Everything comes second to that collision.
In what was probably the single scariest moment in the Sixers' season so far, Jerami Grant flipped over a Nets' player, inadvertently kicking Robert Covington in the face as he fell three minutes in the 3rd Quarter. Neither player moved for 5 minutes. Eventually, Grant was helped to the locker room.
Covington remained motionless for a solid ten minutes, until the Sixers' medical team brought out a stretcher to carry him off the court. Everything else that happened tonight is secondary to that moment. Our best wishes are with Covington for his safety and hopeful recovery. Keep our fingers crossed that his diagnosis comes back mild, rather than anything career threatening. On a day in which there was plenty of negative news for the team as a franchise, this was a sobering reminder that there are more important things than basketball, and that as impressive as these athletes are, little moments can threaten to end their careers in a second.
(I watched the game without sound. If there was any reporting on Covington's condition that I missed, please share it in the comments.)
In on court action, the Sixers won! This was an enormous upgrade over what we've seen over the last few weeks. The biggest difference was in the defensive effort. The Sixers came out of the gates playing hard, and holding the Nets to only 36 points after 21 minutes of game time. For a team that's been giving up 115 points per game since the All-Star break, this was a much needed breath of fresh air.
Leading the Sixers' defensive resurgence was Nerlens Noel. He was a menace, flying all over the place and preventing the Nets from feeling comfortable at any point. After his first substitution of the game, Nerlens returned for Richaun Holmes, and the Nets immediately committed two turnovers. That's exactly the sort of impact he had all game long. He finished with 11 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 steals, and 2 assists. The one negative were his turnovers, which had a bigger impact than we'd like to see going forward.
The really encouraging part was that the Sixers' starting lineup really seemed to work. Pairing the Nerlens-Jerami frontcourt with two shooters and Ish was a huge success, as the Sixers came sprinting out of the gate and never looked back. Every time they went back to that group in the first half, it gave them a bit of a cushion to keep them in the lead. Unfortunately, falling the collision, neither Jerami nor Covington returned. Hopefully that will continue to be a positive for the team going forward.
Overall, this victory looked a lot more like the team did last year. They played hard out of the gates and kept up the effort throughout. It was a return of the Little Team That Could-- by simply trying harder than their opponents, they put in the effort to keep themselves in the game and give themselves a chance to win. If this is the team that we're going to see over the last few weeks of the season, it might not be as frustrating as run-in as we had previously expected.
ALSO. INFAMY HAS BEEN THWARTED (for the time being). With this win, the Sixers move to 9-56 on the season, tying the worst single season record for wins. This means that they won't finish the season with the fewest wins ever (in a full season), and will only need one more win to pass that record for good. With 17 games to go, they're more than likely to achieve that goal.
Let's play the Nets every game. Their last two games have come against this pathetic team.
What's that? We play them again on Tuesday?! Great. Let's do it again. 10-57, baby. Here we go.