PFB 012 – 2017 NFL Week 12 Plays

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

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On Thanksgiving Day, the Vikings kept rolling, the Cowboys kept falling apart, and the Redskins and Giants played some facsimile of a game of football. We discuss that action, why Dan isn’t a fan of Thanksgiving, MVP odds, and our top plays for NFL Week 12.

Dan’s season record: 23-27-1; Week 11 record: 3-3-1; Week 12 record (so far): 0-1
Sean’s season record: 12-11; Week 11 record: 0-2

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Sixers Stifle Blazers to Grab 10th Win of the Season

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Philadelphia 101, Portland 81 – Box Score

Another night, another ho hum 20-point victory. Such is life for this current iteration of the Philadelphia 76ers. On Thanksgiving Eve, the Sixers took control right from the opening tip; the Blazers missed their first 13 shots from the field as Philadelphia raced out to a 16-0 lead midway through the first quarter. With the way Brett Brown’s club was playing defense, that initial cushion was more than enough.

The 81 Portland points represented the lowest point total the Sixers have allowed this season. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons prowled the area around the rim, Amir Johnson was a steady presence on the back line once again, Robert Covington picked pockets like an Agrabah street urchin, and T.J. McConnell and J.J. Redick hounded the Blazers guards on the perimeter. C.J. McCollum had an ugly 1-14 shooting performance, and while Damian Lillard got his, scoring a game-high 30 points, he will think twice about challenging Embiid in the future.

With his mom sitting courtside, Joel Embiid put forth a strong effort with 28 points, 12 rebounds, and 2 blocks. Crucially, Brett Brown left Embiid on the court with 4 fouls late in the third quarter; JoJo responded by going on a personal 6-0 run to extend the Sixers lead back to a comfortable double-digit margin. Oh, and he whipped out a SKY HOOK! Embiid is like the guy who did the Evolution of Dance video, but he performs iconic big man moves against the top competition in the world.

Embiid’s running mate Ben Simmons was excellent as well, tallying 16 points, 8 rebounds, 9 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks. Bigger forwards like Noah Vonleh and Ed Davis weren’t quick enough, and a wing like Evan Turner wasn’t strong enough to stop Ben from getting to the rim whenever he wanted. Simmons knocked down a handful of pretty floaters and scoop shots, and found his teammates for easy buckets whenever multiple defenders collapsed on him. It’s amazing how controlled he looks at all times, less than 20 games into his NBA career.

The Sixers are now 10-7 on the season, matching their win total from the entire 2015-16 season. The team has won 9 of their last 10 games against teams who aren’t the Warriors. They deserve this. We deserve this. Orlando is the next victim to come to town Saturday night.

Avoiding the Red Zone: 2017 Thanksgiving Games

By Dan Urda (@DanUrda)

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Dan’s season record: 23-26-1; Week 11 record: 3-3-1
Sean’s season record: 12-11; Week 11 record: 0-2

Thanksgiving Day football. The one saving grace for what is the most overrated holiday in existence (Editor’s Note: strongly disagree). Due to travel plans, we will not be able to have a podcast up in time for Thursday’s games. While I strongly encourage you to listen on Friday when it is posted, I wanted to give a few thoughts on the games that will take place beforehand.

Minnesota Vikings (-3) at Detroit Lions – Play: Detroit Lions +3

This is the only side I will be taking this Thursday and I like it a lot. Minnesota is coming off a big win against another NFC contender and this is a big letdown spot for them. They may have beaten the Rams, but if nothing else, the Rams defense hits people hard, and expecting the Vikings to recover and be ready to play a road game in four days is a lot to ask. The Lions did not beat the Bears convincingly, but they were able to scrape out the win in a very tough place to play. They find themselves with a 6-4 record, 2 games out of the division lead and 1 game out of the wild card.

This game is absolutely huge for Detroit. With a win, the Lions can pull within one game of the division with a 2-0 record against the Vikings, who still have games in Atlanta and Carolina in the next two weeks. A win puts them in a very good position to make a playoff push and I think they get it.

San Diego Chargers (-1) at Dallas Cowboys

I am staying away from this game. On one hand, you have the Cowboys who have looked as bad as anyone over the last two weeks. The team has been without linebacker Sean Lee and star left tackle Tyron Smith, who has said he hopes to play Thursday, but that is not yet in stone. Aside from the injury excuses, the Cowboys have just looked bad in general. Dez Bryant seems to have lost a step, and as a whole, the offense lacks playmakers with Ezekiel Elliott suspended.

Having said all that, I just can’t bet on the Chargers in this spot. Dallas has a good history of playing inspired football on Turkey Day. San Diego also has a notorious knack for finding ways to lose games they should win. All things considered, I can’t recommend a wager on either side. However, Keenan Allen is on fire right now. If you are an action junkie, take a look at his player props come Thursday.

New York Giants at Washington Redskins (-7.5)

The NFL definitely thought they were treating fans by scheduling a solid night game to cap off their holiday slate. Now, with both teams seemingly out of playoff contention and their rosters decimated by injuries, it more closely resembles a game that would be on the top right corner TV at a sportsbook.

I do think the Redskins have the upper hand here, as two young offensive weapons, wire Josh Doctson and running back Samaje Perine, seem to be in the midst of a breakout stretch; as a whole, the offense looked good against the Saints. But the Giants, as terrible as they are, do have a decent defense and I am just not comfortable asking a team with as many injuries as Washington to cover more than a touchdown. Chris Thompson may not be a player many people outside of DC talk about much, but he did so much for the Washington offense that missing him could cause them to stall out.  No reason to play this game, but if you are on your tenth beer and want some action to keep yourself away from your racist uncle’s rants, then look at Doctson props.

That’s all for right now. Be sure to tune in to the podcast, which should be posted late Friday night, for the rest of our picks.

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Sixers play harmoniously in victory over Jazz

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Philadelphia 107, Utah 86 – Box Score

This is what it’s like to root for a good basketball team. The Jazz came to the Wells Fargo Center, still missing star center Rudy Gobert. Without the Stifle Tower manning the middle, Utah’s usual lockdown defense was significantly less imposing. With Gordon Hayward having departed for Boston during the offseason, their offense essentially consists of rookie Donovan Mitchell and Rodney “contract year” Hood throwing up whatever garbage shots they want. Simply put, the Sixers are the better basketball team.

For a change, there was no drama, just the better basketball team controlling the action and grabbing the win at home. Despite missing all 8 of their three point attempts in the first half, the Sixers still led by double digits at halftime. The shooting naturally normalized in the second half, including a pair of threes from J.J. Redick, who finished with 20 points on the evening. Suddenly, Philadelphia was up 20 in the third quarter, and unlike against Golden State, there would be no remarkable comeback in store for the Jazz.

Ben Simmons turned on the jets in that third quarter, tallying 14 points in the period alone, on his way to a career-high 27 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 steals. Simmons was a boulder rolling down a mountain, carving his own way to the basket time and again; any Jazz defenders in his way were simply parts of the landscape subject to an implacable force of nature. Ben (please stop with the Big Ben references, Alaa) had his little floater in the painted area working, and if he’s hitting that, I’m not sure what defenses can do to stop him.

Joel Embiid was a game-time decision with knee soreness, saying it was up to him whether he played or not. I’m not sure if that was true or not, but I know if it was, he would definitely choose to play. And play he did, with a good, not spectacular 15 points, 11 rebounds, and 2 blocks. These are the routine nights for him, performances which a good portion of the league would consider their best of the season. Embiid hit a fadeaway jumper along the baseline on the game’s opening possession which is literally unguardable.

And yet, you could make the argument Embiid wasn’t even the best center for the Sixers on the evening. Amir Johnson had his best game in red, white, and blue, with 8 points on a perfect 4-4 shooting, 13 rebounds, and 4 blocks. Johnson had his old man, pivot-forever game working around the basket, was dogged in going after every loose ball, and wisely used terrific positioning and timely stabs at the ball to defend the rim. I love Richaun Holmes and it’s a credit to how well Johnson played that I was never upset Holmes wasn’t in the game.

With the win, the Sixers are back up two games over .500, at 9-7 on the season. Another winnable game at home against the Blazers (Evan Turner revenge game?) is on tap for Wednesday night. Alshon Jeffery and Legarrette Blount were both at the game Monday, eliciting arena-wide E-A-G-L-E-S chants from the crowd. Right now though, there are two Philadelphia teams worthy of a standing ovation.

Despite late scare, La Salle tops South Alabama to move to 3-0

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

B.J. Johnson in last spring’s Atlantic 10 tournament
Shown here in last spring’s Atlantic 10 tournament, B.J. Johnson is once again leading the way for the Explorers this season.

La Salle 81, South Alabama 73 – Box Score

Coming off a thrilling double-overtime victory over Big 5 rival Penn Monday night, I’m sure Explorers fans wouldn’t have minded a less stress-inducing outing Thursday night against the South Alabama fans. In the first half, it looks like that was in the offing. La Salle jumped out to a 10-0 run to start the game and kept piling on, taking a 20-point advantage into the halftime locker room.

Entering play leading his team in both scoring and rebounding, redshirt senior B.J. Johnson continued to show why he’s regarded as one of the top players in both the Big 5 and the Atlantic 10 conference. He paced all players in both categories with 30 points and 11 rebounds, in an offensive performance reminiscent of his career-high 35 points against Florida Gulf Coast last season. Johnson was everywhere for La Salle in the first half, knocking down open threes, draining face-up mid-range jumpers over Jaguars defenders, and aggressively attacking the offensive glass to pick up some hard-earned buckets on the interior.

For a long stretch of the first half, Johnson was single-handedly out-scoring South Alabama. Although the Jaguars manages to eventually clear that modest hurdle (27 team point at the half compared to a whopping 22 for Johnson), it still looked like the Explorers were going to coast to victory.

The second half was a different story, however. South Alabama downsized to a five-out perimeter lineup and started bombing away from three. South Alabama’s leading scorer Jordan Andrews, held to just 2 points in the first half, caught fire, hitting 4 threes after halftime on his way to a team-high 20 points. In all, the Jaguars canned 9 of their 17 attempts from behind the arc in the second half, forcing the Explorers to abandon their center tandem of Tony Washington and Miles Brookins and play with the 6’7″ Johnson as the tallest player on the floor.

After the game, La Salle head coach Dr. John Giannini admitted going small is not the ideal way he would like his team to play:

“I’d rather have Tony or Miles out there. We’re more comfortable. We can do more things offensively, using our big guys as a screener.”

In a flash, a 14-0 South Alabama run cut the La Salle lead all the way down to 7, an advantage that would later be trimmed to as little as 5 points. Fortunately for the Explorers, the large lead provided enough of a cushion that some key plays from Johnson and sophomore guard Saul Phiri were enough to still pull out the victory. Giannini had high praise for the pair in the post-game press conference:

“The two guys I’m with, B.J. and Saul, played with phenomenal effort. I thought B.J. really willed us to that win with some huge offensive rebounds.”

Phiri, coming off a 12-point, 11-rebound double-double against Penn, pulled the trick again with 14 points and 10 rebounds versus the Jaguars. Standing just 6’4″, Phiri showed a willingness to mix it up inside and the aggressiveness to come away with any 50-50 ball in his vicinity. Asked whether he expected Phiri to be a factor on the boards coming into the season, Coach Giannini responded:

“Yeah, he’s a tough kid. Anything that has to do with toughness, it doesn’t surprise me if Saul does it well.”

With Johnson and Phiri lifting a heavy load, the Explorers were able to stem the tide of the furious Jaguars rally, finally icing the game with an Amar Stukes three inside the final minute to bring us to the 81-73 final score.

The Explorers sit at a perfect 3-0 on the season. While obviously that’s as much as any team could hope for, they haven’t faced the highest class of competition thus far. That will change in a hurry on Saturday, when La Salle faces a Northwestern team ranked 20th in the country as part of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament in Connecticut. They’ll need to play two strong halves to hang around with the Wildcats, but walking away from the Tom Gola Arena Thursday night, Explorers fans were happy that one quality half of play was enough.

Joel Embiid Destroys Worlds, Tops Lakers

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Philadelphia 115, Los Angeles 109 – Box Score

In what’s becoming a postgame ritual, Joel Embiid was asked after Wednesday night’s win against the Lakers how he would rate his conditioning level. In typical I only say things that go viral fashion, Embiid answered, “I’m at 69 percent.” Well, if what we saw on the Staples Center floor was truly Joel Embiid at 69 percent, the rest of the NBA must be tossing and turning in their sleep, because he already went out and put forth one of the greatest performances in NBA history.

46 points. 15 rebounds. 7 assists. 7 blocks. Those numbers are unparalleled in the 44 years since the NBA began recording blocks. If they had kept a tally in his time, the line reads like what an exceptional night for Wilt Chamberlain might have looked like for an earlier iteration of the Philadelphia basketball franchise.

Like the Stilt, Embiid looks to be in an entire different stratosphere than his competition. The counting stats are like something out of a video game in MyPlayer mode, but the efficiency with which he accrued those totals are what truly made Embiid’s night incredible. He only turned the ball over twice. He knocked down two of his three shots from behind the arc and took just 20 shots from the field to get his 46 points.

For some reason, Lakers head coach Luke Walton repeatedly insisted on having Julius Randle try and defend Embiid one-and-one. I joked Randle looked like the goat in Jurassic Park, bleating plaintively into the night while awaiting the T-rex coming through to rip it to shreds. Embiid’s offensive repertoire (still less than 50 games into his professional career) is truly remarkable. His footwork in the post is honest-to-god Olajuwon-esque. He has the rip-through move to draw a foul on par with that of James Harden or the master of the art Lou Williams (Embiid went 16-19 from the foul line). The big man can face up and silkily knock down the mid-range jumper. He is well over 7 feet tall and PULLED OUT A EURO STEP.

Plus, Embiid might be even more impactful on the defensive end. My lord. What a player. Sign me up for another three years of lottery-bound misery if it means I get to watch another performance like we just saw.

With the Lakers having their own young guys stepping up (Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma were excellent with 26 and 24 points, respectively), Embiid needed a little help, and Ben Simmons was there to answer the call. The most amazing part of Embiid’s night might be that it overshadowed next summer’s Rookie of the Year winner putting up 18 points, 9 rebounds, 10 assists, and 5 steals.

Like Embiid, Simmons did a terrific job taking care of the basketball against the Lakers, only coughing it up a single time on the evening. There were numerous times where he and Embiid played a dominant two-man game, the towering giants literally operating at higher plane than the rest of the competition. Simmons found his teammates all over the court using angles I didn’t learn existed back in my middle school geometry class.

It’s remarkable that Simmons is doing all this without a jumper, limiting himself to the 12 feet around the basket, where even then he isn’t sure what hand to use. We’re basically already looking at an All-Star caliber player who looks like he’s playing with one hand tied back his back. Take a second and imagine a fully-realized version of Ben Simmons might look like on the court. The Sixers have this guy and the one who went off for 46/15/7/7. Thank you, Sam.

Robert Covington had a quiet night by his new standards on the court (12 points on 2-5 from three), but it was a big day for the Sixers starting forward nonetheless. With Covington finally eligible for an extension coming off his incredibly undervalued deal he signed out of the D-league, reports emerged that the team has agreed to a four-year extension with him. The deal will first include a renegotiation of this year’s salary up to $16.7M this season (an additional $15.1M for Covington). Then, the extension will kick in for an additional 4 years at around $45M.

Basically, in return for receiving that extra $15M up front in the largest salary renegotiation ever, Covington agreed to about $4M less than what a max deal in free agency would be for him going forward. This contract is a huge win for Bryan Colangelo, who effectively leveraged his cap space this season to create more for the team in the future, allowing them to sign a max level player in free agency. Having Covington, who is currently shooting 49.5% from three while playing All-NBA caliber defense, on a deal at under $12M per year is going to represent one of the best contracts in the league. Good job by everyone to work something out that benefited all parties involved.

The Sixers are now 8-6 on the season. The West Coast trip is mercifully over and my sleep schedule can hopefully return to what approximates for normal. Philadelphia will next have the Warriors back at the Wells Fargo Center Saturday; I’m sure Embiid and Simmons are looking forward to having another crack at the world champions.

PFB 011 – 2017 NFL Week 11 Plays

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

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It’s the year of the terrible quarterback, so why wouldn’t the Bills voluntarily throw another one into the mix with Nathan Peterman? NFL handicapper Dan Urda and I go over the QB change in Buffalo and all the Week 11 action.

Thanks again to our new sponsor.

Dan’s season record: 20-23 (1 teaser pending); Week 10 record: 3-3 (1 teaser pending)
Sean’s season record: 12-9; Week 10 record: 1-2

Support the site via our Patreon page.

Sixers Edge Past Clippers in Final Minute

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Philadelphia 109, Los Angeles 105 – Box Score

During the Process era, the Clippers were always the team the Sixers could never get to play down to the competition. Against other opponents, teams would often come out flat, Philadelphia would hang around before fading late, and the opposing coach would say something nice after the game about how the Sixers are one of the hardest-working teams in the league. Not so against Los Angeles, who would just routinely feature Chris Paul throwing lobs to Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan in 30-point blowouts.

Now, it’s a new era. Chris Paul is injured in the sidelines in Houston, and more importantly for those of us in Philadelphia, the Sixers have a healthy Joel Embiid, a healthy Ben Simmons, and an about to be much richer man in Robert Covington. With those three leading the way, the Sixers did just enough to pull out the last-minute victory in La La Land, snapping a two-game losing streak and quieting the asinine “Brett Brown blows it in late game situations” talks for the time being.

J.J. Redick didn’t have the revenge game I’m sure he envisioned against his former club, missing his first 6 three-point attempts, but he finally connected with a little over a minute left to pull the Sixers back within 2. On Philadelphia’s next possession, Joel Embiid tied the game off a nice dish in the lane from Ben Simmons, who basically treated Sindarius Thornwell like he was holding a blocking pad in a football gauntlet drill.

Then, a man who had no trouble finding the range from downtown on the evening (going 5-8), Robert Covington hit a huge three-pointer with 30 seconds left to put the Sixers back in front. RoCo and Simmons combined to shoot a perfect 6-6 from the foul line in the closing seconds to help seal the victory. On a night when the supporting cast didn’t offer a ton of support, Philadelphia’s three stars (yes, the way he’s playing, Covington deserves the label) put the team on their backs and pushed the Sixers back above .500.

Joel Embiid was incredible, dropping 32 points and grabbing a career-high 16 rebounds while (stunningly) playing 36 minutes. JoJo was in the Clippers’ heads all evening, at one point frustrating Willie Reed to the point that Reed slammed Embiid to the floor on a dunk attempt instead of making an effort to actually play defense. Reed was whistled for a flagrant foul, as Embiid calmly laughed and repeated said “you can’t f-in guard me”.

Truer words were never spoken, as no Clipper had a chance against Embiid, constantly sending him to the foul line (9-16) because they had no hope of stopping him in the painted area. Here was DeAndre Jordan, often touted by head coach Doc Rivers as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, getting thrown onto a pogo stick by an Embiid pump fake and vicious baseline slam.

With Embiid dominating down low, the perimeter was left in the capable hands of Robert Covington, who didn’t miss in the first half and ended the night with 31 points on 9-12 shooting from the field. RoCo might as well be wearing Hal Jordan’s ring with the size of the green light he has right now to hoist from anywhere on the court. Covington is casually shooting (and draining) threes from 28 feet away right now.

Toss in the usual terrific defense (4 steals) and Covington’s confidence is sky-high, just as his bank account is soon to be when he signs his extension on Wednesday.

Finally, we arrive at Rookie of the Year favorite Ben Simmons, who recorded a double-double with 22 points and 12 rebounds. Simmons has come to the conclusion that it’s not as important to have an outside jumper if you just dunk on everybody. Ben is almost literally dunking on everybody; he had 5 throwdowns in the first half alone.

I love the way Simmons has realized he is bigger and stronger than anybody else guarding him. He is leveraging his body to initiate contact and have his opponent bounce off him, creating enough space for him to finish at the rim essentially unimpeded. Simmons struggled against Golden State because Draymond Green is both quick enough to slide in front of him and strong enough to hold his ground against that contact. But against the rest of the league who aren’t paradigm-shifting defensive talents, Simmons is having a field day.

Monday night wasn’t perfect; the Sixers blew an early double-digit lead and the 20 turnovers need to be cleaned up. But they went into the Staples Center and took down the Clippers, something that would have been a fever dream the past few years. The tides are turning and the Lakers are next up to be swept up by the current Wednesday night.


Villanova Prevails Over Columbia in Season Opener

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Villanova 75, Columbia 60 – Box Score

Thanks to a renovation taking place on the Pavilion back on campus, the Villanova Wildcats are essentially basketball vagabonds this season. Jay Wright’s squad is making the Wells Fargo Center its de facto home court and tipped off the year there Friday night against the Columbia Lions. While it wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t the dominant performance Villanova fans have come to expect over non-power conference opponents in recent years, the result also wasn’t a surprise. For a Villanova team that hopes to play well into March, a workmanlike victory that keeps their tournament resume pristine will work just fine.

Wright was quick to credit Columbia for keeping things close, saying his “first thought when we watched film of them was this was bad scheduling.” Really though, Villanova was in complete control throughout the evening. The only reason the Wildcats never blew things open was a cold shooting night. Villanova shot just 7-32 from behind the arc, predominantly on wide open looks that they will knock down more often than not.

It’s also a bit of unusual roster construction for the Wildcats, with four freshmen playing significant minutes in the nine-man rotation. Wright pointed out that while his team might experience some growing pains early, development for those freshmen will pay dividends down the road.

“We’ve gotta get those young guys experience. It might look bad early, it might hurt us early, but there’s potential at the end to be a good team.”

The highest profile player among that freshman group is starting center Omari Spellman. Playing for the first time in two years after sitting out last season due to an academic issue, Spellman racked up a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds. The freshman had a slow start, but really picked things up in the second half by dominating on the offensive glass (grabbing 6 offensive rebounds total). His coach credited Spellman for hanging in there and not forcing the action.

“He has a really good basketball IQ. Like I mentioned, in the second half, he really hadn’t had a lot of touches. When we went into him, he got into a little traffic, kicked it out opposite. That’s rare for a young kid.”

In all, four Wildcats finished in double figures, led by Eric Paschall’s 15 points and 9 rebounds. They’ll need Paschall to maintain that energy on the boards going forward with the graduation of Daniel Ochefu and Spellman’s relative inexperience. Jalen Brunson recorded 14 points and 3 assists, looking very calm and collected as the primary ballhandler with Ryan Arcidiacono collecting game checks in Chicago.

The guy getting some buzz as a potential first round pick in the NBA draft, Mikal Bridges couldn’t hit the mark from the outside Friday (0-5 from three), but still finished with 8 points and 7 rebounds while playing his usual brand of versatile defense. Unlike years past, the Wildcats ran some offense through Bridges, especially out of the post. The redshirt junior had a couple nice passes from that position, including one to a cutting Paschall on the baseline for a slam. Bridges also showed off his athleticism by posterizing a poor Lion under the basket.

Nicholls State is up next for the Wildcats Tuesday night, a foe that should provide even less resistance than Columbia. Right now, with the amount of youth on the roster, the Wildcats are far from a finished product. But like their usual home court right off Lancaster Avenue, when they’re finished, they should be quite the sight to behold.

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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.