Sixers provide lackluster effort in letdown loss at home to Suns

Sixers provide lackluster effort in letdown loss at home to Suns


Remember those games in recent years when teams simply didn’t bring it against the struggling Sixers?

That’s how the Sixers looked Monday in their 115-101 loss to the Suns (see observations)

“I think we lost that game from the jump ball,” Joel Embiid said. “I think we took them lightly and we paid for it.” 

The Suns, on paper, looked like they could be an easy victory for the Sixers. They entered the game well below .500 (8-16), ranked last in points allowed (115.8) and were tied for the third-highest opponent three-point shooting percentage (47.1). 

Instead, the Suns held the Sixers to nearly 15 points below that average and limited them to 23.3 percent (7 for 30) from three. The Sixers also gave up 22 points off 14 turnovers that included five giveaways in the first quarter alone. 

“We didn’t play our best game,” said Ben Simmons, who pushed through flu-like symptoms to record 20 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and six steals. “Didn’t respect them enough. We didn’t come in with the energy we needed to.”

The performance was a contrast to the Sixers’ solid win over the Pistons on Saturday, and really how tough they’ve been playing this season. Brett Brown said the Sixers lacked “a sting” and described their defense as “flat” as they dropped to 13-10. 

“We’re all disappointed,” JJ Redick said. “That’s not good enough. That’s not our team. That’s not who we’ve been. I can’t give you a reason why, whether it’s we overlooked them or I don’t know. I don’t know. That was not our team.” 

The Sixers had no answer for Devin Booker as he scored a season-high 46 points in less than 40 minutes (see highlights). Booker actually started out a slow 2 for 11 in the first quarter, but the Sixers didn’t take advantage of his early struggles. They were tied after the first quarter and, after Booker scored 10 in the second, trailed by 13 at halftime. 

Booker went on to score 19 points in just eight minutes in the fourth as the Suns fended off a Sixers’ comeback attempt. 

“You have to guard him is what you have to do,” Brown said. “And we didn’t.” 

The Sixers are trying to compile a playoff-qualifying record this season. Each game, whether it is against the defending champion Warriors or a seemingly lottery-bound team like the Suns, needs to be approached with the same level of attention and energy. That wasn’t the case on Monday. 

“A game like this is without a doubt a missed opportunity,” Brown said. “You only have so many times that you’re able to poke yourself in the eye. Tonight was one of those for us here at home. We walk out of this gym not feeling great at all about very much of what we did tonight.”

The Sixers will have to bring a higher level of intensity Thursday when they host another young team, the Lakers. They could get some of that "sting" back if T.J. McConnell (sprained AC joint, left shoulder) is cleared to play. The backup point guard is hopeful he will be available but isn't going to force a return if he is limited.

The unlikely reunion for Robert Covington and Jacob Pullen

The unlikely reunion for Robert Covington and Jacob Pullen

Robert Covington and Jacob Pullen already have been on road trips around the league this season. Monday's game in Chicago is different. The longtime friends are in their hometown, together, as NBA teammates.

The relationship between Covington and Pullen goes far beyond being teammates on the Sixers this season. They met when Pullen was in ninth grade, Covington in seventh. The two could have been teammates at Proviso West High School, but Pullen transferred to Proviso East, the school where players including Doc Rivers and Michael Finley competed.

They watched each other's basketball careers develop, technically as rivals but more so in appreciation of one another's game.

Covington summed up the fiery point guard with just two words. 

"Walking bucket," he said in a co-interview with Pullen.

Pullen noted the skills that have earned Covington a place in the league and recently a lucrative contract extension.

"With his size in high school, he could play defense like he plays defense now," Pullen said. "But you didn't see too many guys that were 6-5, 6-6 in high school that shot the ball like that. He was playing different positions on the court. By the time he got to his junior and senior year and I was in college, even though he didn't go to a high major school, you could still see him standing out at the high school level as being better than most of the players in our area for sure."

They took different routes after high school. Pullen went on to Kansas State, where he became the leading scorer in school history and won the 2011 Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award for the nation's top senior 6-feet tall or under. Pullen went undrafted and compiled an accolade-filled resume overseas. This season, he decided to turn down international offers and give the NBA a shot, signing a two-way contract with the Sixers. 

Covington played college ball at Tennessee State. He wasn't sure if basketball would lead to a long-term career, so he focused in on an exercise science degree as a backup plan. Covington fought his way through the then-D-League, earning 2014 Rookie of the Year honors. His career has been marked by the transformation from underdog to starting small forward.  

"A lot of people don't make it out of our neighborhood, especially as far as basketball," Pullen said. "It's good to see somebody that I've known and see him go through what he's gone through to get where he's at now." 

Covington welcomed Pullen to Philadelphia when he joined the team this fall. He showed Pullen the ropes of the city and gave him a place to spend time outside of his temporary hotel room. Having a tour guide is helpful, but their relationship is even more beneficial on the court. 

The two often can be seen working on shooting drills together late after practice and shootaround. Because Pullen gets most of his playing time in the G League, he's there to offer Covington words of encouragement from the bench when Covington comes off the court. 

"We already have that bond being from Chicago, both being from an area where there's so much negativity going on," Covington said. "For us to prosper, make it through, one thing that always stands out, we've always got to make sure we keep each other up because there's so much negative stuff that's coming around."

For all the varying roads they went down to get to this point, Covington and Pullen are heading into the United Center playing for the same NBA team.

"It's amazing," Pullen said. 

Watch the video above of Covington and Pullen to hear more about the heated games between their high schools.

NBA admits mistake that leaves Sixers scratching their heads

AP Images

NBA admits mistake that leaves Sixers scratching their heads

CAMDEN, N.J. — The Sixers were right.

The Sixers argued they should have set up at halfcourt, not fullcourt, for a decisive final possession of double overtime in Friday’s game against the Thunder. After a closer look following their triple-overtime loss, the NBA ruled the Sixers were proved correct. 

“After review, it was determined that the 76ers called timeout with 00:01.2 remaining on the game clock, which was prior to Saric's (PHI) dribble. Therefore, they should have been given the opportunity to advance the ball into their own frontcourt for the inbound,” the NBA Officiating’s Last Two Minute Report noted.

The confusion occurred at the end of the second overtime. Dario Saric got a defensive rebound and the Sixers called a timeout before he dribbled the ball. Because of this, the Sixers should have been allowed to set up a final play in the halfcourt, which is exactly what they had practiced and called.

But the referees made a last-second change as the Sixers were setting up. The Sixers were told they had to inbound from fullcourt, which would have been the case if Saric had dribbled before the timeout. The Last Two Minute Report indicated he, in fact, did not. 

“Respect that they are that transparent, but complete disappointment that it can happen,” Brett Brown said Sunday. “You really scratch your head. It’s significant.”

Every play, every basket can make a difference for a team fighting to make the playoffs. The Sixers were confident they could have won the game with the halfcourt play. Instead, they dropped back down to .500 and currently 10 in the Eastern Conference.

“Those things you need to avoid to give yourself every chance to win,” Brown said. “We can point to many other things that were self-inflicted wounds that we’ve got to do better. But when it’s that exposed and that prominent of an environment with 1.2 seconds left, it’s disappointing. But like I say, they’re transparent. I respect the fact they admitted it and we move on.”