Instant Replay: Sixers 121, Nets 120 (OT)

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Instant Replay: Sixers 121, Nets 120 (OT)

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The Sixers were desperate to snap their seven-game skid Friday night against the Brooklyn Nets, especially after losing their previous two games by a combined 70 points.

Brett Brown’s group came out energetic, aggressive and ready to play at the Wells Fargo Center. They needed five extra minutes, but Evan Turner was able to rattle in a floater at the buzzer for a 121-120 win in OT over the Nets.

The win was the Sixers’ first since Dec. 3 and their record now stands at 8-19 on the season.

Michael Carter-Williams was back in the starting lineup after missing the previous seven losses with a knee infection. He finished with 15 points on 5 of 13 shooting. He also had 10 assists.

Joe Johnson missed the game for personal reasons and Kevin Garnett was given the night off to rest.

Turning point
Turner drove the lane as time was winding down in overtime and got his 22nd field goal attempt of the game off in time. The ball hung on the rim for what felt like an eternity before finally falling through the net to give the Sixers their fourth overtime win in five tries this season.

Follow the leader
Turner came into Friday’s contest shooting 30.5 percent from the field over the last three games.

The fourth-year swingman made his first eight shots of the game on his way to 18 first-half points. Turner finished the game with 29 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.

Tony Wroten went back to a reserve role and scored 19 points, with 12 coming in the second half.

Alan Anderson led the Nets with 26 points, while Deron Williams had a double-double with 17 points and 14 assists.

Mirza Teletovic tried to top Johnson’s three-point shooting tutorial from Monday night. Johnson had a career-best 10 threes in that one. Teletovic had a career-high six threes Friday and scored 18 points.

Stat-egic
The Sixers were 10 of 15 at the foul line, while the Nets made 21 of 30. The Nets also made 15 three-pointers to the Sixers’ nine.

The Sixers made up the difference by attempting 99 shots to the Nets’ 85.

Take a bow
Rumors surfaced this week that Thaddeus Young had asked the Sixers to trade him, which the forward staunchly refuted.

Being the consummate professional, Young proceeded to take the court and mad 9 of 15 field goal attempts for 25 points. He also grabbed six rebounds and had four assists.

What’s next?
Technically, the Sixers’ six-game road trip begins Saturday in Milwaukee. However, that is really a one-game trip followed by seven days off. Then the club plays its first of five games against Western Conference teams.

The Bucks will remember well that they had a 10-point lead with 2:10 left in regulation before losing to the Sixers, 115-107, in overtime back on Nov. 22.

The Sixers pulled off that comeback by hitting four threes -- three by Spencer Hawes -- including one with 1.7 seconds remaining.

Caron Butler led the Bucks with 38 points. Turner was the high man for the Sixers with 27 points.

The Sixers will try to snap an 11-game road losing streak when they take the court in Milwaukee.

Robert Covington, Sixers show 'swagger' without Joel Embiid in comeback win

Robert Covington, Sixers show 'swagger' without Joel Embiid in comeback win

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The Sixers began the season looking lost without Joel Embiid. Now they are finding ways to win when he is not on the court. 

Embiid suffered a left knee contusion in the second half of Friday’s 93-92 win over the Trail Blazers (see story). He was sidelined for the decisive 8:50 of the game (see Instant Replay).

The Sixers trailed, 81-78, when he subbed out for the second time because of the injury, and outscored the Trail Blazers, 15-11, from that point on.

So how was this team that battled with inconsistency and reliance on Embiid able to pull out a comeback win punctuated in the final seconds? Ask the Sixers and they’ll give varying answers, a sign they are getting the job done in multiple ways and aren’t relying on just one key to success.

The most glaring difference was the hero of the game. Robert Covington drained two three-pointers in the final 40 seconds. His trey from Dario Saric with 38.2 remaining cut the Trail Blazers' lead to just one, 91-90. With 4.5 to go, he nailed the game-winning three from T.J. McConnell to give the Sixers their eighth victory in 10 games (see feature highlight).

“That’s resilient Cov,” Nerlens Noel said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a good shot or a bad shot; he’ll pull it in your face. That’s the confidence he has and that’s the confidence we need him to have. He steps up and makes two big shots like that, that’s enough said. He won us that game.”

Critics have called out Covington’s up-and-down performance from three all season. (They’ve made their feelings known with loud boos at home games.) Covington shot 5 for 12 behind the arc on the night but his 2 for 3 performance in the fourth was what mattered most. 

“I am a fighter, that’s what I have been my whole life,” he said. “Just because fans are booing me at one point doesn't mean anything. I just keep working. I am not going to let that deteriorate my game. It goes in one ear and out the other.”

Without Embiid in the game, the Sixers had to rely on a total team effort. After he went to the bench, the final points were scored by a combination of Covington, Gerald Henderson, Noel, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and McConnell.

“Ball movement,” head coach Brett Brown said. “We had 25 assists out of 36 made baskets. It’s not like we’re going to give the ball to Damian Lillard (guard for the Blazers). That’s not who we are. Whatever we do, it has to be done by committee, by a group, by a team. It’s even more exposed when Joel isn’t in the game. They did that. Unlikely people ended up with the ball sometimes in unlikely spots. … You have to move the ball. That’s what the team has learned without Joel.” 

Several of the players on the court in critical moments were from the second unit. Since Brown locked in on his rotation, the reserves don’t have a drop-off in confidence from the starters. 

“It’s the mentality,” Covington said. “Everybody has that swagger about us right now because once Joel comes out, the next person steps in and fills that void. It’s a matter of that contagious feeling that trickles into the second unit that’s making us that much more valuable.”

Then there's always defense, the foundation of any solid NBA team and a focal point for the Sixers. Noel saw that as the difference-maker when subbing in and out. The Trail Blazers scored just two points in the final 1:56. 

"The second unit goes there and does a great job guarding the yard, not letting up easy baskets," Noel said. "The offensive side is fluid motion. Guys get shots, pick-and-roll, it opens up open threes for guys, driving lines, pump fakes, it’s a great unity."

Embiid liked what he saw from a distance. He will not travel with the team to their game on Saturday against the Hawks in Atlanta. 

"I’m just happy we’ve been closing out games, and the main thing I’m really happy [about] is they’ve been able to do it without me," he said. "That’s going to give us a lot of confidence when I’m missing back-to-backs. My teammates are going to have more confidence to come in and play the same way."

Joel Embiid feels 'great' after injury scare to left knee

Joel Embiid feels 'great' after injury scare to left knee

Of the nearly 20,000 people in the Wells Fargo Center on Friday night, Joel Embiid was seemingly the least concerned when he came down and injured his left knee. 

Fans held their breath and the Sixers looked on anxiously as the standout big man got up in visible discomfort and limped off the court (see highlights). Embiid, however, wasn’t worried. 

“I knew it was OK. I just landed the wrong way,” he said after the Sixers' 93-92 win over the Trail Blazers (see Instant Replay). “I’m great. The knee’s fine. They did an MRI and stuff, everything looked good.”

Embiid ran off the court on his own, was diagnosed with a left knee contusion and was cleared to return to the game. He aggravated his knee again driving to the basket and this time, the team held him out to be careful.

“The review is that he hyperextended his left knee,” head coach Brett Brown said. “There was a minor tweak again, and for precautionary reasons only, the doctors did not allow him to return. There will be more information given as we know it. But quickly, that's what we know.”

Embiid understood the team’s decision to sideline him for the final 8:50 while the Sixers went on a comeback run (see feature highlight). He still finished the game with an 18-point, 10-rebound double-double, five assists and four blocks in only 22 minutes.

“Obviously those guys, the front office, they care about my future, so they just shut it down,” Embiid said. “But I was fine.”

Embiid will not travel to Atlanta for Saturday’s game against the Hawks (pre-scheduled rest). He expects to be available for Tuesday’s home matchup against the Clippers. 

"You know how tough he is," Nerlens Noel said. "If it isn’t anything serious, he’ll be right back. At the end of the game, he was telling me was he was feeling great and there was no pain. He wanted to come back in the game … he’s a trooper. He always gives it his all and always plays hard."

Injuries to any player are worrisome, especially a franchise centerpiece with two years of rehab (foot) behind him. The Sixers have been methodical and cautious with his playing time. Embiid is on a 28-minute restriction and can play in only one game of a back-to-back series. 

The same player who is so closely watched, though, also plays with sky-high energy that doesn’t have a brake pedal. 

“You're concerned,” Brown said of seeing Embiid get injured. “It's clear to all of us that he plays with such reckless abandon. I think that we're all going to be seeing this and feeling this regularly. From flying into stands to stalking somebody in the open court to block a shot to the collision he often is in trying to draw fouls. That's just who he is. 

“I think that as he just plays more basketball and continues to grow, to not necessarily avoid those situations, just to perhaps manage them a little bit more. Right now, he's just a young guy that's just playing that doesn't know what he doesn't know and has a fearless approach underneath all that attitude.”

Fearless is an accurate description considering Embiid's trouble-free reaction to the awkward way his leg bent (he hadn’t seen a replay). 

“I kind of had that in college, too,” he said. “I think I’m flexible, so it’s supposed to happen.”