The Sixers dropped their second straight game on their road trip in Sacramento Tuesday night, by a final of 107-106. Philadelphia had a late run led by Robert Covington, but it wasn't enough.
Here are five observations I had from Philadelphia's 54th loss on the season:
- Nerlens Noel is the absolute best. After a frustrating game in Los Angeles Sunday, Noel came to play some grown ass man basketball against DeMarcus Cousins. He was physical in the paint, attacked the boards hard, and made Cousins night a pain in the ass. Boogie picked up several early fouls on account of Noel's physical play. Noel showed off his offensive arsenal too, which included a nifty turnaround jumper over one very confused Reggie Evans, and then a bump and run floater. He finished the night with 14 points, 10 rebounds and 6 blocks.
- The Sixers actually did a decent job limiting Cousins for as long as they could, although his score line doesn't look that way. The tandem of Noel and Aldemir did a decent job of frustrating the talented big man, not giving him any easy looks under the rim. Of course, Cousins will always find a way to score, and he made his living at the line on Tuesday. He finished with 33 points (17-19 FT) and 17 rebounds.
- Ish Smith has been an incredible pick up for the team, and a pretty close model to what the Sixers need at point guard going forward. He scored Philadelphia's first 9 points tonight, coming in a party mix of ways (a three, mid-range jumper, layup). But where Smith really makes his impact is in his ability to facilitate the offense. He and Nerlens have developed quite the camaraderie, and it's benefited Noel just as it has Smith. Hard to believe, but Ish Smith is a better point guard (at least for this team) than Michael Carter-Williams. He finished the night with 13 points, 8 steals, and 7 rebounds.
- Isaiah Canaan has not been the addition many had hoped he would be. His inability to get to the rim renders him almost completely ineffective. When you can't blow by ancient artifact Andre Miller, then I don't know how you can be effective in this league. That K.J. McDaniels trade seems to be the biggest blemish on Hinkie's resume thus far. Canaan finished the night with 13 points on 5-10 shooting, including 2-6 from beyond the arc, and just one assist.
- Robert Covington almost single handedly won the Sixers the game. With the team needing a flurry of offense late in the fourth quarter, Lord Covington came to the rescue. He scored 12 consecutive points for the Sixers, at one point putting them up 103-100. He finished the night with 21 points and 7-9 shooting. He seems to have really struggled as of late, and at one point looked like he was in Brett Brown's doghouse. With his performance tonight, maybe he's back on the right track.
With tonight's loss, Philadelphia edges within a half game of Minnesota, and extended their lead to two games over Los Angeles. They're back in action tomorrow night against the Denver Nuggets at 9:00 p.m.