LET'S WATCH IT AGAIN!
The 76ers beat the Nets 90-88, spurred by a 20-point outing from likely franchise savior Robert Covington and the twice-mentioned game-winner from one Nerlens Noel. Down by double digits multiple times in the second half, the team came back behind a strong fourth quarter performance, outscoring the home team by nine points.
The game was more entertaining than any Sixers-Nets bout had any right to be, mostly because aside from the first 47 minutes of the game for Michael Carter-Williams the Sixers played fairly well for themselves.
Noel started off the game strong, 3-3 with six points in his first three touches and then mostly Nerlens Noel-ed for three and a half quarters, missing dunks, rushing shots, etc. But then the game-winning dunk happens. Flashes at the beginning and the end of the game will overshadow an uneven performance, though little more can be expected from a rookie that came into the league with almost no offensive repertoire.
The important take away: you can see Noel improving through the moments he has on the court, and that improvement is coming incrementally. The game is slowing down. He attacks the rim, looking to dunk instead of avoiding contact. He doesn't panic at every touch. The results hadn't shown before the game-winner - and even with that, there's still a long path to being a competent offensive player.
When results happen, and moments like a game-winner happen, those can only help to reinforce good habits.
Following the dunk, the Nets had 3.5 seconds to run something and get a shot. Robert Covington defended Brooklyn's inbounds play, forcing the ball into the hands of Brooklyn's designated safety valve, Brook Lopez. The play broke down from there, with Noel pressuring Lopez into a long shot that had no chance of hitting. The Sixers had won, and Noel was involved in the final play on each end of the court.
It was a fun, close, thrilling victory, and since these moments are so fleeting it's worth it to go out of your way to enjoy it.
Other Game Notes:
- Michael Carter-Williams was noticeably less aggressive attacking the paint tonight, which is fine in a vacuum. He didn't force the issue much, except for a comically bad late-game possession two plays preceding the dish to Noel. But he's so hesitant to do anything (shoot, pass, dribble) that it's hurting everyone on the team. He needs to get something figured out, and his jumper just isn't there to help him. One of the few down points.
- Robert Covington is the hero we deserve and need and will hold onto forever and ever. He scored 20 on just 12 shots, continuing a trend where (with the exception of the Milwaukee game) he's by far the most efficient Sixers player. Covington is the best player on a team with a record that's not the worst in the NBA, and I can't believe I wrote that sentence.
- Luc Mbah a Moute returned from injury, and played well, again. I like this new Luc.
- Deron Williams and Kevin Garnett missed the game for Brooklyn. Go to NetsDaily if you want to see how the LOSERS react (I meant the Nets, not the site!).
- The Sixers' five road wins gives them more than fellow tankers Boston, New York, and Minnesota.
- The Sixers return home tomorrow to face the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers, at 14-23, are in the middle of the quagmire that is the "race" for the East's eighth seed, while the Sixers look for their second home win.