A promising first quarter gave way to a dismal second and third, resulting in a futile comeback march in the fourth for the 76ers against the Pelicans tonight in their 108-93 loss. Stop me if you’ve heard that story before.
Joel Embiid registered seven points in the first quarter, as the Sixers led 23-15 after that period. The Process scored just four points the rest of the way. As we’ve seen this season, the Sixers can only go as far as Embiid takes them. Four points in three quarters, due in part to frequent foul trouble, one of the few weaknesses in the rookie’s game at this point, doesn’t cut when his teammates are at a cumulative below-average talent level.
With Embiid drawing his fourth foul midway through the 3rd quarter and the score standing at 66-52, the crowd at the Wells Fargo Center rose to their feet and cheered. Nerlens Noel, on the heels of a media firestorm engulfing him this week, was checking in. He proceeded to score on a put-back bucket on the Sixers first trip down the floor, leading to another lengthy applause from the crowd. Nerlens Noel: champion of the people?
While that moment provided some nice morale for Noel and those that sympathize with the murky situation he finds himself in, it certainly wasn’t enough to quell Anthony Davis, he of 31 points and 16 rebounds, and the Pellies after the double-digit lead they had already established. New Orleans shot 58.8 percent from beyond the arc. Sometime it’s just as simple and, in the Sixers’ case, unfortunate as that. Embiid looked mortal. When he’s not playing at a Herculean level, as he’s already done at times in his rookie campaign, it’s quite hard for the Sixers’ supporting cast to the carry themselves to victory.
This seemed to be the epitome of every Sixers game over the last four seasons: some optimism early, followed by meltdowns in the second and third quarter, finished off with a too little, too late effort at the end of the fourth quarter that makes the score look much closer than it ever truly was.
Some other notes:
- Robert Covington had a bloody lip after a fantastic block on defense that came just after cutting to the basket for an acrobatic finish at the cup on the other end of the court. He returned and it wasn't anything serious, but that sequence, much like what we’ve seen from Covington during his career, was a tease. He’s a player who has never been truly well-rounded, but has looked excellent at different facets of his game at points, but never simultaneously. His shooting catapulted him into the Sixers rotation two years ago and kept him there. That shooting touch has waned as this season has progressed, but he’s been a super active and aggressive wing defender this year. Will Covington ever wear all of his hats at once?
- Take this with whatever biases you’d like considering my intentionally over the top reporting of Saric, but the man needs more consistent playing time. Has he been great this year? Certainly not, but has had multi-game stretches where’s shot well from deep, rebounded exceptionally and lit a fire under the squad in the fourth quarter. As much as the logjam at center is discussed, the way that situation augments problems at the power forward position is overlooked. Jahlil Okafor slides to power forward, moving Ersan Ilyasova to the bench and putting Saric further into Brett Brown’s dog house, used sparingly and sometimes, foolishly, at the three rather than the four. There have been bright spots in his rookie campaign. Give him time to shine, Coach Brown.