Saturday's Clippers-Sixers game ended with a margin of victory around what you'd expect going in. The first 30-ish minutes of the game, however, pointed in a direction much different than the end result.
That's become a common theme this season, whether it's due to the 76ers lack of quality depth or teams coasting until they feel they have to turn it on. Saturday night it was more about the former. Contributions from a number of different players kept the game close in a shootout of a first half; Jakarr Sampson hounded ball-carriers and produced some nice off-ball cuts, Tony Wroten played with his usual reckless abandon and Robert Covington chipped in some timely threes (4-7 from downtown for the game).
Covington continues to be a bright spot, using the threat of his jumper to get defenders in the air or making teams pay for going under screens. He may be spoiling Sixers fans who expect every shooter-type they bring in to replicate RoCo's skill set, but it's nice to think of a future where more than one player on the floor is a reliable threat from deep.
Despite Covington's best efforts to keep the game close in the third, the rest of the team couldn't buy a bucket for most of the quarter, and the game slowly slipped out of their control. Luc Mbah a Moute had to head to the locker room with a toe issue at one point, doing no favors for a an already depleted roster.
It's a credit to the team that they were able to hang in for two and a half quarters on the second game of a back-to-back against a fresh opponent. You can see why Sam Hinkie would keep someone like Sampson around rather than sign a free agent who might add a win or two; he runs around like a madman every second he's on the floor. His romping is closer to the scatterbrain of a deer than the hunter who tracks them, but #PointKarr is fun and at the very least a bizarre, fascinating experiment to interest us in dark times.
Speaking of dark times: K.J. McDaniels. His shooting has fallen off a cliff since the hot start, and when the highlight reel plays don't come to fruition he's a pretty forgettable guy right now. Hopefully a return home from the road can get him going again, and I suspect that will be good for a lot of these young guys who are still adapting to the travel and demands of their professional life.
Odds & Ends
- Nerlens Noel has done a noticeably better job on the glass lately, corralling misses and tipping out the balls he can't quite get to. Tied a career high with 12 boards tonight, and I hope this is the area that sees the biggest uptick as the season moves along. The rim protection is already very good and the offense is so far from being passable that I hope he works on the skill that falls somewhere between the extremes.
- Possible assistant in that area: Furkan Aldemir. First time I thought he lived up to his reputation as a plus-rebounder, grabbing seven in just 12 minutes. He was around more than that and did a decent job defending pick-and-rolls to boot. The coaching staff should be Noel's main teacher, but any sort of help that Aldemir can provide in terms of positioning tips can't hurt.
- Lots of talk in the game thread re: Wroten vs. Michael Carter-Williams, who got the night off with a shoulder knock. I think a large part of the Wroten > MCW chatter is a matter of different expectations for the pair, and though I enjoy Wroten more aesthetically, his playstyle looks too erratic to ever succeed in a large volume role.
- Chris Paul, as he is wont to do, somewhat quietly put up 24-12-8 in just 30 minutes of action. There are players who are more demonstratively dominant, but none that feel like they're in control quite like he is. He won't be remembered as favorable as he should if the Clippers don't make some deep playoff runs, but I thoroughly enjoy watching him play.
- The West Coast swing is coming to an end and I am thrilled. Now I can get back to watching the Sixers early and having my choice of Western Conference matchups to peruse later in the evenings.