Kings Top Sixers in Closing Seconds

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Sacramento 109, Philadelphia 108 – Box Score

With Joel Embiid on nearly a full week’s rest and the entire team having had an off day before, the Sixers were in as good as shape as could be expected for a road game on the West Coast heading into Thursday night’s contest against Sacramento. For some reason though, Philadelphia looked sluggish all game, with young Kings like Justin Jackson and Malachi Richardson coming off the bench and looking more energized than anyone in the Stubhub-sponsored red, white, and blue.

Yet, as in the victory over Atlanta last week, it looked like talent would win out in the end. Joel Embiid, who still doesn’t have great conditioning and was repeatedly said to be having a rough night by the broadcast team, still finished with 22 points, 15 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Nights when he actually plays well are going to be a problem for the rest of the league. Ben Simmons was relatively quiet (for him) with 18 points and 6 rebounds, but was once again seemingly floating through the lane down the stretch.

After a three-point play by Embiid put the Sixers up 108-102 with a minute and a half remaining, even the most jaded Sixers fan would be forgiven for thinking they were coming away with a victory. However, the Kings ended the game on a 7-0 run, capped by a long De’Aaron Fox jumper (basically the exact shot you would hope Sacramento would take) with 14 seconds left to put Sacramento back in front.

The Sixers raced up court without calling a timeout (something Brown has consistently done this season to relative success so don’t be results-based and say he needed to call a timeout here). Sacramento cut off a Ben Simmons drive, who kicked to J.J. Redick. Redick looked to have an open three, but hesitated (perhaps thinking it wasn’t the best shot available only down 1). Redick was hounded and found an escape valve in Joel Embiid around the elbow. JoJo had to hoist a contested jumper at the buzzer, which rimmed off, sealing the Sixers defeat.

I’m choosing not to read too much into the late-game failing by Philadelphia. Willie Cauley-Stein made a tremendous play blocking Embiid at the rim in the final minute and part of that 7-0 run was a fluky five-point possession for the Kings. More importantly, the Sixers have to learn to put away an inferior team much earlier so that they’re up by much more than six with the game winding down. It’s been a very short amount of time when the team hasn’t been that inferior team themselves. They’ll figure it out.

Zooming out, we are 5 days away from the first available date the team can sign Robert Covington to an extension. Bobby Buckets was outstanding last night, especially in the first half, playing his usual strong defense and knocking down 6 of 12 threes. Covington was fouled on not one, not two, but three shots from behind the arc, actually hitting two of them for four-point play opportunities. You can almost see his confidence level rise tangibly every time he takes the court. He’s been completely empowered to take any shot with even a sliver of daylight, to great success. Bryan Colangelo better have had that hand-shake agreement on a deal already, because otherwise, Covington would be earning himself more moolah with every tickling of the twine.

As much as I would like to say the Sixers will look to get this bad taste out of their mouths and bounce back quickly, up next is a road game against the Warriors Saturday night. Oh well, enjoy being over .500 for another day or so.

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