DENVER - In his 60 games as a 76er, Robert Covington has started 40 of them. Sometimes it appears he prefers being the starter, as was the case Tuesday night when he scored a team-high 21 points and made 5-of-6 three pointers in a loss at Sacramento.
Last night in Denver, with Jason Richardson back in the starting lineup, Covington went back to the bench. His play didn't lessen a bit, however, as he poured in 25 points to lead the Sixers (18-54) to a 99-85 in over the Denver Nuggets to close out their three game, west coast swing with their lone win and in doing so snapped a 16-game road losing streak. The Sixers clinched the win by outscoring the Nuggets 27-9 in the fourth quarter.
In a back and forth game all night, Covington seemed to hit big shots all night, with some of his six three-pointers among them. And at the defensive end, the team got a huge lift from Nerlens Noel and Jerami Grant, who combined to block nine shots.
"I think over my years, in general, some people just like coming off the bench or starting," said coach Brett Brown. "We've gone back and forth on people who prefer different things. Perhaps Robert's one of those guys that feels like he can get into the game sooner if he starts. I'm not sure.
"They have that length that they were switching a lot and we were having a hard time going by anybody. I didn't feel like our legs were with us to run, to turn it into more of a track meet. So (Covington's) long ball, just creating some way to score points on the board catches people off guard. Sometimes he rises up and people aren't expecting him to shoot with that type of range or that soon. You really needed his points tonight."
After giving up 30 points in the third quarter, the Sixers put the real clamps on the Nuggets in the fourth when Denver shot just 4-for-22 in scoring those nine points.
"Just the realization that if you really want to win on the road in the NBA, you have to guard, you have to take care of the ball and you can't go whacking people and sending them to the free throw line," said Brown. "We really tried to challenge our point guard in particular. To their credit, to come back and hold them to nine points and close out a road game, that's a good effort."
Noel had another solid showing with 14 points, 15 rebounds four steals and four blocks. Isaiah Canaan was the only other Sixer in double figures with 15.
Ty Lawson paced Denver (27-45) with 19 points, while Wilson Chandler posted 16 and Jameer Nelson 12.
"People have to really start talking about him for rookie of the year," said Brown of Noel. "You don't just repetitively bang out these types of performances and produce the numbers that he is producing. He is a complete game-changer. He is a complete defensive presence when he's lurking to block shots. He just continues to improve at this time of year. He keeps moving up the food chain and heading in the direction that we're all so thrilled about."