Robert Covington

Shocker! Sixers blow another huge lead

Shocker! Sixers blow another huge lead

BOX SCORE

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Sixers surrendered an 18-point lead and were outscored 19-0 in a fourth-quarter spurt as the Trail Blazers staged a 114-110 comeback Thursday night at the Moda Center. 

The Sixers came off a 34-point third quarter to only fall flat minutes after the break between periods. The Trail Blazers transformed the Sixers’ 88-74 lead with 11:11 to play into a 93-88 deficit halfway through the fourth. The Sixers committed five turnovers and shot 0 for 5 from the field during that stretch.

Joel Embiid hit a flurry of threes (see more below) to cut the deficit to 111-108 with 9.2 seconds to play. The Sixers were whistled for a line violation, however, after Dario Saric went over the line to defend the inbound pass. C.J. McCollum pushed the lead to four with a technical foul free throw. The Trail Blazers scored 42 points in the decisive quarter. 

• The Trail Blazers pulled off the win without All-Star point guard Damian Lillard. He missed his third straight game with a right hamstring strain. They had to make up for his 25.2 points, 6.4 assists and 5.0 rebounds and did that with a trio of 20-plus point performances. 

• McCollum scored a total of five points over 36 minutes in his first game against the Sixers this season. The shooting guard would not have a repeat performance. McCollum posted 14 points in the first quarter alone en route to 34 points, seven rebounds and four assists on the night.

• Jusuf Nurkic recorded a 21-point, 12-rebound double-double while fill-in point guard Shabazz Napier dropped 23 points, including a massive 15 in the fourth. 

• Embiid started off the game settling in beyond the arc. He went 3 for 5 from three in the first quarter and drained 5 of 11 on the night, including three in the final 2:06. Embiid fell just shy of a double-double with 29 points and nine boards in 35 minutes. 

• Dario Saric bounced back from his poor shooting performance against the Knicks with an efficient 25 points (10 for 12 from the field, 5 for 6 from three), nine rebounds and four assists in 33 minutes. One of his assists was to McConnell, keeping the #TrustTheFriendship mantra going.

• Robert Covington suffered a left middle finger injury and did not return to the game. He attempted just two field goals in 24 minutes (four points) and did not take his first three attempts until two minutes remaining in the first half (he made it). 

• Justin Anderson (shin splints) was cleared to play for the first time since Nov. 15. Brett Brown explained before the game it was unlikely Anderson would have a major role in this game given the fact he has been through only one practice and the coach is using a tight rotation. 

• Anderson, Richaun Holmes and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot did not play. At shootaround, Brown noted the physicality and size of Nurkic (7-foot, 280 pounds) wasn’t favorable to a matchup with Holmes. 

• The Sixers, who entered the game last in the NBA in turnovers, had better control over the ball through three (six turnovers). They gave up 12 points off eight turnovers in the fourth.

• The Trail Blazers took 47 free throw attempts compared to only 14 by the Sixers.

Following the game, McCollum said, "Basketball gods looking out for us. I think that was big."

McCollum and Nurkic combined for 30 attempts.

• The Sixers dropped to 15-19 while the Trail Blazers improved to 18-16. The Sixers’ next game is Saturday in Denver against the Nuggets.  

Hunger of the wolf drives Covington

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AP Images

Hunger of the wolf drives Covington

In the first of a two-part story, Gordie Jones takes an in-depth look at the journey of Sixers forward Robert Covington.

The care and feeding of Robert Covington’s jump shot begins about an hour before each 76ers game, when the fifth-year forward takes to the court with assistant coach Lloyd Pierce.

With Pierce alternately feeding him passes as they would come from the point, the post and via dribble handoff, Covington fires three-pointers from all over the arc — left corner, left wing, top of the circle, right wing, right corner. And back again.

The entire exercise takes maybe 15 minutes, as around him the stands within the Wells Fargo Center begin to fill. Opposing players are usually going about their business at the other end of the court, and other Sixers (usually JJ Redick) filter out of the locker room. Some sort of pregame entertainment is often going on at midcourt. One night earlier this season, it was the Villanova dance team. Another it was a half-dozen schoolgirls, lining up and singing.

Covington seems to notice only Pierce, the ball and the basket.

And that jumper — just a lovely thing.

“Great rotation, great air time, almost too much arc,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said.

The arc of his career has not always been so neat and clean — not when you consider he was undrafted in 2013, under-recruited four years before that (he wound up at Tennessee State) and unable to so much as make his middle school team several years before that.

This season has not been without turbulence, either. While he signed a four-year, $62 million contract extension in November — and while he is averaging 14.6 points and shooting 39.3 percent from the arc, both career highs — the 27-year-old Covington has had stretches when his touch has deserted him. He has dealt with ill health (a back injury, suffered earlier this month in Cleveland) as well as tragedy (the shooting death of a friend, who he has declined to fully identify, in his native Chicago in late November).

His approach — nose to the grindstone, control what you can control — remains a constant, however. Brown called his work ethic “a blueprint” for others, adding that he is “very much a poster child to what we hope to do.”

It matters little to Covington that he has been hailed as the NBA’s best undrafted player (by The Ringer’s Ben Detrick) or the foremost example of The Process (by The Athletic’s Rich Hofmann). And he vows his new contract, while nice, will not affect his mindset, either.

“I’m not going to let what happened to me now change me and get comfortable,” he said, “because I don’t know what comfortable is.”

As it happens he owns two black backpacks, one featuring a three-dimensional rendering of a lion on the side, the other featuring a wolf. The latter is the one he most often brings to games, and he tends to leave it in a prominent spot near his cubicle, just inside the door to the Sixers’ locker room.

It is, in other words, hard to miss, harder still to miss what it represents to him.

“The wolf,” he said, “symbolizes that hunger.”

That’s news to his stepdad, Dennis Bryant, who bought it for him.

“It was just a cool backpack to me,” he said, “and I knew it was something he would like to carry around.”

Then Bryant thought about it.

“Hungry like a wolf — think of it like that,” he said.

That hunger, not to mention that jumper (“the most powerful weapon there is,” Brown said), have allowed him to track ever upward, to reach this lofty point on his career arc.

“It was a time in the making,” Bryant said. “It was going to happen. It was just a process he was going through, but I’m not just going off the ‘Trust the Process’ thing. … We call his ‘The Journey.’”

It was aided and abetted not only by Dennis but also Covington’s mom, Teresa Bryant — a longtime postal worker and retired retail manager, respectively. Covington did not play middle school hoops as he grew from 5-9 to 6-3 (en route to his current 6-9), and he didn’t attract much recruiting interest as he was coming out of Proviso West High School, just outside Chicago.

And while he was productive at Tennessee State, he was not taken in the 2013 NBA draft, landing instead with the Houston Rockets as a free agent. He spent most of the 2013-14 season with the Development League’s Rio Grande Valley Vipers, where he was coached by a man named Nevada Smith.

“Crazy competitive,” Smith, now coach of the Sioux Falls Skyforce, said of Covington.

That didn’t change after the Sixers picked him up on waivers in November 2014, and hasn’t changed since. 

He’s still the same guy he’s always been, still hungry like a wolf.

Sixers add another chapter to collapse chronicles

Sixers add another chapter to collapse chronicles

BOX SCORE

Another third quarter. Another letdown. 

The shorthanded Sixers led Toronto by 22 points with 9:09 minutes to play in the quarter and let the streaking Raptors right back in the game. From that point on, the Raptors wrapped up the third on a 32-12 spurt while the Sixers went scoreless for nearly four minutes. 

The Raptors won, 114-109.

The Sixers (14-17) have lost four in a row and eight of their last nine, dating back to the Suns’ game. 

This was not the opponent to show a window of opportunity. The Raptors (22-8) entered the night on a four-game winning streak. They now have won 11 of their last 12.

Joel Embiid was ruled out after going through his pregame warmups. JJ Redick also was sidelined because of hamstring tightness. Amir Johnson and Jerryd Bayless started in their places. 

• DeMar DeRozan dominated the Raptors’ offense from the beginning. He scored 15 points in the first quarter alone, en route to a blockbuster, career-high 45-point performance. DeRozan netted a career-high six treys against the Sixers. His previous season high was just three. 

• Dario Saric stepped up in the two starters’ absence. He neared a triple-double with 18 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. Saric was active, coming up with two blocks and two steals.

• Ben Simmons was more aggressive looking for his own shot. The facilitator mixed in jump shots at the encouragement of Brett Brown and drew contact. He finished with 20 points, six rebounds and four assists (below his season average 7.9). Simmons went 2 for 5 from the line. 

• The Sixers’ offense slowed nearly the exact same time as the previous game. In Tuesday’s loss to the Kings, they were up 16 with 9:07 remaining in the third. They were outscored 22-13 from that point on in the quarter. 

• Reserve guard Delon Wright poured in 12 points during the Raptors’ key third quarter.

• The arena became deafening loud with boos when Simmons was whistled for an offensive foul after a drive against Wright with 2:28 left in the fourth quarter (Sixers down 107-104). The jeers continued on the next possession. Robert Covington was called for a foul trying to swipe the ball from DeRozan, who hit both free throws.

• Speaking of free throws, the Raptors did serious damage at the line. They shot 32 for 35, making up for 30.7 percent of their total points. 

• And no, this game wasn’t without turnover woes. On either side actually. Both teams gave up 32 points off turnovers, and both starting point guards (Simmons and Kyle Lowry) committed seven. 

• The Sixers and Raptors will face off again in two days when the Sixers travel to Toronto.