Robert Covington

Sixers suffer crucial burns from Heat

Sixers suffer crucial burns from Heat


MIAMI — The Sixers let the chance to win the season series against the Heat slip by with a 108-99 loss Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. 

This game was important not only for the separation between the sixth and seventh seeds, but also for a potential playoff tiebreaker. The Sixers dropped to 35-29; the Heat improved to 35-31. 

The Sixers won the first two meetings at the Wells Fargo Center and could not grab a win in Miami. They have lost their last seven meetings on the road against the Heat dating back to 2015. 

Think players don’t check the standings after a game like this? Joel Embiid does … regularly. 

“After every game, literally every day, especially the guys that are in the playoff race with us as far as seedings,” Embiid said at morning shootaround. “After every day’s game, you go and look, you see where you are, if you dropped or if you went up because a team lost.” 

• The Sixers have battled with third-quarter letdowns. This time, it was in the fourth that led to the Sixers’ downfall. The Heat opened the final quarter on a 14-4 run to turn the Sixers’ one-point lead into a 10-point deficit, 88-78. The Sixers’ only offense during that stretch came from free throws. The Heat created too much distance for the Sixers to overcome with a late-game push. 

“I think the physicality definitely was there,” Ben Simmons said. “I think for us, we just didn’t come ready. First quarter, we looked like we were ready to go come out and play. Then we just showed a lack of composure and just didn’t stay with it.”

• Embiid has not been satisfied with his recent performances and he struggled against the Heat. The big man shot 5 for 18 from the field for 17 points, seven rebounds and five fouls. Embiid competed in his 10th straight game Thursday, not including the NBA All-Star Game. He is still getting adjusted to this new (and unfamiliar) frequency of playing time. It remains to be seen if the Sixers rest Embiid sometime soon. 

“Obviously I was sh--ty,” Embiid summed it up.

• There hadn’t been too much to the social-media-sparked matchup between Embiid and Hassan Whiteside all season. In fact, it had been pretty tame. The two bigs, however, swapped elbows and arm grabs in the third quarter on one play. Whiteside was whistled for a technical foul, while Embiid was called for his fourth personal. Whiteside got the better of this battle, scoring a game-high 26 points with eight rebounds.

“[He] tried hit me in the back, which is kind of dirty because of the fact that I’ve had back problems,” Embiid said (see story). “So we’re going to see about that. I won’t forget about that.”

• Robert Covington is a streaky offensive player. Sometimes a hot night can jump-start a stretch of games. After scoring a team-high 22 points against the Hornets in the previous game, though, Covington shot 0 for 10 from the field and 0 for 5 from three in 29 minutes (seven rebounds). His three points came at the line. Covington did not attempt his first basket until two minutes into the second quarter, a cutting layup rather than his usual outside looks. 

• Simmons started the game with impressive dunks but netted only two points in the fourth quarter (10 points, eight rebounds, eight assists). The bigger issue wasn't his scoring, though. Simmons committed five turnovers after only one in the previous game. 

Welcome back, Robert Covington

Welcome back, Robert Covington

Man, is it great beating the Hornets. Nothing personal, really — with Michael Carter-Williams out Tuesday night, there wasn't even a particularly notable ex-Sixer or Sixers foe in the Charlotte lineup unless memories of the Dwight Howard-led Magic team beating the Sixers in the first round in 2009 are particularly raw for you for some reason. It's just that the Hornets are forever so the Hornets: A decently above average to decently below average squad, essentially jogging in place while Rebuilding the Wrong Way squads like the Sixers sprint past. Hornets fans probably don't need the reminder, but it's not the worst feeling to give it to 'em anyway. 

That's what the Sixers did Tuesday night, with their 128-114 victory. Charlotte wasn't slain by any one particular Sixer — in fact, Joel Embiid's weird two-way ineffectiveness lasted through the first half of this one, where he entered the break with nearly as many turnovers and fouls (three) as points (four), and got outplayed all game by Howard (30 points on 12 of 17 shooting, three blocks). But seven Sixers scored in double figures, including all five starters — Embiid came alive late and ended with a non-abhorrent 18-5-4 line — and everyone shared and shot the ball beautifully, with both the team's 35 assists and 16 threes marking a Sixers high for 2018. 

Though the game's most impressive box score showing probably belonged to Ben Simmons — 16-8-13 on 8 of 9 FG with one turnover, a near no-hitter from our preternaturally gifted rookie point guard — I'd give the game ball from last night to Robert Covington, our beloved True Processor who hasn't had a breakout game in what feels like (and probably actually is) months. RoCo scored 22 on 7 of 11 shooting, including five made triples (his most since Dec. 21), with two steals, two blocks, and just general two-way Rock beastliness like we haven't seen from him in ages, and like we really need from him going into the playoffs. He may finally be on his way back — this was his fourth consecutive game with multiple triples, again his longest streak since Dec. 21. 

Beating the Hornets, even on the road, should never be among your season's greatest accomplishments — but if you can do it reliably and consistently, as the Sixers have been able to do thus far this year, your team's probably in pretty good shape. And so the Sixers are; back up to seven games over .500 and snug in the East's sixth seed, with another visit to Miami coming Thursday. If Covington stays rolling and Embiid's shaken off the bad juju, the Heat are gonna need an even throwbackier game from Dwyane Wade to have much of a chance. 

Sixers silence the noise in Charlotte

Sixers silence the noise in Charlotte


CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Sixers bounced back from their letdown loss on Sunday with a 128-114 victory Tuesday over the Hornets at Spectrum Center. 

After emphasizing the importance of “team” basketball, six players scored in double figures for the Sixers. Robert Covington led the team with 22 points, followed by Dario Saric (19), Joel Embiid (18), Ben Simmons (16), JJ Redick (14), Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova (11 each). 

The Sixers also cut back significantly on their turnovers, committing only 14 compared to 26 against the Bucks in their previous game. 

The Sixers improved to 35-28, sixth place in the East. They remain one game back of fifth after the Wizards notched an OT win over the Heat.

• Luckily there are still two meetings left between the Sixers and Hornets this season for more Embiid vs. Dwight Howard. Late in the game, Embiid threw down a backboard-shaking slam. Howard answered with a one-handed alley-oop dunk. Embiid posted 18 points (10 through three quarters), five rebounds and four assists. Howard finished with 30 points and six boards. 

• Simmons recorded his 25th double-double of the season by adding a game-high 13 dimes to his 16 points. He shot an efficient 8 for 9 from the field. 

• Kemba Walker was ice cold for most of the night. The All-Star guard shot 1 for 9 from the field and 0 for 5 from three. He scored five points, well below his 23.2 points this season. Walker did dish seven assists. 

• The game was chippier at points than the final score reflected. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was issued two techs and ejected with 3:52 to play in the first half. Howard was called for a tech less than two minutes later. In the third, Embiid was T’ed up. 

• Hall of Famer Allen Iverson took in the game from the row behind the Sixers’ bench. 

• Sixers fans showed up once again on the road. When Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly was shown on the Jumbotron, Sixers fans responded with an “E-A-G-L-E-S” chant. Embiid and Fultz signed autographs for them before the game.

• Justin Anderson played for the first time since suffering a right ankle sprain Feb. 12. Anderson checked in for the final 1:30 of the lopsided game. Richaun Holmes and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot also got in late minutes. 

• The Sixers scored at least 70 first-half points in back-to-back games (71 against the Hornets). They had not done so since November of 1992. That’s well before most of the current team was born. 

• Up next: The Sixers will return to Miami on Thursday a week after losing at the buzzer at the hands of Dwyane Wade.