3-2!! 3-2!! Sixers Go Over .500 With Win in New Orleans

3-2!! 3-2!! Sixers Go Over .500 With Win in New Orleans

Sooo much better than last year. Five games in last season, the
Philadelphia 76ers were just picking up their first win—a home victory
against the mediocre Pacers—on their way to starting the season 3-13, a
hole it took the whole season to crawl out of. Now, five games into the
'11-'12 season, we already have our third win—all won on the road, all
coming from behind, all with our young guys showing why they just might
be capable of leading this franchise back to something vaguely
resembling prominence. It's a pretty nice thing.

Tonight was
looking dangerously like a repeat performance of the Sixers'
disappointing performance in Utah, as the Hornets jumped out to an early
double-digit lead and seemed to be keeping the Sixers at arms' length
for much of the second half, showing impressive fight despite a somewhat
talent-depleted roster. But thanks to some awesome defensive tightening
in the fourth quarter, and some absolutely huge late-game shots from
Jrue Holiday, the Sixers were finally able to grab the lead and pull
away late, holding on for the 101-93 victory.

There were a number of players who stepped up for the Sixers, led
perhaps by Evan Turner of the bench. The Extraterrestrial started out
miserably, missing open looks and turning the ball over (echoing his season-worst
performance in NO last year), but found a groove late in second quarter
that continued into the second half and breathed life back into the
lethargic Sixers. Evan ended with 21 points on 8-12 shooting, with six
boards and four dimes, easily his best game of the season and probably
his second best as a Sixer. After two back-to-back bum games, it's
exactly what he (and we) needed to reinforce that he is still ahead of
where he was last season.

And once again, Spencer F'ing Hawes. Spence saw his streak of
double-digit rebound games finally snapped, but he still grabbed seven,
scored 17 and even picked up a season-high four blocks. The Unibrow
entered this game as the league leader in FG% with his 67.6%, and though
it might drop a few tenths after going 8-12 tonight, we're certainly
not complaining. The improvement is real—Hawes has become absolutely
automatic from 18 feet, to the point that even on the one such shot he
missed (with 90 seconds to go), Andre Iguodala was able to swoop in for
an offensive rebound because nobody bothered to box out. He might come
back to earth a little in future weeks as defenses start to adjust to
his newly proven skill set, but he's proving why with certain
high-upside players, you have to hang on a little more than feels right,
just in case they suddenly start to figure it out.

Still, the game ball tonight has to go to one Jrue Holiday. Like Evan,
the Damaja started the night out slow, looking off on his jumper, but
boy did he ever end strong. Jrue hit a couple gigantic threes in the
fourth to give the Sixers the separation from the Hornets they'd been
scrapping for all game, and another with under a minute left that was
just barely ruled a two, ending with a season-high 24 points, along with
eight assists and zero turnovers. On a team that has so badly craved a
closer in recent years, Jrue is starting to present a pretty convincing
case that the guy's been there all along, and if Coach Collins continues
to put the ball in Andre Iguodala's hands in the final seconds, he's
gonna have a lot of explaining to do in his post-game press-conferences.

It wasn't all wine and roses for the Sixers—'Dre's hot shooting start
came crashing down to the mean with his 2-10 night (0-4 from deep), and
Jodie Meeks' shot continues to be totally M.I.A., as he went 1-5,
missing some open looks that really sapped the team's momentum.
Meanwhile, Hornets lead scorer Eric Gordon shredded the team's defense in the first quarter,
and finished with 22 points, though the Sixers' tight wing D in the
second half at least dictated that he needed 22 shots to do so. But the
Sixers protected the ball (just eight TOs total), were able to get stops
late, and so thoroughly outplayed the Hornets' bench (41 points to 26)
that they were able to overcome the strong performances from Gordon,
power forward Carl Landry (21 points, 8 boards) and point guard Jarret
Jack (19 points, 11 assists). As Zumoff said, it'll be a recurring theme
this season.

Ultimately, the Sixers were the better team in four of their five road
games, and won three of them—pretty acceptable, all told. While 3-2
isn't exactly winning a championship, it's still a very good start for
the Liberty Ballers, who now get to play their first game in Philly this
year (against the Pistons on Friday, the latest first home game of any
team) as a winning ballclub. A small victory, and one we hope to add to
as the season progresses, and Holiday, Turner, Hawes and the rest of the
guys try to prove that they're capable of growing into a legit Eastern
Conference power. We can't wait to root 'em on at the WFC this Friday.
Marreese Who?

Flyers gearing up for first outdoor game since 2012

Flyers gearing up for first outdoor game since 2012

It’s been five years since the Flyers played an NHL game outdoors: the 2012 Winter Classic.

Seems like yesterday, doesn’t it?

Citizens Bank Park. The day after New Year’s. Sun beating down amid 40-degree temperatures and the game being moved back to 3:30 p.m. to assure better ice.

Well, it’s going to happen again Saturday night at Heinz Field as the Flyers meet the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL’s Stadium Series.

Dave Hakstol’s team will practice Thursday morning at Skate Zone, fly to Pittsburgh, then practice Friday at 5 p.m. on the outdoor ice.

Seven current Flyers played in the 2012 Winter Classic: Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier, Matt Read, Brayden Schenn and Michael Del Zotto, who played for the Rangers.

“It was kinda fun,” Del Zotto said this week. “Wasn’t that when [Danny] Briere had that penalty shot at the end? How much time was left? Couple seconds?”

More than that. There were 19.6 ticks left when Briere was foiled by Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist in a 3-2 loss, in which Mike Rupp, of all players, scored twice on Sergei Bobrovsky.

Even worse, the Flyers blew an early 2-0 lead.

“It was a ton of fun, just awesome,” Del Zotto recalled. “You try not to get too hyped up in the moment. That one, our first one and one of the first they had done. So much fun. It bring you back to your roots.

“For me, growing up, I had a backyard rink. I remember it was like yesterday being on that thing. All day every day I had a chance. But we also have to realize it’s a huge game for us. It’s a four-point game. Although it is outdoors or indoors, we need those points.”

Things could be rather wet. For starters, the temperature in Pittsburgh is supposed to hit 77 degrees on Friday. That could severely affect the Penguins skate at 2:30, the Flyers practice later and their family skate, as well.

Then on Saturday, the temperature drops into the low 40s but not before some significant rain. When the Penguins hosted the Washington Capitals in the 2011 Winter Classic, it rained but the ice didn’t melt.

“I'm sure they will do the best they can to have it ready,” Del Zotto said. “Unless it is really cold, the ice is always going to be chippy playing outdoors

“It doesn’t matter what the ice conditions are because both teams are playing with it. It’s not an advantage or disadvantage for either team. Both have to deal with it.”

In all, there are 13 Flyers, who have participated in an outdoor game either in the NHL, AHL, Europe or in college, during their lifetime.

Most of them say the hardest thing to get used to is ocular – looking through the glass and not seeing the fans. It’s like playing in an open environment all around you without people.

“It’s a little bit different, but you get used to it,” Del Zotto said. “After the anthem, you kinda get used to it. From there on, the game is going on and the crowd, you zone them out. You don’t even hear them and just focus on the game.”

Eagles Mailbag: Restructuring Barwin, Allen Barbre, Jason Kelce's importance

Eagles Mailbag: Restructuring Barwin, Allen Barbre, Jason Kelce's importance

We answered half of your questions in the first mailbag this week (see story)

But there are plenty more to go. 

With free agency just around the corner, let's not waste any time jumping into today's questions: 

I don't think so. 

Yeah, moving on from Connor Barwin is going to be tough. He's a great guy and has been a tremendous asset in the community. His foundation is amazing. But on the field, his production dropped while his price tag soared. That's a problem. 

Barwin has said publicly that he'd be willing to take a pay cut to stay in Philly. He's a smart guy and knew there's no way the Eagles are going to keep him around with an $8.35 million cap hit, especially when they can save $7.75 million of that if they cut him. ... So maybe they would keep him at a reduced rate. There's logic in that, but it's time to move on. I don't think Barwin would really want to stay for the pay cut it would probably take. 

Right now, Barwin is blocking Vinny Curry from seeing significant playing time. And while Curry didn't have a good year in 2016, he's getting paid a lot, so it's time to see if he can live up to that contract. 

And for Barwin, while he loves Philly and has made this his home, he deserves to be in a defense that fits him better.

I'm a little surprised more haven't come already. To me, this likely means the Eagles are trying to exhaust any trade options first. Why cut a guy if you can get some kind of return, even a late-round or conditional pick? 

There's no real harm in waiting right now, and maybe the team will find a trade partner for one of their players on the chopping block. 

I always like these hypotheticals from Drew. Basically, I'd keep the youngest and most-talented players:

Carson Wentz, Fletcher Cox, Lane Johnson, Jordan Hicks, Malcolm Jenkins. 

Wentz, Cox and Johnson were pretty easy. Then I really struggled. Jenkins is the oldest guy on the list, but he's so important to the team. I left off Brandon Graham and Zach Ertz and Brandon Brooks and Jordan Matthews, which I'm not so sure about. This was harder than I anticipated. 

I guess you're talking about Allen Barbre's hamstring injury. Yeah, barring something I don't know about, he should be completely healed and ready to go. 

Here's something to think about, though: Barbre will be 33 when the 2017 season starts and I wouldn't put him down in pen as the starter at left guard next year. If Jason Kelce is still on the team, he'll be the center, but why not let Isaac Seumalo battle for the left guard job? 

If Seumalo wins the spot, then Barbre is still a relatively inexpensive and really good backup option. 

I honestly think Jason Kelce is better than most fans in this city think. People see him get blown up a few times in a year — really blown up — and think he's an awful player. He's not. No, he can't go 1-on-1 with nose tackles, but he's still great at getting downfield and into the second level. 

And then there's the importance of the center. I don't know exactly how important he is in terms of calling the shots on the line, but he didn't miss a single snap in 2016. I know cutting or trading Kelce would save significant cap space, but I wouldn't do it. The Eagles have shown they'll do whatever it takes to develop Wentz; I think keeping his veteran center for a second year would help.