The Sixers won a basketball game on Monday night. Yes, another one! They’re up to 18 wins on the season after defeating the Sacramento Kings by a final score of 122 to 119.
It wasn’t always pretty. And the score got way closer at the end of the game than it needed to be. But the Sixers ultimately got the job done, and that’s the only thing that matter. All told, it was a fun game.
DeMarcus Cousins had his way with the Sixers early. The Sactown big man scored 15 of his 46 points in the first eight minutes of the game. Philadelphia’s defense couldn’t contain him or anyone else for that matter.
But after falling down by as much as 16 at one point, the never-say-die Sixers battled back. This Sixers squad might not be one of the most talented rosters in the NBA (yet!), but what they lack in pure skill they make up for with determination. A 42-point third quarter put Philadelphia in position to hold the lead for most of the fourth quarter. A strong effort from Cousins kept the game close down the stretch but he eventually fouled out with 58 seconds remaining.
It looked like the Sixers had a win wrapped up when Gerald Henderson drilled two free throws to put Philly up seven points with 18 seconds left. But then chaos ensued and the Kings hit some desperation threes to give Sacramento a chance to tie the game on the final possession. Fortunately for the Sixers, Arron Afflalo missed a wide open corner three that would have sent the game into overtime.
- PICK SWAP BABY! The Sixers are now 6th in the lottery standings at 18-29. The Kings are 9th due to having one more win: 19-29. There’s still plenty of time for the Sixers to pass the Kings. The pick swap is still very much in play.
- Robert Covington was the Sixers’ MVP tonight. Much like the Sixers as a whole, he got off to a rough start, but then bounced back. Covington drew boos from the crowd (shame on you) after going 0-3 from beyond the arc and airballing a shot. He finished the game with 23 points on 8-16 shooting, though, and also had 10 rebounds. In addition, Covington’s defense was top notch. He came away with four steals. Rock has been a frustrating player at times due to his streaky shooting numbers, but overall he’s a very nice player for the Sixers. He should be respected as such.
- This Covington pass to Henderson as the end of the third quarter was awesome. And Henderson was totally fouled here but didn’t get the call.
- DARIO! Yo, what a game by The Homie. Saric finished the night with 17 points on 8-11 shooting. The Croatian sensation’s exceptional passing ability and keen court vision was on full display. Just look at these no-look dimes.
- Jahlil Okafor was up and down in his first start since forever ago. The second-year big man did some nice things on offense: he finished the night with 15 points on 5-11 shooting. Okafor found success using his spin move to get him good looks at the rim.
- But there was plenty of bad Okafor as well. The Sixers opened the game by having Ersan Ilyasova guard Cousins. That tells you a lot right there. Cousins often bullied Okafor, though it’s not like Nerlens Noel shut down Boogie either.
- Still, Okafor’s defense was bad (shocker). He was slow on rotations to protect the rim and he allowed easy looks at the basket for driving opponents. Alaa even criticized Jah’s poor defense at one point.
- The Sixers did not go to Okafor late in the game when Noel got in foul trouble. Rather, they subbed Nerlens with Dario while Ilyasova played at the four.
- Okafor finished the game at -6. Only Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (-9), who played six minutes, and Ilyasova (-7) had worse +/- ratings.
- Ilyasova’s late-game gaffes continued. He shot an ill-advised three with too much time remaining on the shot clock late in the game to give the Kings the ball back. He was the one who also lost track of Afflalo on the final possession. For being such an experienced veteran, Ilyasova’s lack of late-game awareness is concerning.
- Nerlens scored 13 points on 5 shots. He also pitched in with three rebounds, three steals, two assists, and a block. The Sixers looked better and more enjoyable when Noel was in and Jah was not. He finished +9.
- T.J. McConnell finished one point shy of a double-double. He had 9 points and 11 assists. Nice game for Teeeeeeej.
- Nik Stauskas quietly had 16 points on 6-10 shooting. Revenge game!
- The Sixers won 10 games in January 2017. The Sixers won 10 games during the 2015-2016 season. #process2progress
- Injured Sixers veteran Jerryd Bayless joined Marc Zumoff and Alaa Abdelnaby on the broadcast tonight. Zumoff had him practice some color analysis, which was cool.
- Molly Sullivan interviewed Sixers superfan Charlotte about her experience meeting Joel Embiid. Just look at these adorable pictures.
A few thoughts on the Embiid injury situation. First, as I wrote in the preview, it sucks that he’s going to miss time. He’s so much fun to watch. He also helps the Sixers win games, which is nice!
But now he’s doubtful to play in Philadelphia’s next two games. And some can only question the Sixers’ decision to let him play against the Rockets last Friday.
Embiid himself said he convinced the Sixers’ medical staff to let him suit up. For being injured, he sure didn’t look too bad. Jojo dropped 32 points in 28 minutes played against Houston. He also had 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks.
After that game, Embiid told reporters his injury involved a three week recovery. At the time of Friday’s game, Embiid had only been out for a week.
There isn’t necessarily an indication playing through the injury delayed Embiid’s recovery timetable. That perception could change, of course, depending on when he returns.
Conspiracy angle: the Sixers are being extra cautious with Embiid now with the NBA trade deadline approaching. One could easily theorize the Sixers are trying to put Okafor on display in hopes of trading him before the 3:00 PM ET deadline on Thursday, Feb. 23. Or at least that’s what I hope.
Up next: The Sixers are about to embark on a four-game road trip. The first game of the series takes place on Wednesday, Feb. 1 against the Dallas Mavericks.