While You Were Watching Football, the Phillies Were Continuing their Sneaky Hot Streak

While You Were Watching Football, the Phillies Were Continuing their Sneaky Hot Streak

All summer long people wrote the Phillies 2012 campaign off for dead -- ourselves included -- but as casual fans would continue to ask me on a regular basis, "Do the Phillies have a legit shot at making the playoffs?" The answer has remarkably switched from, "No way." to "It'd take something crazy, but it's feasible."

A sweep of the lowly Rockies, including two wins on Sunday as most of us watched football instead of the local nine, was the latest in their solid play that's brought Charlie Manuel's club just 6 games out of one of the two wild card spots in the National League.

As Kulp wrote about earlier in the season in his standings watch, he was pretty much hoping they could reach the .500 mark on the season. That's remarkably achievable now. They're just two games under thanks to having won 15 of their last 21.

Perhaps the biggest boon to any playoff pipe dreams? Their upcoming schedule is quite favorable.

How about a four game set with the pathetic Houston Astros next weekend after three with the Fish at CBP starting this evening? Then a set with the Mets.

A few weeks ago the Phillies were near the very bottom of the list. Today, only the Dodgers and Pirates are significantly ahead of Philadelphia, with Arizona having fallen a half game back and the Brewers all even at 6 back.

Sure, it's going to take a lot of balls bouncing their way. But as Jonathan Papelbon said after closing out two games yesterday, they've been getting those bounces lately.

From Sully:

“We’re getting some breaks,” Papelbon said. “The errors tonight helped
us extend our lead. I don’t think we got a single break the first 80 or
90 games of the season. Now we’re getting some and taking advantage.”

I think it's safe to classify the Rockies awful defense as many breaks.

We joked earlier in the season when their playoff odds at CoolStandings.com was less than a tenth of a percent. Today, it's just 0.7 percent. But! They've got some cupcakes on the schedule.

Just need plenty of those bounces.

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Nerlens Noel to get one-on-one experience while Sixers on road

Nerlens Noel to get one-on-one experience while Sixers on road

Being immersed in the team is important for Nerlens Noel, and so is continuing his rehab. 

While the Sixers are on the road for three days to play the Grizzlies and Pelicans, Noel will remain in Philadelphia to work out at the training complex in Camden, New Jersey. The team is not scheduled to practice in between games, so staying back allows Noel another day to get on the court.

“[I want him to] just start playing more and have a ball in his hands, get hit, physical, feel people, play one-on-one,” head coach Brett Brown said.

Noel has yet to play this season because of elective arthroscopic left knee surgery in October. He rejoined the Sixers after completing the first phase of his rehab in Birmingham, Alabama. There still is no timetable for his return. 

Brown has said there is a “classroom” element to Noel’s return. He has to learn a roster with new players and schemes. 

The on-the-court side of it is a reacclimation to the intensity of the league. Regardless of how many games Noel already has played in the NBA, there is an adjustment period getting back into the grind of the competition. Brown believes the time in the gym this week will help Noel prepare for the level of intensity he will face in his return. 

“It’s such fool’s gold to think somebody’s going to jump back into NBA basketball after you haven’t played for so long. I don’t care how athletic he is,” Brown said. “It’s a man’s world, this league, and there’s a physicality and there’s a real-time reaction you have to have to play in the game. You can’t make that up in practice, you can’t make that up playing one-on-one, but you can better position him instead of just going out to get shots. I want him to feel a body, get hit, hit back, play one-on-one, those types of things.”

Noel had been assigned to the Sixers’ Development League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers, to get in practice time when the Sixers had a game. The Sixers may forego another assignment and keep Noel at their facility as the Sevens also have two games in the next three days. 

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

BOX SCORE

Joel Embiid has been making the NBA look easy. Rookie of the Month honors, five double-doubles in 13 games, seven performances of 20 points or more … all having missed the last two years rehabbing from foot injuries.

Embiid, though, still is a player learning the league. Night’s like Monday’s lackluster showing are going to happen, even if it seemed unexpected against the struggling Denver Nuggets. 

“We’ve been used to seeing Jo have superhuman nights,” Brett Brown said after the Sixers’ 106-98 loss (see Instant Replay). “I thought Joel was down tonight.” 

Embiid tallied a total 16 points (5 for 15 from the field, 1 for 3 from three, 5 for 6 from the line) with four rebounds, one assist, a career-high five blocks, three turnovers and three fouls in 25:32. 

He had a quiet first half with six points (2 for 5 from the field) and one rebound in 9:21. The biggest struggle came in the third quarter. Embiid scored a single point off a free throw and shot 0 for 6 from the floor. By the end of three, he was shooting 18.2 percent. 

The big man said he needed to be better at passing out of the double team. He committed two turnovers in the third. 

“I wasn’t getting to my spot and I wasn’t getting what I’m used to getting,” Embiid said of the first three quarters. “I’m going to go back and watch the tape and see what I did wrong.” 

Embiid bounced back for another Embiid-like offensive effort in the fourth. He dropped nine points off an efficient 3 for 4 shooting in 7:31. Still, it wasn’t enough. 

“I made a couple shots,” Embiid said. “It didn’t help us win, so I don’t think it matters.”

Brown noticed Embiid rushing his game. He also thought Embiid’s balance was off, something the big man has been dealing with all season as he continues to find his legs. 

Embiid will not play in Tuesday's game against the Grizzlies. It is part of his workload management in which he does not play both games of a back-to-back. Expect him to hone in on game film until his next matchup, and get back on the roller coaster that can be a first year in the NBA. 

“It's just part of a young man's growth,” Brown said. “It just happens. I don't think we need to read too deeply into it. I think, in many ways, to expect from time to time not as good of a performance as we have been used to is fair enough.”