Inside the Standings: Make It Stop

Inside the Standings: Make It Stop

You probably don't need me to tell you, but it's grim, folks. I'm not going to paint the scene today. There are the up-to-date standings on the right, and we can all see for ourselves how far out of the race the Phillies are.

So this is my latest proposal: a moratorium on all playoff talk. Stop it, Marcus Hayes. I don't want to hear about their slim chances right now, or how many games they have to win over the next two-and-a-half months. Even if they sweep the Rockies over the weekend, then take two of three from the Dodgers, just leave it alone. They're still way out.

Everybody is so obsessed with the Phillies making the playoffs, but in terms of a turnaround, why don't we try focusing on something a little bit smaller to start with. The team is 13 games below .500. I would like to see them at least get back to that mark before the season is over.

Enough of this 50-25 nonsense. If the Phils suddenly start winning at .667 clip for the rest of the month, we'll lift the ban, and entertain the notion they can pull off the impossible.

Frankly, I'll take 44-31 at this point. That puts them at 81-81 once everything is said and done, and more to the point, a .587 winning percentage falls more in line with a realistic projection over a full season. If they did that in 162 games next season, they would win 95.

Do it the rest of the way, and that should be enough to keep them from finishing in the cellar in the NL East. Maybe they can even jump as high as third.

And, no, this is not a call to give up on this season. If they can do better, that's great, and if they somehow wind up in the postseason, even better. Continuously setting the bar higher and higher is madness though. Next they'll tell us the Phillies can still make the playoffs... if they win out... the entire month of September.

Not to mention all of this playoff talk makes nothing of the fact that the front office could sell off important pieces of the clubhouse over the next couple of weeks.

At this point, I'd simply like to see some signs of life. There are problems with the current makeup of the roster, but a few of them can be fixed in the offseason. If the guys who are still going to be around next year can get healthy and start producing, that actually might be a sign of things to come -- if only for 2013.

Best of NBA: Dwyane Wade hits dagger 3-pointer in Bulls debut

Best of NBA: Dwyane Wade hits dagger 3-pointer in Bulls debut

CHICAGO -- Dwyane Wade scored 22 points in a triumphant Chicago debut, Jimmy Butler had 24 and the Bulls won their season opener, beating the Boston Celtics 105-99 on Thursday night.

Wade nailed a 3 from the corner in the final minute to make it a five-point game. Taj Gibson added 18 points and 10 rebounds, and the new-look Bulls got off to a winning start after missing the playoffs last season for the first time since 2008.

Isaiah Thomas led Boston with 25 points. Avery Bradley had 16, and Jae Crowder 14 points, but the Celtics came up short after opening with a win over Brooklyn the previous night.

The Bulls remade their roster in the offseason, jettisoning one hometown superstar and welcoming another when they traded Derrick Rose to New York and signed Wade to a two-year deal worth about $47 million in a move that stunned Miami.

The three-time NBA champion and 12-time All-Star is off to a good start with the Bulls after 13 seasons with the Heat.

Wade hit 4 of 6 3-pointers in this game after making just seven all of last season (see full recap).

New-look Hawks roll past Wizards
ATLANTA -- Dwight Howard dominated the boards in his Atlanta debut, Paul Millsap scored 28 points and Tim Hardaway Jr. ignited the new-look Hawks to a 114-99 victory over the Washington Wizards in their season opener Thursday night.

Howard grabbed 19 rebounds to go along with 11 points, just what the Hawks expected from their new center, and it certainly wasn't unusual for three-time All-Star Millsap to lead the way in scoring.

But Hardaway's performance was totally unexpected given the way he struggled in his first season with the Hawks, when he was largely confined to the bench and even forced to spend time in the D-League.

He scored 21 points, matching his high in an Atlanta uniform, and broke open a close game with back-to-back 3-pointers in the fourth. The Hawks, who led only 81-80 heading to the final period, outscored the Wizards 33-19 over the final 12 minutes (see full recap).

Best of NHL: Canadiens rally past Lightning for 6th straight win

Best of NHL: Canadiens rally past Lightning for 6th straight win

MONTREAL -- Max Pacioretty scored the tiebreaking goal in Montreal's three-goal third period as the Canadiens beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1 Thursday night for their sixth straight win.

Alex Galchenyuk and Torrey Mitchell also scored to help Montreal improve to 7-0-1. Carey Price made 29 saves to win for the fourth time in four starts this season.

Alex Killorn scored the lone goal for the Lightning, who lost against an Eastern-Conference opponent for the first time this season. Ben Bishop stopped 23 shots.

With the scored tied 1-1, Pacioretty got the go-ahead goal at 10:23 by beating Bishop glove-side. Blown coverage by the Lightning left the Canadiens' captain all alone on the edge of the face-off circle, and Bishop couldn't see the shot with Andrew Shaw posted firmly in front of goal.

Montreal remains the only NHL team still undefeated in regulation (see full recap).

Crosby's late goal gives Penguins win over Islanders
PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby scored the tiebreaking goal late in the third period to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 4-2 victory over the New York Islanders on Thursday night.

Patric Hornqvist, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel also scored -- each getting his third of the season -- to help the Penguins win for the third time in four games and improve to 5-0-1 at home.

Crosby, playing for the second straight game after missing the first six with a concussion, scored with 2:25 left as he caught a pass from Scott Wilson at the top of the crease and quickly turned to his forehand to put the puck behind Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak.

Kessel added a power-play goal to cap the scoring 32 seconds later.

Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 35 shots while starting for the eighth straight game.

Travis Hamonic and Shane Prince scored for the Islanders, and Halak finished with 31 saves (see full recap).

Streaking Red Wings win marathon shootout vs. Blues
ST. LOUIS -- Henrik Zetterberg scored in the eighth round of a shootout to give the Detroit Red Wings a 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.

Zetterberg's goal gave the Red Wings a six-game winning streak.

In the shootout, St. Louis' first shooter, Alexander Steen, scored but then Vladimir Tarasenko, Kevin Shattenkirk, David Perron, Nail Yakupoc, Robby Fabbri, Patrick Burgland and Dmitrjij Jaskin all came up short.

Gustav Nyquist scored on Detroit's second attempt but Frans Nielsen, Dylan Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheehan and Darren Helm all missed.

St. Louis had the better chances in overtime. Center Jaden Schwartz missed a wide-open net early in the extra session. Jori Lehtera was stopped on a breakaway midway through the period by Detroit goalie Petr Mrazek (see full recap).