Covington, Sixers bounce back despite Superman’s big night


By: Jesse Larch, Sports Talk Philly editor 

Dwight Howard went off for 30 points on Tuesday night but Robert Covington's hot touch and suffocating defense sparked the Sixers to a 128-114 win in the Queen City.

The Hornets and Sixers traded buckets to open the contest before a Dario Saric gave the Sixers their first lead of the game at 7-4. 

It was a rough start for Joel Embiid, who missed his first three field goal attempts and saw his only points int he first quarter come from the free throw line.

Embiid's counterpart Dwight Howard deserves credit for taking Embiid off of his game early. Howard was posted up by Embiid, but held his grown and blocked Embiid's attempt on the turnaround jumper. On a following possession Embiid tried to shake Howard but when Embiid made his move Howard knocked the ball lose and forced a turnover. 

Howard led the Hornets with six points and five rebounds in the first quarter. Marvin Williams also scored six. 

The Sixers got a nice boost from the bench in the first quarter with Embiid struggling to get going, and it was T.J. McConnell who used a couple of key assists to turn the tide in the Sixers favor. First McConnell found Ben Simmons for a alley-oop that helped energize the team, then McConnell intercepted an errant Charotte pass and fired a quick pass to Ersan Ilyasova on the block for an easy lay in and a 24-23 lead. 

J.J. Redick put the exclamation on the quarter by drilling an off-balance corner three as time expired int he quarter. The Sixers led 32-29 after one. 

The two teams failed to separate from one another in a first half that featured eight ties and nine lead changes. 

Robert Covington shifted the momentum with great effort on both ends of the court. Covington managed to get a finish in tight as the shot clock expired, then hustled back on defense to block a Michael Kidd-Gilchrist shot with authority before sprinting to the corner to get a hand in Marvin Williams's face to force a missed three. Kidd-Gilchrist was unhappy with getting blocked and tossed to the floor by Covington. Kidd-Gilchrist earned a double technical and an ejected from the game after the play.

The play sparked a Sixers run that included nine consecutive made field goals.

The Sixers used a crafty inbound play to close the half and Ben Simmons found a plunging T.J. McConnell for a lay up, but they left too much time on the clock and the Hornets moved the ball up to Dwight Howard of all people who knocked down an uncontested three-pointer just before the buzzer. It was the sixth three-point field goal of Dwight Howard's 14-year career, and his first since January 23, 2015 when he was a member of the Houston Rockets -  a whopping 1,138 days apart. 

The Sixers took a 71-59 lead into the half. J.J. Redick all players with 14 first half points. Ben Simmons (12) and Dario Saric (11) also reached double figures in the first two quarters. Dwight Howard led the way for Charlotte with 11 points and five rebounds.  The Sixers led by as much as 16 in the first half. 

Howard picked up where he left off in the second half, scoring Charlotte's first five points out of the break. 

Joel Embiid continued to struggle at the start of the second half, picking up three fouls almost immediately, including a technical foul after he was mauled in the paint and did not get a call. It was the fourth technical foul dished out in the game, occurring just minutes into the third quarter. 

After Embiid left the Sixers once again got a pick-me-up from Robert Covington. Covington drew contact and wisely threw the ball up and managed to turn two at the line into a three-point play. On the next possession the Covington drilled a three. 

Covington finished with nine in the quarter and the Sixers took a 101-91 lead into the final quarter.

Embiid seemed to finally get going at the start of the fourth. Embiid deposited an easy bucket at the end of the fourth quarter to reach double figures, and then opened up the fourth with another field goal to get the Sixers off to a good start in the final frame. 

Embiid would draw Kemba Walker on one defensive possession, and Walker hit a nasty stepback over Embiid that caused Embiid to nearly topple over. Not to be outdone, Embiid hit a stepback of his own on the next possession and promptly shushed the crowd. Embiid scored six points in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter. 

With Embiid getting hot late, the Sixers rolled through the fourth quarter and Charlotte head coach Steve Clifford emptied the bench with over three minutes remaining in the game after the Sixers seized control of the game. 

The Sixers won by a score of 128-114 and did not surrender the lead once in the second half.

Robert Covington led the way on both ends for the Sixers, scoring a team-high 22 points with four rebounds, two assists, one steal, and two blocks. It was Covington's first 20-point scoring effort since December, 2 against Detroit.

Defensively, Covington shut down Charlotte's two-time All Star point guard Kemba Walker. Walker shot 1-of-9 from the floor, with his lone field goal coming against Joel Embiid. Walker scored 31 points when the two teams met four days ago, but Covington helped limit him to just five points on Tuesday night. 

Six other Sixers reached double figures. Dario Saric scored 19, Joel Embiid scored 18 with eight of them coming in the fourth quarter. Ben Simmons had 16 points to go with 13 assists and eight rebounds and J.J. Redick scored 14. Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova both added 11 points off of the bench. 

Dwight Howard was high-man in the game with 30 points. Nicolas Batum (12), Treveon Graham (12), Marvin Williams (11), Frank Kaminsky (11), and Jeremy Lamb (10) also reached double figures for Charlotte. 

The Sixers out-rebounded the Hornets 44-33 and only turned the ball over five times in the second half after having nine turnovers in the first half. The Sixers assisted on 35 of 50 field goals. As a team, the Sixers shot 57.5% from the field, including a staggering 48.5% from beyond the arc. 

The Sixers play again Thursday when they visit the Miami Heat.