As they’ve done for much of 2018, the Sixers followed up a very crappy performance with a very good performance.
They tend to get the bad play out of their system rather quickly, putting losses in the rear view mirror and bouncing back with much better efforts in the following game.
Last night, it was white-hot shooting that got the job done, with the Sixers hitting 50 of 87 shots to finish with a season-high 57.5 field goal percentage. They were 16-33 from three for a 48.5% mark. Seven players finished in double figures as Brett Brown’s team put up 125 points for only the second time this season.
(The first was the November game against the Magic, when JJ Redick went 8-12 from three. Remember that one?)
They’ve actually gone above 55% four times this season – once last night, once in Monday night’s loss, and also in the Houston and Phoenix road wins:
That’s something else, isn’t it? The Sixers’ four best overall shooting nights have all taken place on the road, where they finished 3-1. And last night was their 7th-best three-point shooting night, as they’ve finished at or above 50% a chunk of times this year.
Obviously the difference between Monday and Wednesday was 26 turnovers compared to 14. That’s +12 meaningful possessions against Charlotte, cleaning up the Milwaukee mess that resulted in the Bucks absolutely killing the Sixers in transition in the third and fourth quarters.
They cleaned it up last night while benefiting from a key ejection receiving some excellent two-way contributions from this guy:
22 points for Cov on 7-11 shooting (63.6%). He was 5-9 from three (55.6%).
It was his first 20 point game dating all the way back to December 12th, which was 40 games ago. He now has 18 games this season where he’s shot 50% or better from three point range on a minimum of four attempts, and 22 games where he’s finished 25% or worse from three under the same parameters. The ends of the Robert Covington spectrum seem to be further apart than those of other NBA players, at least if feels that way to me. I’d be interested in looking into that same set of numbers for guys like Redick and Saric.
But when Cov is on, he’s on, and he complemented the offensive output with a stout defensive game, contributing two steals, two blocks, and essentially shutting down Kemba Walker in Charlotte.
Walked finished with 5 points on 1-9 shooting, his lowest scoring output dating all the way back to April of last season. He had gone for 31, 27, 31, and 23 in his four prior games.
Here’s Kemba’s shot chart from last night, a miserable outing with Covington his primary defender:
We talk about Covington’s offensive struggles, but he stays on the floor because he’s still the team’s best perimeter defender, a guy with a 101.5 DEFRTG who is always assigned to the opponent’s best player. To that end, the 101.5 number is smushed into a grouping that includes solid defenders like Andre Iguodala (101.2) and Justise Winslow (101.9).
I thought the most authoritative play last night was this one:
Weak hand, patience, SWAT. Cov usually reaches down there and tries to slap the ball away.
Get him outta here
That play was important in the flow of the game because the no-call frustrated Michael Kidd-Gilchrist so much that he yelled at the ref, picked up a tech, then yelled at the ref again and got tossed. That doesn’t happen if Covington doesn’t pull off that nasty block.
The MKG exit was important for two reasons. First, it was only a four-point game at that point. The Sixers went on a 19-11 run to finish the half and take a 12 point lead into the break.
Second, Kidd-Gilchrist was guarding Ben Simmons.
Prior to the ejection, with 20 minutes gone, Simmons had 8 points, 2 rebounds, and 3 assists.
After the ejection, over the remaining 28 minutes, he added 8 more points, 6 rebounds, and 10 assists, finishing with 16, 8, and 13 on the night.
No doubt it opened up for a him a bit more when MKG left the game, though I have a feeling Simmons probably would have put up his typical numbers either way. Still, they used the ejection as a momentum builder and capitalized on it to expand the lead to double digits.
Need a rest
Dwight Howard had 30 points last night, which was actually his best scoring output of the year. He made up for a really rough outing in Philadelphia last week and carried the team with Walker struggling.
I thought Joel Embiid looked a little tired guarding him, and Jo could probably use a break after last week’s back-to-back ran right into a multi-game road trip. But credit to Embiid for focusing in the second half to finish with a respectable 18 and 5, and 4, plus three turnovers, which you can live with. He went for 7, 4, 2, and 5 in the four prior games, so coughing it up three times is manageable.
Embiid is now up to 52 games this season, which is getting close to double what he played last year. He’s now averaging 31.3 minutes and hasn’t seen this volume of action at any point in his career. He’s played a handful of back-to-backs for the first time ever.
I still think you rest him a bit down the stretch. Brett Brown has prioritized “delivering” a healthy Embiid to postseason over any kind of home court or seeding advantage, so if you can get away with sitting him in two of the Brooklyn, New York, Memphis, and Orlando games, I think you go for it.
I also appreciated this face he made after Howard dunked over him last night:
Embiid lol pic.twitter.com/HqKIBbpsWR
— Kevin Kinkead (@Kevin_Kinkead) March 7, 2018
That’s the face you make when you want to try to play it cool, but you have to respect what the opponent just did.
He was totally lit last night when he did this third quarter interview:
ICYMI: Allen Iverson’s interview from last night’s Sixers game… pic.twitter.com/KwkWFUerJD
— Marc Farzetta (@MarcFarzetta) March 7, 2018
“I love my guys. I love my little dudes. They my little guys. I love ’em.”
Thanks A.I., that’s good stuff.
The needling is all in good fun, so no judgments from me. I’m pretty certain he was smoking the Swedish cheeba before and/or during the game.
The older Allen gets, the more he reminds me of Sir Schmoke-a-Lot from Half Baked: