunk so hard they gave Embiid a tech pic.twitter.com/D2QEwxUkbI
— Charlotte (@SnowmanEmbiid) February 13, 2018
In the fourth quarter, there was a goofy sequence where Joel had his jersey pulled by Kyle O’Quinn, yet no whistle. Frustrated, he came down after the play at the rim and stiff-armed Emmanuel Mudiay, a blatant hand to the face in front of the referee that didn’t get called:
Doesn’t look THAT bad from this angle, but we were watching it straight-on from our viewpoint, and Embiid just pawed Mudiay right in the face. You see him recoil and put his hands up as if to say, “what the fuck yo?”
But it wasn’t whistled, so play on!
Is there anyone harder to pin down on this team than Robert Covington?
After turning the ball over AGAIN on a late-quarter inbound play, he went on a tear to blow the game open, hitting a 3 pointer, then a dunk with a foul, followed up by a posterization of an opponent. He finished with 13, 5, and 2 on 5-11 shooting.
Similarly, JJ Redick committed a bizarre foul at the end of the third quarter:
Redick completely confused as he commits a god awful foul at the end of the quarter to give the Knicks unnecessary free throws pic.twitter.com/qyVGmrvT3H
— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) February 13, 2018
He had 18 points on 6-11 shooting while going 3-6 from three.
Brain farts happen, but the Sixers still make life much harder for themselves than it really needs to be. It’s easy to attribute mistakes to youth when talking about Simmons and Embiid, but at least once or twice per game they throw an absolute head-scratcher at you before settling down to look like a top-four Eastern Conference team. It just feels like the IQ swings are more dramatic for this team, if it makes sense.
He was available last night but didn’t play. He didn’t need to.
The debut will come Wednesday against Miami, made more important by last night’s loss of Justin Anderson, who badly turned his ankle in the first half and limped right off the floor in the corner near the media section, opposite the Sixers bench. X-rays were negative.
That leaves Belinelli, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, and Jerryd Bayless as reserve wing options for Wednesday night, barring a miraculous Anderson turnaround.
The Heat play tonight in Toronto while the Sixers get the day off. Philly is currently 7th in the east and Miami is 8th, so a win tomorrow night will make it five in a row, putting Brett Brown’s team at 30-25 heading to the All-Star break.