Game Recap: Rockets 116, 76ers 114
Despite a record-setting three-point performance, the 76ers (0-17) again found themselves unable to deliver a closing push. The Houston Rockets (6-10), behind James Harden’s 50-point performance, managed to sneak out of Toyota Center with a 116-114 win. With the defeat, the Sixers have now lost an NBA-record 27 consecutive games, a streak that dates back to their tenth-to-last game a season ago.
The Sixers, needing to rely on smaller personnel groupings with Nerlens Noel out, got a big boost from the starting backcourt combination of Robert Covington and Isaiah Canaan. Covington established a new career-high with 28 points, and matched his personal-best with six three-pointers. He also set a career-high with eight steals. Canaan, meanwhile, drained a season-best tying 23 points. Jerami Grant was a factor too, as his 18 points tied a career-high. In all, the Sixers teed off on 16 triples, which had never been done before in franchise history.
Harden, however, had the final say. Last year’s league leader in total points, he helped the Rockets erase a 104-97 deficit with 6:41 to play in the fourth quarter by scoring 12 points amidst Houston’s game-changing 15-2 surge. The 50-point showing was the third in the three-time All-Star’s career. He went 14-28 from the field overall, and 6-12 from outside the arc. He also converted 16 of his 20 free throw attempts. Dwight Howard turned in his sixth double-double of the season, with 14 points and 13 rebounds.
Jerami Grant, back in the starting line-up after a one-game absence, erupted for 10 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter. He delivered back-to-back buckets that widened the Sixers’ margin to a game-high seven points, 104-97, with 6:41 remaining in regulation. Here’s the final field goal he deposited during that sequence.
Brett Brown Said - On the Sixers depending on smaller personnel to stake the team to a seven-point fourth-quarter lead in a game that ultimately ended in defeat:
“This [loss] was different because we clawed our way back. We did it with an unlikely crew. We went the smallest of small ball. To Jahlil [Okafor’s] credit, he said, ‘Don’t put me back in. These guys are rolling.’ It was a game that was a team effort to get back into the game, and we put the effort we needed to with a bunch of different looks.“
Facing the franchise that gave him his NBA break, Isaiah Canaan made his presence felt. In a determined effort, the the Murray State product, whom the Houston Rockets selected 34th overall in 2013 NBA Draft, dropped 23 points. On top of his four three-point baskets, Canaan also drew two And-1’s in the third quarter. He generated a dozen points in the period.
Canaan started for a second consecutive game; however, on Friday, he got the nod at point guard for the first time since the Sixers’ third outing of the season.
“We are sort of trying to figure out two bigs with Nerlens [Noel] and Jahlil [Okafor], trying to figure out who’s the point guard,” Brett Brown said before the game. “All that is a work in progress. I think that Isaiah has shown that, paired with Jah, you have another stretch-the-floor type of player on the floor.”
By hitting four triples, stretch the floor is exactly what Canaan helped do.
“I’m all about whatever they ask me to do,” said Canaan, who added that he was “looking forward” to confronting his old club. He began the season as a point guard, and was then moved to a back-up shooting guard role before returning to the starting line-up in the Sixers’ past two outings.
“I can do both,” Canaan said about assuming one and two-guard responsibilities. “The game is starting to come a lot easier to me. Coach is just trying to do the best he can to figure out the best chemistry, and I’m just doing as I’m asked to do. Whenever I’m called to do something, I try to do it the best I can.”
Canaan is averaging 17.8 points over his last four appearances.
Minutes before tip-off, the Sixers announced that Nerlens Noel would be held out of the game due to right knee soreness. He had been slated to start at power forward.
Prior to the game, Brett Brown spoke about the “unselfishness” Noel has displayed in going about his new positional assignment this season. The head coach has faith that Noel’s transition will pay off.
“Nerlens can influence a game in many different ways that aren’t called for him,” Brow said. “He’s an A-plus athlete. So what does that equal? Do you run the floor? Do you go after every offensive rebound? Do you start sneaking and playing behind Jahlil [Okafor]? Those things that can be controlled by Nerlens are the things we coach most.”
“I’m saying good things are going to come his way. And then, inevitably, our way. We will reap the benefits if he embraces that role. He’s fantastic.”
In addition to missing Friday’s game in Houston, Noel was also sidelined for back-to-back contests earlier this month, on November 9th and November 11th, due to wrist and right knee pain. He entered the weekend fourth on the team with 10.1 points per game, and first among all Sixers with 8.4 rebounds per game.
There were some positive developments on the injury front for the Sixers, as both Nik Stauskas and Richaun Holmes returned to action. Stauskas connected on a key three-pointer that fueled the Sixers’ fourth-quarter comeback efforts. He finished with four points (1-4 fg), two rebounds, three assists, and two steals in 15 minutes. His plus / minus rating was a team-best +17. Holmes notched four points and two rebounds in under 10 minutes.
Stauskas was held out of Monday’s second half in Minnesota, and all of Wednesday’s pairing with Boston because of a left knee sprain. Holmes hadn’t appeared since the Sixers’ November 9th match-up with Chicago. He was forced to sit out the past nine games with a right hamstring strain he sustained during pre-game warm-ups on November 11th, when the Sixers hosted the Toronto Raptors.
The Sixers will reach the final destination of their six-game, 10-day road trip, taking on the Memphis Grizzlies (9-8) at 7:00 PM EST at FedEx Forum. After a rocky 3-6 start to the season that featured a four-game losing streak, Memphis - a perennial contender in the competitive Western Conference - has reversed its fortunes, finding success during a difficult stretch of its schedule. In posting six wins in their last eight outings, the Grizzlies have defeated the likes of the Portland Trail Blazers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, and Dallas Mavericks. The veteran, bruising frontcourt tandem of All-Stars Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph continues to be a weapon for Memphis; the duo began the weekend averaging a combined 33.3 points and 17.0 rebounds per 36 minutes, and has produced a total of seven double-doubles this season. While Memphis had a relatively quiet off-season, the team did take care of its top priority, which was signing Gasol to an extension. He received a five-year max contract. Point guard Mike Conley leads the team with an average of 15.6 points and 6.4 assists per game.