Sixers overcome poor first half to defeat Kings
Henry Sims helps defense contain Kings' DeMarcus Cousins as the Sixers rally for the victory.
IT LOOKED as though his sitting streak would reach four straight after not getting a minute in the first half. If that had happened, Henry Sims wouldn't have like it, but he wouldn't have complained. Lately, 76ers coach Brett Brown has been dividing Sims' normal minutes to newcomer Thomas Robinson and Furkan Aldemire. Those two were Brown's choices for the first half again last night against the Sacramento Kings.
But Nerlens Noel was getting little help in trying to stop the Kings' beast of a center, DeMarcus Cousins, who totaled 22 points and 15 rebounds in the first half, when the Kings scored 42 in the second quarter to build a 10-point lead.
Aldemir is nowhere near strong enough to help on Cousins, let alone guard him by himself, and Robinson wasn't faring well to that point, either.
So Brown gave Sims a shot in the third. He had a couple of big baskets and two rebounds during his 3-minute run and continued to play extremely well in the fourth to help the Sixers come back from an 18-point deficit and beat the Kings, 114-107, and improve to 15-50.
Cousins did finish with a monster of a night, finishing with 39 points and 24 rebounds, a season high. With Sims bothering him for most of the fourth quarter, Cousins hit only two field goals in eight attempts.
Sims finished playing 11 minutes, 36 seconds, compiling eight points and four rebounds. It was more his toughness against Cousins that stood out, though.
"That's correct," Brown said, when asked whether the original plan was to sit Sims again. "It's one of those things where you feel a game, and when we were so poor in that first half and we needed stability defensively and a strong matchup on DeMarcus . . .
"Henry Sims sat there and sat there for the past three games. To be able to then put him in a game and be able to perform the way he did, I think it just speaks volumes about him, and I think it's a really great example for our young guys to see what Henry still does, and is ready when he's called upon."
Brown could have been looking for anyone after a second quarter in which the Kings missed only five of 19 shots in scoring those 42 points. A seven-point first-quarter lead for the Sixers became a 13-point deficit at the half.
The Sixers, however, responded in the third, mainly because of their subs. Ish Smith (10 points, nine assists) had four points and five deals in the third, while Jerami Grant, Hollis Thompson and Sims provided much-needed energy during a 37-18 quarter by the Sixers.
"I just go in and do my job - play defense, make open shots, run the floor and rebound," Sims said. "I talked to Brown, and it [sitting] was nothing that I was doing wrong, so I just went and did the same things that I've always done that got me to this point.
"I had to neutralize DeMarcus, even though he had 100 and 100," Sims joked. "He's a magnificent player, a beast down there. We just had to neutralize him for a few possessions, try to cut out his touches, cut out his clean looks. I think it helped us out in the long run."
Help was certainly needed. Noel, who played a solid game against the much stronger Cousins and finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds, simply got manhandled for much of the night. While his coach knew help was needed, he also knew Noel needs to go through tough nights like that to learn a valuable lesson.
"I think it's tilted on [the fact] he's going to have to figure it out," Brown said of Noel. "I lean on trying to wind him up and just do it harder, better, smarter. Some of it, you step back and you say at this stage and age of Nerlens' career, he needs some help with DeMarcus. I thought in the second half, he did a much better job. I will sort of bite my lip and let stuff go, so that he can take it on the chin from time to time and learn how to navigate through this."
As dominating as Cousins was, the Sixers' offensive damage was well divided. Robert Covington led them with 24 points, which included six three-pointers. Grant scored 13 points, and Luc Mbah a Moute, JaKarr Sampson and Thompson also scored 10 each. Robinson continued his impressive play with 11 rebounds in 20 minutes.
"That first half was as poor a defensive half as we've had this year," Brown said. "It's a complete misrepresentation of who we are. That's what we talked about at halftime.
"I give them credit. We dug ourselves a hole through a lot of quick, poor shots, and they ran out of our misses. But to their credit, they found a way to get back in it in a big way. They [the Kings] had 42 points in the second period and had 43 in the second half. I thought that second group came in and played so well. They really did a good job."