Robert Covington recorded his second double-double of the month as the 76ers continued to roll, defeating the Dallas Mavericks 109-97 Sunday afternoon for their 14th straight win.
Covington was efficient in extended minutes, playing 34 minutes in total, as the scoring wing knocked down five of nine shots from the field, including three of six from deep, to pick up 15 points. He added ten rebounds to complete his seventh double-double of the season.
While Covington had a terrific night from the field, he did not start particularly well in the first quarter. He managed just one shot attempt in the first 12 minutes, which he did not connect on. That’s where the rest of the team picked up the offense in Covington’s absence. J.J. Redick and Ben Simmons paced the 76ers in the first quarter with six points each, as the pair did not connect on a single three pointer. They, instead, used the long two and the insider game to beat the Mavericks’ defense early.
Redick picked up a team-high 18 points on 6-14, while Simmons provided an additional 16 points, knocking down seven of his ten attempts from the field. Those numbers have been commonplace for Simmons over the last few months, as his shot selection drastically has improved as the season has progressed. In fact, over the last ten games, Simmons has connected on 64 percent of his shot attempts. His strong performances have moved Simmons into 11th this season in field goal percentage, jumping Lebron James.
Dorian Finney-Smith paced the Mavericks in the first quarter, as the second-year man out of Florida had seven points in the first 12 minutes. He would cool off for much of the rest of the game, as Finney-Smith produced just three points in the final three quarters.
After one quarter of play, the 76ers led the Mavericks 28-21.
The second quarter would become one a viewer could aptly title, “The Covington and Barnes Show” as the the two took over offensively for their respective teams. Barnes collected seven of his game-high 21 points in the second quarter, helping the Mavericks cut their deficit to just two points, 36-34, four minutes into the second quarter. Not to be outdone, Robert Covington would, soon after, connect for eight straight 76ers’ points as part of a team 14-0 run to extend the Philadelphia lead into double figures for the first time, 50-34. Covington connected on consecutive three balls as part of his run, and in the process, became just the second 76er to ever knock down 200 threes in a season. The other, 76ers’ record holder Kyle Korver, who hit 226 threes in 2004.
The 16 point lead would be reduced to 13 points by the quarter’s end, but the 76ers still managed to best Dallas by five in the second quarter, 33-28, to stretch their halftime lead to 61-48.
Redick shined out of the halftime break, as he connected for seven of the 76ers’ first nine points of the third quarter. This stretch run for Redick helped him get into double figures and take the team-high points lead for good in the game.
Beside Redick, however, the offense was stagnant coming out of the timeout, something Philadelphia is not accustomed to seeing from the 76ers during the winning streak. Outside of the three buckets from Redick, the 76ers were able to score just twice in over six minutes of play, as the Mavericks were able to shrink the deficit to within single digits, down nine, 72-63. Marco Bellinelli would then connect on consecutive trips down the court, picking up four of his 15 points off the bench, and the lead was back to 13, 76-63.
The 76ers would hold the Mavericks off the scoreboard for over two minutes after the four quick Bellinelli points, but would eventually surrender 13 points in the final three minutes of play to lose the third quarter, 28-24. Calling the third quarter against the Cavaliers an outlier, the 76ers have been masterful coming out of halftime at defensively shutting down the opposition and finding ways to create insurmountable leads heading into the fourth quarter of play. That was not the case Sunday afternoon, as the 76ers would go into the final quarter of play up just nine, 85-76.
The defensive lapse that ended the third quarter did not transition into the final quarter for the 76ers, as they shut down the Mavericks early in the frame. Philadelphia used a 10-2 run out of the gate to jump out to a 17 point lead. In fact, it took exactly four minutes for Dallas to record their second made basket of the fourth quarter.
After the Dennis Smith basket, the 76ers went right back into lockdown mode, holding the Mavericks off the board for an additional three minutes. The 76ers, however, didn’t extend their lead nearly as much as they’d have liked to, scoring just twice over that stretch, extending the lead to 19, 99-80, the largest on the afternoon.
Despite the Mavericks scoring 17 of the game’s last 27 points, the 76ers were able to hold on for their 14th consecutive victory, defeating the Dallas Mavericks 109-97.
The win gives the 76ers 50 victories in a season for the first time since the 2001 season, which ended in a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals. The 14th straight victory is tied for the longest streak in franchise history, as the last team to perform such a feat, the 1983 team, won the NBA Finals. The 76ers also locked up home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs with the win, snapping a 15 year drought. For the time being, the 76ers improve to a full game ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Standings. Each team has two games left to play in the regular season. The 76ers could clinch the three seed with one win and one Cavaliers lose or two wins.
The Cavaliers play the New York Knicks Monday night, while the 76ers are back in action Tuesday night, when they travel to Atlanta to take on the Hawks. Tip off is set for 7:30 p.m., and you can hear all the action on 97.5 The Fanatic!
-By Tyler Zulli, producer and contributor for www.975thefanatic.com