By the time two Sixers players alleyoop dunked the same pass — the points went to All-Star Joel Embiid instead of Robert Covington, the assist to snubbed rookie Ben Simmons — the game against the Pelicans could have been called off and fans sent away to continue celebrating the city’s Super Bowl victory of last week. It was getting raucous in Wells Fargo Center and seconds later, after a Dario Saric 3-pointer, it was 23-4.
Ben Simmons lobs it up for Robert Covington.... and uhhh Joel Embiid dunks it down?! pic.twitter.com/vU2OTPwak4— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) February 10, 2018
In other words, you should have turned this one off and instead watched Dwyane Wade’s return to Miami. But the game went on.
New Orleans righted the ship with a super-aggressive Rajon Rondo, who totaled 9 assists in the first half, and, finally, some made shots by Nikola Mirotic. Anthony Davis had some slams thanks to Rondo and Mirotic passes, but missed most of his outside shots, including an air-balled 3-pointer he must have learned from cold-shooting Timothe Luwawu-Cabbarot.
AD finished with 14 points and 8 rebounds — this was as bad as he’s looked in quite some time.
DeAndre Liggins, an announced starter prior to Wednesday’s rain out in New Orleans, played himself on the floor after just 6 first half-minutes; he finished the night with 0 points, 5 rebounds and 2 steals in mop-up time. Old reliable Darius Miller helped finish the half alongside the other 4 starters, but he himself wasn’t exactly hot, making just 2 of 6 shots in the first half.
And then there’s Embiid. Oh, Embiid.
The big man was the determining factor in the first half, totaling a 20-point, 10-rebound night in just two quarters of play. His block on an attempted buzzer-beater by Mirotic resulted in the following:
Mirotic gotta stay in locker room for second half after this. pic.twitter.com/sL30tSmjjc— Rob Perez (@World_Wide_Wob) February 10, 2018
Embiid finished with 24 points and 16 rebounds. Saric had 24 points on 8 of 11 shooting and Simmons tallied 10 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists.
Things basically got worse in the second half and the 84-52 score after three quarters led to a lot of time to, well, write this story. It couldn’t end soon enough.
A couple of related questions came to mind:
- Does Rondo remain on the bench?
Rajon Rondo was a spark tonight as an attacker. He totaled 9 quick assists in the first half and, along with Nikola Mirotic, gave the team its only sustained offense. Rondo remains one of the most divisive characters in the NBA and may be the league’s best example of a “good stats, but...” guy in the league. Is the team better with him on the floor? With Cousins out for the rest of the year, his production and importance, whether as a starter or off the bench, hangs over this team that now misses its creative point center.
- Assuming Rondo goes to the bench, does Liggins or Miller become a difference-maker as a starter?
DeAndre Liggins got his first career start as a Pelican tonight and it did not go well, but I also don’t want to totally dismiss the guy for having a bad plus-minus. His minutes were alongside All-Star Anthony Davis, who missed practically every shot he took, and Jrue Holiday, who mostly stunk in the first half. Is that Liggins’ fault? Of course not! Give him some time and Liggins might give this team what it needs as a defensive-minded 3.
- Can this team make the playoffs?
Things aren’t looking so hot right now. The impact of Cousins’ injury cannot be understated. The importance of this season and the next few years, when considering the contracts of Cousins, Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Alvin Gentry and Dell Demps, left this team filled with equal parts dread and anxiousness already — now, it’s like living through a nightmare. Something always seems to go wrong, especially with injuries, and this one’s the worst. For the rest of this season, Mirotic and Miller will have to make shots, but nobody can recreate the offensive balance, explosiveness and general good feelings of Boogie’s adventures towards the hoop. Sure, he turned the ball over a lot, but his production is essentially unmatched.
- How interesting are the Mardi Gras jerseys, though?!
Finishing on a positive note, they’re pretty nice! Not crazy about the offset numbers, but, ah, hey... they’re pretty interesting!