Short recap for this one since the Eagles’ London game is messing up my routine.

The Sixers won at home against an average Eastern Conference team.

It wasn’t an amazing performance, but they got nice nights from Joel Embiid and Robert Covington, who paced the first unit with 27 and 18 points, respectively. Embiid added 14 rebounds and shot 10-22 from the floor.

In other words, he did what he does, which is quietly drop double-doubles in the 30 and 12 range, which is what he’s been doing all season long. I don’t know how you quietly drop those numbers, but that’s how Embiid operates.

So I want to talk about Covington, who I think had his best game of the year. Brett Brown thought the same:

“You know you look at it and Kemba Walker ends up with 37 points. But what we’re looking at is the stats in the second half, the fact that he’s 11-for-31, and 3-for-15 (from three) to get those 37. I thought it was Cov’s best game of the year… he ended up being our bell ringer, he had 10 rebounds along with that, hit that big three that really sealed the game. He was very good tonight.”

That three was a 26-footer with 1:44 remaining to give the Sixers a four-point lead and essentially put the game out of reach. Covington shot 6-11 from the floor and 4-7 from deep, improving his three point percentage to 43.6 this season.

Defensively he added four blocks and two steals while only turning the ball over once. It was an excellent all-around game from him.

I think one of the problems with Covington is that casuals just don’t understand his defensive game, which is not predicated on stout 1v1 defense. We’ve said a million times before that he’s not Bruce Bowen. Most people are going to struggle to lock down Kemba Walker and will get beat off the dribble.

But what he does is switch and rotate fluidly, defend point guards and power forwards, steal the ball and deflect passes – all things that don’t jump off the page at you. The optics of what he does well don’t pop while the optics of what he doesn’t do well are more apparent.

So I asked him about that after the game. Can people properly qualify your defensive contributions?


“From the outside looking in, a lot of people don’t understand what all goes into it.  You can’t get caught up in that. The people that understand the way the game is and how everything goes can get a better feel for it, for how everything happens. You can’t get caught up in what they’re saying, you just have to focus in.”

More or less.

This is the most Covington play of all time:

Some people will look at that and say, “what a block!”

Others will say, “well he was easily beat off the dribble.”

I think he makes a nice recovery play after keeping Kemba Walker off the three point line and funneling him into one of the league’s best rim protectors, so I guess my take is somewhere in the middle. I don’t know what he’s being coached to do in that situation by Brett Brown and Billy Lange.

Covington is a hard player to accurately rate. He does a lot of small things well and when his shot is falling he’s among the best three and D wings in the NBA. Last night was one of those nights.

An off-night

Ben Simmons rated his performance as a D.

He just wasn’t getting anything to fall as he constantly attacked the rim, oftentimes when a short jump shot was the easier path to points.

Look at this shot chart:

Just one attempt outside the paint, and that was an elbow-ish jumper that he tried with 2:40 left in the fourth quarter. He finished with three assists, so it wasn’t just the shooting – he looked off all night long.

I asked Brown what he saw from Simmons on Saturday night and if he felt like he was forcing his shots:

“I’m always trying to get him to be in attack mode, be proactive. Maybe tonight a few times it was forced situations where I still like his spirit. I like his spirit, and it’s taking that spirit and putting it in the right environment, trying to help him find those driving lanes and opportunities. We are always challenging him. With offensive rebounds, I think he can be incredibly elite, gifted, featured on other teams scout tapes as a committed offensive rebounder. He had six tonight, I thought that was an excellent part of his game tonight. In general, statistically, you look at it, it wasn’t one of his better games. But the mindset to attack is something we want to encourage, just in the right environment.”

True, but he can be an elite, top-10 NBA player even if he just develops a short pull-up instead of having to take the ball to the rim on every drive.

Easy buckets

I really liked this design that they used twice last night to get Joel Embiid easy looks at the rim.

They set up the two-man game with JJ Redick, but instead of running a dribble hand-off, it’s really a back screen or inverted pick and roll if you want to call it that, with the smaller guy operating as the screener:

You see Michael Kidd-Gilchrist playing Redick really aggressively there, so Redick just walks him into Bismack Biyombo and Embiid rolls right off it for the easy dunk.

They ran another just before halftime but Embiid clanked his dunk off the back iron.

Markelle Fultz

Ten points on 4-9 shooting and 2-2 from the foul line. He didn’t try a three pointer in this game but he had some really nice moments attacking the rim and pushing the ball in transition:

He’s clearly most comfortable in those positions, especially with the ball in his hands.

The half-court game is not there, and it’s not even close to being there, but you see the flashes of brilliance every so often, which tells me that “it” is in there, it’s just a matter of making Markelle more assertive and getting his shot totals up.

Brown on Fultz:

“I thought he was really good tonight. Pushing the ball in the open court, I thought he had a few good finds on Joel. When we can get him in early offense, in open court, and he’s thinking ‘attack the rim, get to the paint, and go there to dunk.’ Instead of getting in there to try to pass, I want him, and I told him this: ‘Go like you’re going to get 50, go like you’re going to dunk everything, and then the world will make sense. The game will speak to you.’ Preconceived notions on where people are going to be, it doesn’t work. Like, put your own thumbprint on the rim, get to the rim. I thought he did that tonight, and, you know, he helped us.”

That’s all good, but remember that the endgame here is to get Fultz and Simmons to learn how to play together, and someone is gonna have to start knocking down jumpers at some point.

Other notes:

  • Mike Muscala isn’t giving the Sixers enough off the bench. Two points on 0-3 shooting and six rebounds last night.
  • Joel Embiid is 7-28 from three this season. That’s 25%.
  • 11 points on 4-9 shooting for Dario Saric, who is still pushing through that annual early slump
  • 83% from the foul line is much better than how the Sixers had been shooting free throws earlier this month
  • Why in God’s name does 97.5 the Fanatic air that syndicated esports radio show on Saturday nights? I flipped on both stations and WIP had Andrew Porter on talking Eagles and Sixers, and 97.5, the Sixers’ rights holder, had that goofy ass video game show on. Talk about tone deaf.