Actually, It's Pronounced "Mill-e-wah-que": Sixers Take on Bucks to Move Above .500

Actually, It's Pronounced "Mill-e-wah-que": Sixers Take on Bucks to Move Above .500

Who's going to be starting at center tonight? That's the question that
should be on everyone's mind as the 2-2 Sixers host the 1-4 Bucks
tonight at the Wagon. In the team's first four games this season,
Spencer Hawes has not looked up to the 4-year, $20-million-dollar
contract he signed in the off-season, averaging just six points and five
rebounds in 30 minutes a game, while getting absolutely destroyed by
Andrea Bargnani and Dwight Howard on defense in the team's losses to the
Raptors and Magic.

Kwame Brown and Alexis Ajinca, the two ex-Bobcat bargain-basement
signings the team made in the off-season, are both options at the pivot,
but certainly neither are without their drawbacks, as Ajinca's offense
is predicated on his jumper, which proved erratic in the pre-season, and
as the team's primary backup, Brown has proven unable to stay out of
foul trouble. Meanwhile, Coach Collins has continued to appear
supportive of Hawes, insisting that he'll be find and saying he just
needs to "shake off a little rust from the off-season." (Of course, many
of us remember Hawes playing like this at times well into last season,
so we'll all be curious to see exactly what a truly rust-free Spence
looks like.)

Another area in flux for the Sixers is their positioning at the
wing. Hot off his 5-year / $45-million extension, Thaddeus Young has
started off the season on fire, averaging 18 points and 6 rebounds a
game on 54% shooting in just 28 minutes a game off the bench. In the
meantime, Andre Iguodala's shooting woes continue, going just 4 for 16
last night (including a cringe-worthy 0 for 5 from downtown, with only
one or two of them being even close) to bring his shooting average down
to 32% for the year. With Evan Turner off to a fairly decent start (10
points, 3 assists and 4 rebounds in 25 minutes a game, with only five
turnovers across the four contests), it's hard not to wonder if 'Dre
doesn't feel a tad bit superfluous on the team now, and should his
scoring struggles continue, we wouldn't be surprised to hear the trade
talk heat up again—maybe this time with the Spurs, who just lost
starting three Richard Jefferson for 2-3 months with a gimpy knee.

Two positions in which the Sixers do appear to be set so far,
however, are at the one and the four. For the latter, Elton Brand has
picked up where he left off last season as the team's Mr. Consistent,
scoring between 12 and 18 points and grabbing between 8 and 12 boards in
each of the team's games so far. And as we all knew (well, hoped) he
would, Jrue Holiday just continues to get better, scoring a career-high
33 points (and dishing out seven assists) against the
defensively-deficient Rockets last night. Most encouraging were the
couple key jumpers that The Damaja hit down the stretch to ice the game
for the Liberty Ballers—if for no other reason than because he was the
one who took them, and not Iguodala. "I'm just glad Coach trusts me with
the ball in my hands late," Jrue said after the game. "I've been
working hard my first two years here to gain that kind of trust, and
hopefully I showed him tonight that I deserve it." Word.

7:00 tip tonight from the Wells Fargo Center. A win tonight would
move the Sixers above .500 for the first time this season, a shaded
region that the Sixers hopefully plan on spending much of the year
within. At the very least, they appear off to a better start than they
were last year, when they dug themselves into a 3-13 hole it took them
till February to crawl out of. "It's totally different [this year],
absolutely," Elton said in an earlier press conference. "Last year, it
took a couple months for us to believe in each other, in Coach, in
ourselves...this year, we really think that we got this." Yeah, Elton,
we sure hope so. 41-41 just ain't gonna cut it this time around.

Commence the Justin Anderson era

Commence the Justin Anderson era

Last night, the Philadelphia 76ers came seconds away from not just their second straight win since their already shorthanded team was further decimated over the All-Star break, but their second straight pantsing of New York after what should've been an easy Knicks win. Down double-digits for most of the second half -- and trailing by 12 with just five minutes to go -- the Ballers battled back to take a one-point lead on a Jahlil Okafor hook shot with nine seconds to go. But Carmelo Anthony was unstoppable virtually all night, and he victimized Robert Covington at the buzzer with a baseline jumper that avenged the T.J. McConnell shot a couple months earlier. Final score: Knicks 110, 76ers 109. 

Hard to get mad at this L when you're just overwhelmed with love for everyone on the roster. Dario Saric continued his awesome February with 19-15-5 -- the first Sixers rookie to put up those numbers in a half-century -- even though his shot wasn't really falling (7-17 FG, 1-5 3PT). That's what's really remarkable about Dario's recent hot streak, and what separates it from, say, Nik Stasukas' impossibly scorching late 2016 -- he's averaging 20 a game (along with nine rebounds and three assists) over his last seven, and he's shooting over 50% for that span, but he's doing it while only hitting 31% from deep. The fact that he's scoring so prolifically without getting a lot of lucky bounces means it's not just an unsustainable fluke, and that Dario's gonna be a problem for defenses in this league for a long time. 

Speaking of Nik -- he had some embarrassing moments in this one, including a thunderously missed dunk and a thrown-away pass while leading a 3-on-1 break, but he redeemed himself with some big shots in the fourth quarter, and ended up with a nice 14 points on 5-9 shooting. It's his seventh game in a row scoring double digits -- all since moving back to the bench, which is particularly remarkable when you consider that in his 21 games before that as a starter, he only scored in double-digits five times. His starting/reserve splits for the season remain absolutely absurd, but if his NBA destiny is just to be an awesome seventh man for us, we'll certainly take it. 

And as much crap as Jahlil Okafor has gotten from Sixers fans the last few weeks -- few more than me -- as the unlucky child left behind in the Sixers' divorce with Nerlens Noel, I gotta say: He was awesome in this one. 28 points and ten rebounds, and even though the Knicks paraded to the rim early (Okafor-Saric frontcourt, yikes), Jahlil got stronger as the game went on both sides of the ball, in a way I don't ever remember seeing from him before. He saved a good deal of his damage for the fourth quarter, with 11 points, including two absolutely gigantic buckets late, including the hook on the Sixers' scattered final possession that could've been the game-winner. The Nerlens trade will never be justifiable, but if Jah can keep playing like this, it'll certainly take some of the sting out.

So much more to rave about in this one: T.J. McConnell was as clutch late as Jah, even hitting a rare three-pointer (just his second of 2017) to nearly become a repeat Knicks-killer. Covington couldn't handle Carmelo (37 points on 15-25 shooting) at really any point in this one -- thus putting him in good company with every other Sixers wing defender of the past decade -- and his own shot wasn't falling, but he still powered his way to 20 and 10, and had three steals, making it six straight games with at least that many, the longest such streak in the NBA this season. Sergio Rodriguez had about the worst game a point guard could have (2 points on 1-8 shooting, with just one assist and terrible defense), but he's just about the only Sixer you didn't want to hug after this one. 

And oh yeah, welcome aboard Justin Anderson. Our latest acquisition didn't get to do a ton for us in this one, playing just three minutes and attempting one shot (a badly missed corner three), but he had some eye-catching moments on defense, and gave us all some nice Jason Richardson flashbacks wearing the #23. Looking forward to getting to know you, J-And.

Brandon Manning to face hearing for hit on Penguins' Jake Guentzel

Brandon Manning to face hearing for hit on Penguins' Jake Guentzel

As if Saturday night's deflating loss to the Penguins at Heinz Field wasn't enough, the Flyers could be coming out of the defeat minus a defenseman in the lineup.

Brandon Manning will have a hearing with the NHL's Department of Player Safety on Monday morning for his hit on Pittsburgh forward Jake Guentzel during the second period of the Stadium Series game.

That means a suspension is looming.

Just over three minutes into the second stanza on Saturday, Guentzel tried to corral a bouncing puck as he exited the Penguins' zone. He did not see Manning, who flattened him with a huge hit.

While the hit did seem a bit late in real speed to the naked eye, no interference penalty was called and play continued. Manning did look to leave his feet to the deliver the hit and make contact with Guentzel's head, though, so both could work against him during the hearing.

Video of the hit in question can be seen above.

Guentzel was not injured on the play, stayed in the game and finished the evening with two assists.

Manning has a clean history as he has never been suspended in the NHL.

If Manning does get suspended by the league, Michael Del Zotto is likely to draw back into the Flyers' lineup Tuesday against visiting Colorado.

Del Zotto, who is a prime candidate to be moved before Wednesday's trade deadline, has sat out the past three games as a healthy scratch.