NEW ORLEANS – Here are my key takeaways and “best” and “worst” awards from the 76ers’ 131-124 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday night at the Smoothie King Center.
— The Sixers can’t get a break in regards to remaining healthy. Once again, Joel Embiid was sidelined. This time, the center missed the game due to back tightness he’s been experiencing since Thursday. Meanwhile, the Sixers noted that Robert Covington, who missed the matchup with a lower-back contusion, could also miss Tuesday’s game at the Minnesota Timberwolves, and T.J. McConnell is still day to day with a left shoulder injury.
— Trevor Booker had another solid game. The reserve power, whom the Sixers acquired Thursday in a trade with the Brooklyn Nets, had 16 points, nine rebounds and one blocked shots in 24 minutes, 41 seconds of action. That came after he finished with 12 points, eight rebounds, two assists and one block in his Sixers’ debut on Saturday.
— The Sixers are from the impressive squad they were a couple of weeks ago. Maybe that has a lot to do with the mounting injuries. However, they can’t close out games or make key defensive stops. Sunday’s matchup was just another example of it.
— Even in this loss, Ben Simmons quieted some of the critics he had in Louisiana. The Sixers point guard wasn’t as popular as one would imagine during his lone season at LSU. Some fans even booed when he was introduced during Sunday’s player introductions. However, they didn’t have a lot negative to say after he finished with 27 points, 10 assists, five rebounds, five turnovers and one block.
— The Jrue Holiday trade to the Pelicans during the 2013 NBA draft doesn’t look so great right about now. The Sixers acquired Nerlens Noel, then a Pelicans draft pick, in the deal. Noel is no longer a Sixer. However, Holiday torched his former team for a season-high 34 points while making 5 of 8 three-pointers. And get this, he did it as a shooting guard, meaning he and Simmons could co-exist.
‘Best’ and ‘Worst’ awards
— Best performance: This was a tough one, because of Holiday’s 34 points and Anthony Davis’ all-around dominance. But I’m giving this award to Rajon Rondo. The Pelicans point guard finished with 13 points and a game-high 18 assists. Not known for his shooting, he managed to make 5 of 7 attempts – including making one of his two three-point tries.
— Worst performance: This was another tough one, but it goes to Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. He failed to make a solid impression while starting in place of Covington at small forward. He finished with four points on 2-for-10 shooting while missing all four of his three-pointers.
— Best defensive performance: Now, this one was easy. Davis gets this after blocking five shots. The Pelicans power forward also recorded a steal.
— Worst statistic: This goes to the Sixers’ 17 turnovers, which led to 22 points for New Orleans.
— Best statistic: For the second consecutive night, I have to give this to the Sixers’ foul shooting. They made 27 of 30 for 90 percent after making all 13 of their foul shots on Saturday.
— Worst of the worst: This goes to a Sixers performance during what turned out to be a game-defining 21-5 run by the Pelicans. The Sixers were up 103-96 after JJ Redick made three consecutive foul shots with 9 minutes, 47 seconds remaining. After giving New Orleans a basket on a goaltending violation, the Sixers had an unforced turnover. Then they went on miss three of their next four shots. That combined with an ability to make defensive stops led to their trailing 117-108 with 6:01 left.