Playing on a team with two young superstars — Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons — and a long-time veteran like J.J. Redick, Robert Covington has gone a bit under-the-radar for the Philadelphia 76ers this season.
On Friday against the Brooklyn Nets, though, Covington basked in the limelight of a clutch last-minute 3-pointer — a huge shot with 36 seconds left to give the 76ers a one-point lead in a game they won, 120-116.
Monday, Covington gets another favorable matchup with the Charlotte Hornets coming to town.
“It was a broken play on their end, and they swung it to me for a wide-open 3,” Covington said after the win. “I got the ball laced up the way I normally do, just went from there. Let it fly.”
Not only does Covington get a prime matchup versus a team against which he’s scored 38 points on 12-for-21 shooting this season, but a reeling Hornets squad that has lost six of eight despite three 30-point games from Dwight Howard.
Charlotte’s latest loss, a 124-101 defeat at Madison Square Garden to the lowly New York Knicks on Saturday, might be its worst of the season.
“It seems like they were making lots of shots tonight,” Howard told reporters after the game. “There are gonna be nights like that. I didn’t think it was going to be that bad, but it was a tough one for us. We are playing pretty good as of late, but tonight we just laid an egg.”
If one team can’t afford to lay an egg these days, it’s the 76ers. Philadelphia is in a heated five-way battle for the coveted third seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race, where just 3 1/2 games separate the current third-place Cleveland Cavaliers from the eighth-place Miami Heat.
Having finally reeled off back-to-back wins since the first two days of March, Philadelphia is starting to regain its footing. It’s won three of four, and with games against Charlotte, Memphis (recent losers of 19 straight games) and Orlando over the next week, the 76ers could gain some momentum heading into the season’s final stretch.
“It’s important to get any win we can right now,” Simmons said. “We want to get home court advantage. We have to take care of business, no matter who we play.”
For the 76ers, that begins — and ends — in the fourth quarter. Against the Nets, the 76ers could’ve wilted when they found themselves down three with two minutes left. Instead, they hit four crucial free throws down the stretch to provide the final margin in a game they needed to win.
“Our guys have been quite exceptional in fourth periods. Sometimes you hate arriving at the fourth period the way that we did, but I thought we executed quite well offensively, especially in the fourth tonight.”
After their matchup in Philadelphia, the Hornets (30-40) head to Brooklyn for a game on Wednesday before returning home for a game against the similarly struggling Grizzlies. Charlotte is currently in the middle of a stretch of five road games in 11 days.