We're thirteen games into the season and, unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel for the Philadelphia 76ers. As a fan, it's been hard to stomach some of these losses. Blowouts, last-second heartbreaks, arm-length deficits; we've experienced all the varieties of losses in just essentially 1/6th of a season. And while my objective brain is telling me that in the grand scheme the results (immediate wins and losses) don't matter, the fandom in me is crying for the Sixers to get a win, more for their sanity than mine.
I don't buy much into how the media portrays this organization, especially since the nature of today's media is to pick at low-hanging fruit or choosing the path of least resistance. However, I can't imagine how the current Sixer players are handling the negative spotlight. The Sixers seemed to channel that frustration last night during the first quarter against the Phoenix Suns. Tonight, Nerlens Noel seemed to play inspired, posting his best game of the season by far. However, the small moral victories haven't added up, despite the effort.
Reigning Rookie of the Year, Michael Carter-Williams has been both frustrated and frustrating since coming back from his off-season surgery. A combination of lesser talent and visible rust has led to poor play on his part and it continued tonight. In his first 5 minutes, he managed to turn the ball over 3 times. It didn't get better for him as the night went on. He's tried to create when nothing was there, took contested jumpers early in the shot clock, and was pressing way too much ending with 9 points on 13 shots and only 1 assist. As Derek Bodner discussed previously, "It's not only that Michael Carter-Williams is struggling with his offense, but the team is struggling while he's been out on the court."
Despite a slow start tonight, the Sixers managed to keep it close at half time being down only 7. But a cold 3rd quarter helped the Knicks lead balloon to over 20. Carmelo Anthony had a "quiet" 25 points (on 20 shots) and the Knicks as a whole, despite leading, still looked beatable. On cue, the Sixers slowly chipped away and got to within single digits with a few minutes to go, behind the surprise barrage of 3s of newcomer Robert Covington. But, to the Knicks credit, they managed to hold off the comeback and secure an 8 point victory.
As the weather gets more bleak, so do the Sixers chances of netting a win and avoiding historic notoriety. It was easy to buy into the idea of losing as a fan, but it's getting harder to stomach and watch. But, this is what I signed up for.
For the players, I hope that they continue to grow together, learn from their mistakes, and play better basketball from tip off to the final buzzer. That ever-elusive win will seem more tangible the more they progress.
Odds and Ends:
- As mentioned, Nerlens Noel had himself his best night of the year. He was involved early and continued to be active ending the night with 17 points and 12 boards, his 2nd double-double of the season. The areas of concern still remain (FT shooting/Offense, Lack of hands), but an engaged Noel is a pleasure to watch. He displayed some strength in the paint, a few post moves, and had a visible impact on the game.
- The Battle of the High Top Fade: Nerlens Noel def. Iman Shumpert
- Robert Covington got some burn late in the game and helped to rally the Sixers back draining 4 3s (ended with 14 points) and playing some good defense on Carmelo Anthony. It doesn't mean much considering the players and situation, but Covington has already done more for the Sixers than Chris Johnson. Keep making the most of your minutes kid!
- I could write a book about my displeasure of Luc Mbah a Moute (especially after BB ran what looked like an end of quarter 3 pointer play for him) but I think Mike Levin captured my feelings in a tweet:
- I half-jokingly wrote an Ode to Brandon Davies a few weeks back when he looked like a competent NBA player. That Brandon Davies and the current Brandon Davies, I'm convinced, are not the same player. Or, he's a Monstar.
- While I mentioned MCW's struggles, I can't help but think that he's getting thrown into the fire with some of the line ups he's in with. It doesn't excuse the turnovers and poor decision making but I'm sure playing with 3-4 guys who can't shoot are going to cause you to force things unnecessarily. That said, I think this is another learning and growing moment for MCW. I'm sure Brett Brown and the team feel the same way.
- Amare Stoudemire could be the best player in the NBA if he played against the Sixers every night. He went 5-6 for 16 points and 11 boards, and looked downright unstoppable doing so.
- Sixers face the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday. It may be painful.
I didn't expect to hate Luc Richard Mbah a Moute this much. But I do. But I do.— Michael Levin (@Michael_Levin) November 23, 2014