76ers

Sixers-Rockets observations: No heartbreaking collapse this time

Sixers-Rockets observations: No heartbreaking collapse this time

BOX SCORE

HOUSTON — A double-digit lead is never safe against the Rockets, is it? 

The Sixers beat the Rockets for the first time in eight meetings, 115-107, but it wasn’t without another near-letdown in the fourth quarter. 

Ben Simmons turned in a team-high 24 points as the Sixers had seven players score in double figures Monday night. Joel Embiid was right behind him with 22 points.

Let’s get right to the final minutes of the game and then see how they got there.

Fast-forward to 9:30 to go when the Sixers were up 10. The Rockets started to chip away, cutting the Sixers’ lead all the way down to five with 8:37 to play. The Sixers responded by going up 10 again behind an offensive rebound, layup, block and steal by Embiid. 

From that point, the Rockets went on a 6-0 run to make it 103-99 with four minutes left. Embiid grabbed the rebound off Clint Capela’s attempted go-ahead layup to halt the Rockets’ momentum. 

The Sixers hit two straight baskets to go up five, but just like they did in their last meeting with the Rockets, committed a 24-second violation down the stretch. Ryan Anderson and Trevor Ariza both missed threes that would have brought the Rockets back within two.

• The last time the Sixers beat the Rockets was Nov. 13, 2013. Does that feel like a long time ago? Well, consider this: Tony Wroten posted an 18-point, 10-rebound, 11-assist triple-double in his first career start. The Sixers’ James Anderson led all players in scoring (36 points). 

And the last time the Sixers won in Houston dates even further back to Feb. 16, 2011.

• So how did it all begin on Monday night? The Sixers shot a season-high 65.2 percent from the field in the first quarter to jump out to a 10-point advantage. The Rockets saw a window of opportunity when Simmons took a seat halfway through the second. They went on a 7-0 run and cut the deficit to one point. The Sixers pushed their edge back up to seven points after Simmons checked back in. Dario Saric hit a pair of threes and Simmons found Embiid for an alley-oop. The Sixers ended the quarter with three straight turnovers, though, and were up just two at halftime. 

• The Rockets’ backcourt took turns dominating in the first half. James Harden played the entire first quarter and scored 12 points, including 6 of 7 at the line, which the Sixers wanted to limit. Eric Gordon didn’t attempt a shot in the first but exploded for 15 points as he played the entire second quarter. He hit a trio of threes, which wasn’t even the biggest standout. He took a whopping nine shots, 75 percent of his total season average of 12.0 attempts per game. Harden (25) and Gordon (29) were the only Rockets with over 15 points.

• The Sixers were locked in on limiting the sharpshooting Rockets from three and at the line. Their efforts paid off as the Rockets shot 13 of 47 (27.7 percent) from long range. The Rockets outscored the Sixers 28-17 at the free throw line, led by 10 of 12 from Harden.

• Embiid, Saric, Simmons and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (see below) combined for 47 of the Sixers’ 58 first-half points. Harden and Gordon were responsible for 30 of the Rockets’ 56.  

• The Sixers kept the Rockets at bay in the third, going up by as many as 14 points. The Sixers again reached 65 percent from the field, partially in thanks to T.J. McConnell, who led the team with eight points (2 for 2 from three) in five minutes (read more on McConnell here). Amir Johnson pulled down six rebounds in the third to match the Rockets’ team total. Harden added another 11 points but no other Rocket scored more than four. 

• Embiid didn't show signs of being bothered by his right hand contusion. He knocked down 9 of 12 field goals (22 points), pulled down nine boards and dished five assists (see highlights).

• Simmons made three jump shots — yes, jump shots — from 16 and 17 feet from the basket. Entering the game, he had shot just 0 for 2 in the 16- to 24-foot range from the hoop. Simmons neared a double-double with 24 points, nine assists and seven boards (see highlights). He was mixing up his shot locations, not just focusing in the paint, during pregame drills.

• Luwawu-Cabarrot broke out to a hot start. He scored 11 points on a perfect 4 for 4 from the field in six minutes during the first quarter. Luwawu-Cabarrot also went 2 for 2 from three, seeing the results of taking hundreds of three-point shots every practice.  

• Robert Covington was in a very different situation in Houston nearly three years ago to the day. He was waived by the Rockets on Oct. 27, 2014. 

• Embiid fouled Luc Mbah a Moute and knocked him to the ground. Embiid helped him up and Mbah a Moute replied with a friendly tap on the back. Mbah a Moute has played a major role in Embiid’s career, first recognizing the big man’s potential when Embiid attended his basketball camp in Cameroon back in 2011. 

Best of NBA: Celtics surge past Warriors for 14th straight win

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Best of NBA: Celtics surge past Warriors for 14th straight win

BOSTON -- Kyrie Irving had 11 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, including two free throws that put Boston ahead in the closing seconds, and the Celtics beat the Golden State Warriors 92-88 on Thursday night for their 14th straight victory.

Jaylen Brown had 22 points and seven rebounds, and Al Horford added 18 points and 11 rebounds.

Kevin Durant has 24 points for Golden State. The defending champion Warriors had won seven in a row.

Playing his second game since suffering a facial fracture, Irving shed his protective mask in the second quarter. Then, with the game tied at 88, he was fouled on his layup attempt and calmly made a pair of free throws. Durant then came up empty on his jumper on the other end.

Golden State led by as many as 17, but had to lean heavily on its reserves as its trio of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Durant struggled offensively.

Curry, who returned to action after missing a game with a bruised right thigh, was the most ineffective. He was 3 of 14 from the field -- 2 of 9 from the 3-point line -- and had nine points (see full recap).

Harden’s 48 points ignite Rockets’ rout of Suns
PHOENIX -- James Harden had 23 of his 48 points in the second quarter while the Houston Rockets scored 90 points in the first half en route to a 142-116 win over the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night.

Houston dominated with Chris Paul back in the lineup after missing 14 games with a knee injury. The Rockets made 61 percent of their first-half shots to get the second-most points in a first half in NBA history.

Houston came up 14 points shy of the franchise record for points in a game. The Rockets knocked down 21 of 44 3-point attempts, and Harden made all 18 of his free throws (see full recap).

Harden, the NBA's leading scorer, had 33 points at halftime. Houston used a 13-1 over the final 3:08 of the first quarter to take control and was never threatened after that, leading 45-23 going into the second.

Paul, who hadn't played since the season opener, got the start and didn't miss a beat, scoring 11 points and handing out 10 assists in limited action.

Coach Mike D'Antoni said before the game that getting the two stars, Harden and Paul, in sync will "take care of itself over the next week or so." D'Antoni planned to play Paul for 20 minutes; Paul saw 21 minutes of action and sat out most of the fourth quarter.

Ryan Anderson added 24 points for the Rockets, who have won seven of eight (see full recap).

Sixers marvel at Robert Covington's transformation

Sixers marvel at Robert Covington's transformation

LOS ANGELES — The Sixers have been through one contract extension already this season. The players were thrilled for Joel Embiid and his payday, for everything he overcame with injuries and the way he had excelled in such a short period of time in the league.

Now it’s Robert Covington’s turn, and there’s a different type of appreciation for the reported four-year, $62 million deal he is set to receive (see story). Covington’s success is a triumphant underdog story, an example of how dedication can transcend an NBA hopeful into a solidified starter. 

The Sixers on Wednesday reacted to the news of Covington's upcoming extension with a theme that echoed around the locker room: well deserved. 

T.J. McConnell
“Coming from a guy who’s also undrafted, I don’t think people realize how hard it is to do what he’s done. To get to where he’s at now, he’s more than deserving. He’s put in the hours. Everything he’s been through in this city and with this team, it’s so well deserved and I’m proud of him.”

Richaun Holmes
“Dinner’s on him (laughs). He deserves it. Cov, we’ve all seen how hard he’s worked since he got here. He tried to turn himself into a tremendous player and he has.”

Nik Stauskas
“For the last couple years, he’s a guy that’s been overlooked. He’s constantly been working on his game and trying to improve himself. The fact that he’s been such a valuable asset to this team and he’s been shooting the ball at such a high percentage, he’s been able to defend some of the other teams’ best players, I think the contract speaks for itself. It’s very well deserved and I think it’s only going to help this team moving forward.”

Amir Johnson
“He’s definitely been playing out of his mind. … It shows how his work ethic is and how he carries himself. … Coming from the D-League, playing in Houston, and now being here in Philly, it’s showing how hard he worked and deserves this new deal he’s getting.”

Dario Saric 
“Now he will really get money where he deserves. I’m really happy because he deserves it. He’s working so hard every day. He always stays after practice, tries to work on his game." 

Jerryd Bayless
“You can see the improvement he’s shown from even last year when I first got here to this year. Well deserved and good for him. Offensively, right now he’s obviously playing out of his mind. It’s great. Defensively, he’s done a lot of good things. He’s handling a lot of passes, he’s deflecting passes, and he helps us."