The Philadelphia 76ers overcame a sluggish start to defeat the Brooklyn Nets by a score of 105-95 Sunday afternoon at the Barclays Center.
The Nets, who ranked 30th in the league in offensive efficiency heading into the game, took a 57-46 lead into halftime thanks to a 30-point second quarter, a game which had all the makings of a sluggish afternoon effort from Brett Brown‘s Sixers squad. The Nets were led by 18 first-half points from center Brook Lopez as they built their lead.
The Sixers came roaring back in the second half, scoring the first 13 points of the third quarter, taking their first lead of the game, at 59-57, on a Joel Embiid baseline jumper. Embiid scored 6 of the Sixers’ 13 points during that momentum-changing run.
The Sixers also received a lift from Nik Stauskas, who scored 13 of his 15 points in the third quarter, making 4 of his 5 shots in the frame. Stauskas has started the last 5 games at shooting guard because of Gerald Henderson‘s ongoing hip soreness. Stauskas had averaged just 7.8 points on 29 percent shooting over his previous 4 starts.
Embiid was plagued by foul trouble once again, which limited him to just 24 minutes in the game. Still, Embiid was dominant when he was in the game, finishing with 20 points on 8-14 shooting, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 blocked shots. Embiid has now reached the 20 point plateau in 7 of his last 8 games.
The Sixers’ lead would eventually balloon to 9 points after Embiid made yet another jump shot, this one a 14-footer, once again on the baseline set up by a quick jab step, with 10:23 remaining in the game. But the Sixers, as they’re known to do, let the Nets back into the game as the home team reeled off a quick 9-0 run to tie things up.
This time, Brown’s young team responded. The Sixers scored 21 points in the final 7:05 of play, fueled by 9 points from small forward Robert Covington.
Covington made an impact throughout the game, switching onto whatever Nets play the Sixers needed to slow down, hounding the perimeter, forcing deflections, and crashing the defensive glass. Covington finished with 15 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 steals, providing the kind of all-around defensive effort that is so easily overlooked as his perimeter shots continue to miss the mark.
For much of the game Covington was mired in yet another struggle from the perimeter, as he recorded just 6 points on 3-11 shooting from the field, including 0-4 from three-point range, through the first 41 minutes of play. But Covington responded on the offensive side as well, scoring 9 points (2-2 from the field, including 1-1 from 3, and 4-4 from the line) in the final 7 minutes to help seal the Sixers 10th win of the season.
Jahlil Okafor, the 3rd overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft, did not play once again, receiving his third DNP-CD (coaches decision) in the past 4 games. Instead Brown turned to Nerlens Noel off the bench, and Noel responded with 8 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 steals in 24 active minutes as a reserve.
The Sixers scored 59 points on 46.7 percent shooting, including 46.2 percent (6-13) from three-point range, in the second half.
The Sixers have now won 3 of their last 4 games, with wins over Denver (14-23), Minnesota (11-26), and Brooklyn (8-27). It hasn’t exactly been the toughest competition in the world, but combined with the strong performance on the road against Boston, the team has been playing more consistent basketball of late.
There are now five teams (Brooklyn, Miami, Minnesota, Dallas, Los Angeles) with more losses than the 76ers, although only Brooklyn has fewer wins than the 76ers 10.
After the game Embiid told Jessica Camerato of CSN Philly that they’re eyeing the playoffs. That is, well, perhaps a little bit too lofty of a goal, but as the Sixers resolve their big man situation, as Joel Embiid continues to improve his game on a seemingly play-by-play basis, as the Sixers get Ben Simmons back at some indeterminate time in the future, and (hopefully) get Robert Covington’s perimeter game back on track, they should certainly be a more consistently competitive team.
Ilyasova, McConnell struggle
Ersan Ilyasova (14 points on 16 shots, 1-7 from three-point range) and T.J. McConnell (2-11) struggled from the field in this one, and for Ilyasova that’s his second-consecutive tough shooting performance. Ilyasova has made just 5 of his last 21 three-point attempts after connecting on 40 percent of his attempts from deep to start his Sixers career.
There could be a little bit of a regression to the mean with Ilyasova, who had been having a career year with the 76ers up until that point.
Like Covington, Ilyasova’s shot selection can be questionable at times, which exacerbates his struggles to some degree. Still, the veteran from Turkey has opened things up for Embiid down low, and will get every chance to shoot his way out of his brief slump.
Saric with a big game off the bench
One of the main beneficiaries to Brett Brown playing fewer two big man sets is Dario Saric, who has received pretty consistent playing time here of late, including more time at his natural power forward position.
Saric finished the game with 18 points in 30 minutes off the bench, shooting 5-13 from the field, including 3-6 from three-point range. Saric had been struggling in recent games from the perimeter, missing his last 10 three-point shots prior to today’s game against the Nets.
The Sixers will play their next two games at the Wells Fargo Center, with the Knicks in town Wednesday night, followed by the Hornets on Friday.
Derek Bodner covers the 76ers for Philadelphia magazine. Follow @DerekBodnerNBA on Twitter.