December 02, 2015
As we learned more than once over the past few weeks, no fourth-quarter lead is safe with these Sixers. In fact, it’s fair to characterize them as completely unsafe. So when T.J. McConnell found Jahlil Okafor for a basket to put the Sixers up 101-90 on the Los Angeles Lakers with 1:36 remaining in last night’s fourth quarter, it was the first time you thought with real certainty, ”OK, they’re going to do this.”
McConnell and Robert Covington felt the same way.
“Finally,” McConnell said. “It’s kind of just that sense of relief that we got that one win that we’ve been dying for so long.”
“Just a sense of relief,” Covington said. “Considering everything we’ve done on this past road trip, we came up short a lot of times and it was fortunate for us to finally see a win was going to be under our belt.”
So, how did they snap their long losing streaks at 28 and 18 games respectively? Here are ten reasons:
Covington alluded to it, but the Sixers held leads of 11, 6, 11, 7, and 5 points with under eight minutes in their last five games. If that were just a normal road trip, playing consistently competitive basketball would be considered largely acceptable for this group. But when you are sitting at 0-15, 0-16, 0-17, and so on, it can be kind of maddening.
“This win could have came anytime in that road trip, even before we went” McConnell said. “We finally stuck this one out.”
After reading that last point, you can probably deduce that the Sixers have their share of problems when the game is on the line. I said it in my game preview today, but it’s like they literally forget how to play basketball for two-minute stretches. They are far and away the worst team in clutch situations (game within five points, less than five minutes to go) per NBA.com:
Brown doesn’t want to see his offense have to execute in the halfcourt, so he implores his players to speed up. Check out him yelling at Isaiah Canaan to push the ball with a little over three minutes left:
“I think that we realize anything slow and static does not favor us,” Brown said. “We have to play with pace. I’m tormented daily trying to make Jahlil and Nerlens coexist, make it work. It’s a challenge, I though they played well together.”
Up eight points, Brown made a calculated risk by inserting Noel to play alongside Okafor. But it was putting McConnell into the game for Canaan that allowed them to play faster and score five points in a row to put the game away.
From noted philosopher Swaggy P (via Mark Medina):
“We’re a circus,” Nick Young said. “We’re playing terrible. We lost to Philly. Philly! What does that make us?”
I wholeheartedly agree with NBA.com’s fine columnist David Aldridge here about an unfortunate unintended consequence of the Kobe hoopla:
Sixers couldn’t do anything about the timing of Bryant’s announcement; reality is his story overwhelms already scheduled Moses Malone Night.— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) December 2, 2015
The good news is that, as Moses Malone, Jr. announced at halftime, the Sixers will honor his father on another occasion next year:
We're proud to announce we will be retiring Moses Malone's #2 jersey next season. pic.twitter.com/xQQmVhafOL— Philadelphia 76ers (@Sixers) December 2, 2015
3, 6, 10, 13, 15 (that’s Hal Greer), 24, 32, and 34 are already up in the rafters. It’s just too bad that the maybe the greatest rebounder of all time can’t see 2 join them.
This is very much due to the Lakers’ porous perimeter defense, but anytime that you finish a game shooting 14-32 (43.8%) from beyond the arc and with a 28 assists (to 15 turnovers) on 37 field goals, you have a decent shot to win the game. What’s funny is that the Sixers missed a lot of open looks from three-point range and still shot a great percentage.
I’ll probably try to expand on this a little more in the next few days (so some of the numbers are being held back), but Robert Covington playing like 2014-15 Robert Covington is a great sign. In his first three games back from injury, Covington still looked injured. He was turning the ball over like a madman, his threes weren’t even close to going in, and he generally looked a step slow.
Just give it time, that’s all. “I had to get my wind under me,” Covington said.
In the six games since, Covington has been very good, averaging 18.8 points per game on 46/45/74 shooting as well as approximately 8,000 steals in that time. He gave the Lakers (mostly Kobe Bryant) 23 points on 8-16 shooting last night.
More importantly, the team has really needed Lord Covington on the floor. I also find this pretty interesting:
Top ten in DRE by pos. played (> 100mp) Steph - PG Dray - C RoCo - PF Bosh - C Leuer - C KD - SF Griffin - PF Capela - C Favors - C Brow - C— Seth Partnow (@SethPartnow) December 2, 2015
How the Lakers end up shooting a technical free throw when their center shoved a ref, I’m not particularly sure. But that is exactly what happened:
Lakers' Roy Hibbert ready to fight the world pic.twitter.com/yRof3SEIY1— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) December 2, 2015
The Sixers seemed to channel whatever happened there in a positive manner. That’s what the coach says, anyway.
“I’m sure in my more wisdom-filled moments, you’ll say, ‘Hold your composure’ and ‘Be smarter,’” Brown said. “But these young guys feed of that. We kept wanting to trip the crowd, kickstart the crowd.”
Later in the third quarter, the Sixers went on their run.
Like the cast of Jersey Shore on an episode that involves day drinking. Julius Randle thought he had an easy dunk in the first half off a sweet dish from D’Angelo Russell, until Jerami Grant did this:
A foul was called, probably due to the follow through that hit Randle’s arm. After the play, Nerlens Noel (who is a decent shotblocker in his own right) couldn’t believe the call. He started at the ref like, “Are you kidding me?” and then went over to congratulate Grant.
I thought this attitude paid dividends later in the game. Grant, who was excellent on both ends of the floor, finished with four blocks. Here he is teeing off on a Bryant layup attempt:
Nothing flashy, but Noel came off the bench after missing two games and gave a very solid 26 minutes of action: 14 points (5-7 shooting), 9 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 steal.
“We’ve been a tough group that has been going out there and playing balls to the wall,” Noel said. “We’ve had multiple leads coming into the fourth quarter and it’s about time we executed down the stretch and finally pulled one out.”
You know what? The number one reason that the Sixers won deserves its own page. Click here for that.
Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann