Seltzer's Notebook | One for the Fans, State of Defense
Doing It For the Fans
Brett Brown has never been one to hide his appreciation and affectionate feelings for the Sixers’ fan base. This was again the case Wednesday, following his team’s 119-109 victory over the Atlanta Hawks.
First win in front of the home crowd tonight.
Brett Brown afterwards on sharin in the groove: pic.twitter.com/dJEEKddAwb
— Brian Seltzer (@brianseltzer) November 2, 2017
In The Center’s post-game press conference area just outside the Sixers’ locker room, several of Wednesday’s key contributors chimed in with similar sentiments. The topic seemed to be front of mind, given that the evening marked the club’s first win of the season in South Philadelphia.
“It’s great to have our first home win, especially against a team like [Atlanta],” said Ben Simmons, who diversely filled his stat line Wednesday with 19 points, 9 assists, and a career-best 13 rebounds. “We needed to get that win, but it’s always great to play in front of Philly fans.”
“It’s very inspiring,” Robert Covington said about playing at home. He topped the Sixers with 22 points Wednesday.
“Our other wins were on the road, but we are going to have to do it in front of our city, so that’s what tonight was about. We have another [home game] coming Friday, and we have to continue to build the rest of the season.”
Scratching the Surface
Robert Covington’s fingerprints were all over the Sixers’ explosive start Wednesday, as he assumed a key role in helping the team build a standing ovation-worthy 25-8 lead less than 7 minutes into the game. During that stretch, the swing man nailed a 19-foot pull-up jumper and the first of his 6 3-pointers, while handing out 3 assists as well.
Although Covington and the Sixers had to withstand a serious comeback push from the Atlanta Hawks, he seemed to be satisfied and encouraged by the end result - the group’s second double-digit win of the season, and third consecutive triumph overall.
In speaking with Sixers Radio Network announcer Tom McGinnis afterwards, Covington indicated his belief that the Sixers are just now scratching the surface in respect to their collective potential.
“Man, we’re not even close to what we can do - it’s still in the beginning phases of everything,” he said. “The good thing about it is, it’s still early. There’s still a lot of basketball to be played, and man, when we lock in, and we get really going, this team could be very, very, very, very special.”
Covington’s 20-point showing Wednesday was his third in eight game. With 6 triples, he became just the third player this season - along with Houston’s Ryan Anderson, and Golden State’s Steph Curry - to twice hit that many threes in a game.
Defense Fueling Momentum
During his regular pre-game meeting with reporters, Brett Brown said Wednesday that he felt the Sixers’ defense was the source of much of the momentum the team generated by sweeping its two-game Texas road trip.
The club stood tall on that side of the floor again Wednesday, limiting the Atlanta Hawks to 16 points in the final frame. Brown thought that the adjustments the Sixers made in pick-and-roll coverages, plus extra attention paid to Hawks’ guard Dennis Schroder, made the difference.
“By and large, it’s just sitting in a stance, playing a little bit lower as a group, and at whatever point you guys decide we’re going to guard, we’re going to win, because our offense and sharing’s not too bad,” Brown said. “They zoomed in. In the fourth period, our defense was as good as our offense.”
As of Thursday morning, the Sixers ranked 0.2 points behind the Indiana Pacers for 15th in defensive rating (104.2). Their 8.7 steals per 100 possessions were eighth-best in the NBA, as was the squad’s 51.2 rebounding percentage.