Here are 10 observations from the Sixers’ thrilling 122-119 win over the Sacramento Kings on Monday night (see Instant Replay).
1. Let’s get this out of the way: the 6 p.m. start time just threw off the entire beginning of the game. I get that the Sixers were squeezing this matchup in with Sacramento because of the Nov. 30 postponement and tried to be accommodating by pushing tip-off up an hour for the Kings, who are near the end of a now eight-game road trip.
However, all the time change really accomplished was messing up players’ normal routines and creating pockets of empty seats until fans fighting through rush hour were able to fill them.
2. One person not affected by the early start was DeMarcus Cousins, although that likely had more to do with Joel Embiid being sidelined with a left knee contusion (see story).
Cousins jumped all over the Sixers with 18 of his 46 points in the first quarter. He drove to the basket, hit midrange jumpers and even nailed a couple three-pointers as he jump-started his huge night. Cousins added 15 rebounds and five assists, but he eventually fouled out on a weak call, much to the delight of the Sixers' faithful.
3. The Sixers’ comeback was important on two fronts. First, it helped the team take another step toward legitimacy in this long rebuilding process, especially when you throw in the fact that Embiid was on the bench in street clothes.
Secondly, it marked another loss on the Kings’ record, which is big because the Sixers have the right to swap first-round pick position with Sacramento if the pick falls in the top 10. The Sixers entered Monday with the fifth-worst record in the league while the Kings had the 10th-worst mark.
4. Say what you want about Robert Covington, but the guy goes out and balls hard every night. He shot two airballs in the first quarter, which brought the boo birds his way. However, the forward shrugged it off and turned up the intensity on both ends. Covington finished the night with 23 points on 8 of 16 shooting, 10 rebounds, four steals and several hustle plays that don’t show up on the stat sheet.
5. After getting dominated, 49-15, in Sunday’s loss to the Chicago Bulls, the Sixers’ reserves battled back in this one. They outscored the Kings’ bench, 47-44, and helped spark the comeback.
6. Cousins wasn’t the lone Kings big man to do damage against the Sixers. Willie Cauley-Stein scored a season-high 17 points on 8 of 10 shooting with most of those makes coming on dunks.
7. Speaking of big men, Jahlil Okafor returned to action after not appearing in the previous four games. He recorded 15 points on 5 of 11 from the field, four rebounds and two assists in 22:38 of playing time. Nerlens Noel came off the bench to add 12 points on a perfect 5 for 5 shooting, three boards, two assists, three steals and one block in 24:25.
8. A major reason the Sixers were able to rally on Monday was that they started taking better care of the ball. They committed eight turnovers in the first quarter alone but they finished the night with 14 giveaways.
9. Sixers legend and Hall of Famer, Allen Iverson, appeared on the court a half hour before tip-off to do a Twitter Q&A with in-arena host Christian Crosby. Among the slew of topics discussed were whether he has joined the “raise the cat” frenzy, his all-time favorite sneakers besides his own, which player he would have loved to play with during his career (Shaquille O’Neal) and his relationship with the fans.
“Other than Michael Jordan in Chicago, I don’t think there is another athlete that has the type of relationship I have with these fans,” Iverson said. “They let me make my mistakes, my ups, my downs. They always supported me and I love them for that. It’s like no other.”
10. Shoutout to Sixers mascot Franklin for nailing a backward half-court shot during a timeout. He celebrated by running around like, well, a dog and nearly bumped into Matt Barnes. When Franklin turned around to confront Barnes, the veteran put his hands up to explain that he didn’t want any problems. When you’re reportedly about to turn yourself in for allegedly choking a woman at a nightclub, you likely don’t want to add cruelty to animals on top.