Big Macs, Comebacks and All-Stars: Jrue Holiday, Thad Young and the Best Sixers Win of the Season

Big Macs, Comebacks and All-Stars: Jrue Holiday, Thad Young and the Best Sixers Win of the Season

Hands up if you saw this coming. With the Sixers trailing 60-43 at
half—yes, they gave up 60 points to the friggin' Raptors in 24 minutes
of basketball—you'd be forgiven for giving up on this one (as I was
seriously tempted to do) and finding something more purposeful and less
character-building to do with your Friday night. After all, the Sixers
haven't exactly been known for big comebacks this season—generally, when
they're down, they stay down, and the game's basically over halfway
through the fourth quarter. But it wasn't so in this one, and the reason
why has two names: Jrue Holiday and Thaddeus Young.

First, the
bad stuff. The Sixers couldn't have been much more aimless on defense in
the first half, rotating abysmally and constantly letting shooters like
Alan Anderson and Terrence Ross lose them on picks. The Sixers gave up
countless open shots, always a step behind, and the Raptors didn't miss,
hitting seven of their first ten threes. On offense, the Sixers
suffered their typical half-court malaise in the first quarter, and
though things picked up a bit for them in the second, it looked like the
Raps had already sped too far ahead to be caught.

But the
Sixers started to chop into that lead into the third, seemingly finding a
new gear on defense and managing to stay with the shooters and not get
killed on the boards in the process. Meanwhile, the Sixers started
finding a groove on offense, and though neither of them were the game's
co-MVPs, Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen deserve a lot of credit tonight for
jump-starting the team with a couple nice hookups for easy baskets in
the third, Evan finishing with seven assists and Lavoy with a dozen
points. The Sixers chopped the lead down to single digits and in the
fourth even took a brief one-point lead one a Spencer Hawes putback.

Toronto counter-run seemed inevitable, and finally came a couple
minutes into the fourth, where the Raps hit a couple tough
shots—including a Lowry three to beat the shot clock that he chucked up
hoping just to draw iron—to extend the lead back out to ten. The Sixers
were still playing well, and four straight Thad buckets (most on Jrue
assists) made it a game again, but a failed Jrue-Thad hookup—where Jrue
lobbed up an oop for Thad off a pick-and-roll, but the forward didn't
recognize the lob in time and fumbled it out—looked to seal the game for
the Sixers, down four with a minute to go. A Thad dunk on the next
possession cut it to two with ten seconds to go, but it appeared to be
too little, too late.

Then things got interesting. Anderson hit a
pair of FTs for the Raps, but Spence got a quick two back on the other
end, resetting the situation with six seconds to go. The Raps failed to
inbound the ball and called a TO to regroup, then struggled a second
time inbound the ball, eventually throwing the ball away. (You could say
Nick Young fouled on that inbounds, but I wouldn't, and luckily the ref
didn't.) Then Jrue took the ball to the hoop with serious purpose,
laying it in and drawing contact, but not getting a whistle for the
and-one. Overtime.

The OT-forcing lay-in would only be the
beginning for Jrue, who was already having a remarkable game to that
point (more on that later). From there, all he did was score all 12
Sixer points in the OT period, including a steal and fast-break dunk to
kick off the quarter, and a long three to immediately answer a three hit
by Jose Calderon at the other end, effectively putting the game out of
reach for the Raps, who would only score five points in the OT, seven
less than Jrue notched on his lonesome. Final Score: Sixers 108, Raptors

The numbers for Jrue in this one are obviously remarkable.
33 points (tied for a career high) on sparkling 13-23 shooting, with 14
assists (one off a career high, and all before OT) to go with just
three turnovers, along with five boards, three steals, and fine defense
on dynamic opposing PG Kyle Lowry, who scored just 11 on the game on
3-11 shooting, with one of those makes coming on that prayer three in
the fourth. Taken in tandem with the 30 and nine he put up against
Houston on Saturday and the 29 and 11 he went for Tuesday in the loss to
New Orleans, I don't think it'd be any kind of exaggeration to say Jrue
is playing the best ball of his career—and some of the best ball in the
league—in the last week.

But beyond the numbers, The Damaja did
something tonight that I can't remember ever seeing a Sixer do quite
like this in the post-Iverson era: He straight-up took over when the
team needed him most. He did it mostly in the second half with his
passing, setting up his shooters and finding Thad in all his sweet
spots, and obviously he did it at the end of regulation and in overtime
with his scoring, which he can do better than all but a handful of lead
guards in the league. By game's end, he was running out of ways to
impress. Anybody Eastern Conference coach who watched tonight's game and
still doesn't believe Jrue Holiday is an All-Star is not my friend.

that said, the Sixers still don't get anywhere close tonight without
Thaddeus Young. Thad was basically the only Sixer putting ball in basket
in the fourth quarter, finishing around the hoop and with the jumper
and just playing with tremendous energy, scrapping his way to 14
rebounds and a couple loose balls, also registering three steals and a
block. The days when Thad's ability to become a satisfactory starting
power forward seem very much behind us now, and though he may never be
an All-Star, he can absolutely be the fourth best player on a really,
really good team.

Sixers CEO Adam Aron called this win the
biggest of the year for the Sixers, and sad as that is to say about an
overtime W against a division-worst team at home, he's right. The Sixers
very badly needed something to turn the momentum of their season
around, and in more practical terms, they needed to not fall eight games
(!!) under .500, and if the Sixers somehow do manage to scrape their
way back into the playoff race, you'll have to look back at tonight's
win as the jumping off point for the reversal of the team's fortunes.
And if not, hopefully it at least secured our franchise point guard his
first All-Star appearance.

The high will likely be short-lived,
as the Sixers face the West-owning Spurs on Monday. But Sixer fans will
at least get the weekend to savor this one, the first truly feel-good
win for the team in 2013.

NFL Notes: Giants release kicker Josh Brown

NFL Notes: Giants release kicker Josh Brown

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants have released placekicker Josh Brown after police documents revealed Brown had admitted to repeatedly abusing his former wife while they were married.

The release came Tuesday shortly after the player issued a statement insisting that he never hit his wife during a six year period when he admits spousal abuse.

Giants President John Mara says the team was "misguided" in how it handled its relationship with Brown. He says the team hopes Brown will dedicate himself to rehabilitation and becoming a better person and father.

Brown was previously suspended for the opening game of the season for violating the league's personal conduct policy after the NFL investigated his arrest in May 2015 for spousal abuse against his now ex-wife, Molly. Brown was not charged by local authorities in the case in Washington state.

DOLPHINS: RB Foster abruptly retires
MIAMI -- Four-time Pro Bowler Arian Foster says he can no longer take the punishment an NFL running back endures, so he is retiring midway through an injury-plagued season with the Miami Dolphins.

Foster, 30, tried to come back from a torn Achilles tendon, but was slowed this season by groin and hamstring injuries. He announced his retirement Monday on the website Undefeated as the Dolphins began their bye week.

The team confirmed the decision, effective immediately.

"There comes a time in every athlete's career when their ambition and their body are no longer on the same page," Foster wrote. "I've reached that point. It's hard to write those words because this game has been everything to me ... my therapy, my joy, my solace and my enemy."

Foster signed a $1.5 million, one-year contract with the Dolphins in July after spending his first seven NFL seasons with the Houston Texans. He holds the Texans' franchise record with 6,472 yards rushing.

This season he rushed for 55 yards on 22 carries, and he had 5 yards on three carries Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.

"My father always said, `You'll know when it's time to walk away,'" he wrote. "It has never been more clear than right now. I'm walking away with peace. I know it's not commonplace to do it midseason, but my body just can't take the punishment this game asks for any longer."

Foster was one of several Miami players this season to kneel during the pregame national anthem to protest social inequality. His playing time was curtailed with the emergence of Jay Ajayi, who tied an NFL record by surpassing 200 yards rushing in consecutive games (see full story).

JAGUARS: DT Miller out for year with torn Achillies
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars will be without defensive tackle Roy Miller for the rest of the season because of a torn right Achilles tendon.

The Jaguars (2-4) made the announcement Tuesday, two days after Miller left the game against Oakland and did not return.

A disruptive run-stopper whose 10 tackles this season don't show how important he is to Jacksonville's defense, Miller will be placed on injured reserve and undergo surgery later in the week.

Abry Jones is expected to replace Miller in the starting lineup when the Jaguars play at Tennessee (3-4) on Thursday night.

Miller has 244 tackles, eight sacks and a forced fumble in eight seasons. He has missed just six games in his previous seven years. 

Safety Malcolm Jenkins ready to man the slot with Ron Brooks out

Safety Malcolm Jenkins ready to man the slot with Ron Brooks out

With slot cornerback Ron Brooks out for the year, the Eagles have a big hole in their secondary.

And safety Malcolm Jenkins is happy to fill it.

Jenkins, the Eagles’ Pro Bowl safety, said he hopes to replace Brooks as the Eagles’ slot corner. Brooks went on injured reserve Monday after rupturing his quad during the win over the Vikings Sunday.

Jenkins spoke Monday evening on CSN's Quick Slants from his Malcolm Jenkins Foundation fundraiser at Union Trust.

“I played 60 percent of my snaps last year in the slot so it's a position that I'm very, very comfortable with and that I prefer as opposed to playing deep,” Jenkins said. “So I'm comfortable in that role.”

With Brooks out, the Eagles are thin at cornerback, with only Nolan Carroll, Leodis McKelvin and rookies Jalen Mills and recently activated C.J. Smith.

Carroll can play in the slot, but Doug Pederson indicated Monday that he’s leaning toward using Jenkins to cover the opposing slot receiver, like he did Sunday, after Brooks got hurt.

“Yeah, I would think that it would be very similar to what we've seen with Jalen on the outside and then Malcolm coming down inside and playing the nickel spot, and Jaylen Watkins being back there a little bit.

“And with Leo being healthy now, (it) gives you a little more depth. But we've got to continue to look at getting C.J. some more reps probably during the week to have a full complement of secondary help.”

Mills is a rookie seventh-round pick, and Smith is an undrafted rookie who spent the first seven weeks of the season on the practice squad.

McKelvin has missed three games this year but appears healthy now. Mills started Sunday but McKelvin played the bulk of the snaps.

Sunday will present a huge challenge for whoever mans the spot since Cowboys slot receiver Cole Beasley is so dangerous. He’s the Cowboys’ leading receiver with 33 catches for 390 yards and three touchdowns.

Beasley caught nine passes for a career-high 112 yards against the Eagles in the second meeting last year. He’s one of six receivers in the league this year with at least 50 yards in six games.

Jenkins said there are a number of ways the Eagles can defend the slot this weekend in Dallas.

“Now that we’ve got Leodis McKelvin back, it's another option,” he said. “We could put Jalen Mills in there. Just basically depends on matchups and what we want to do.

“I think the coaching staff right now is weighing those options and we'll see [Tuesday] or Wednesday what that package is really gonna look like.”

Brooks played 228 snaps in the Eagles’ first five games, or about 46 per game. That was fourth-most in the secondary before he got hurt.

“It's a tough loss,” Jenkins said. “But we've got so many guys that are interchangeable on our defense that it won't affect anything that we're doing.”