Last night's game against the Minnesota Timberwolves showed an ending that it feels like Philadelphia 76ers fans have never seen before: A miraculous Sixers escape victory. Despite blowing a 26-point lead that was finally cut to zero by a wide-open Ricky Rubio three -- only a 27% three-point shooter, but c'mon Ersan -- with a second and change left, Philly nonetheless boogied out of the WFC last night with a victory, thanks to a last-second Brett Brown play that should silence his critics for at least a couple last-second losses. Dario Saric throw the in-bounds, Joel Embiid set the (moving, though thankfully uncalled) high screen and Robert Covington laid in the game-winning back-door lob. Final: Timberwolves 91, 76ers 93.
It was a great moment for the Sixers -- who, lest we forget, got beat by the Timberwolves 257 to 32 on national TV a couple months ago -- and for Lord Covington in general. But it might've been more than the WFC faithful deserved last night.
Obviously, RoCo has struggled greatly from range in recent days, and last night's contest was a typically miserable outing in that respect: 1-9 from beyond the arc, now making him just 8 for his last 46. But y'know what? Even before the last-second lay-in, and even with the struggles from deep, Young Cov was having a great game. He notched a team-high 10 boards, and they were some hard-fought grabs. He swiped four steals, contributing to his team-high tally of 1.7 a game. And as Brett Brown was quick to point out after the game, he helped bother former future Sixer Andrew Wiggins -- who, lest we forget, absolutely tortured the Ballers in Minneapolis -- to a 2-15 shooting night.
But he clanked his threes, and so we booed. He hit the one and then we cheered, but he missed the next, and so we booed again, and continued until he won the game for us. Afterwards, Molly Sullivan interviewed him about the fan response, and Young Cov responded: "These fans can boo all they want, I'm never gonna stop playing no matter what."
"I'm never going to stop playing no matter what." - Covington on the fan reaction during the game.— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) January 4, 2017
Keep it tuned to Sixers Postgame Live pic.twitter.com/f3k8YnZMmU
We've preached about this before on the Level, but it stands true: Booing your own players is almost never a good idea. It's selfish, it doesn't help anything, and often it actively hurts our players' psyche and relationship with the franchise. Unless it's a player that's never contributed anything of value and is actively antagonizing the fanbase -- neither of which fits RoCo in the slightest -- there's really no excuse for it. It sews discord, it makes us look stupid, and it's counter to just about all of what Trusting the Process is about.
And it's not like we don't know how powerful the opposite can be. The Process experienced one of its most powerful and proud moments a few weeks ago with the standing ovation we gave Nerlens, a moment of greater understanding shared with a player who's essentially been with us with the beginning. It sucks that we couldn't extend Covington the same empathy and support. Obviously, it's tough to stay on his side when he's been so putrid at one of the things he's supposed to be good at, and it's possible that won't ever get better enough to make him a long-term fixture of this franchise, but there's no doubt about what Robert brings to the team even when he's bricking. He's one of us, and he deserves better.
Hopefully last night's feel-good finish extends his credit line with Sixers fans a little until the jumper starts coming around again, at least relatively speaking. He doesn't have to prove anything to us, and maybe he doesn't much care if we think he does, but there's no reason for us to risk permanently alienating a true Processor just to give us an outlet for our frustration when the ball doesn't go in the basket.