Boo You Huskies: Sixers Creamed By Wolves at Home

Boo You Huskies: Sixers Creamed By Wolves at Home

So that happened. Of all the many remarkable things about this 105-88
Sixers loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the most remarkable might be
this: Starting Minny frontcourt Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic scored a
combined 12 points. If you saw "Wolves 105, Sixers 88" in a box score in
your local paper, you'd probably think "OK, that makes sense—Love and
Pekovic must've eaten the Sixers alive inside, since Philly has
virtually no frontcourt." But no, just 12 points—and only 15 rebounds
combined too, so it's not like they offensive-boarded the Sixers to
death either. How the hell do the Sixers lose by 17 to the Wolves—who,
by the way, are still missing about half their roster to injury—when
their primary advantage goes almost totally unabused?

Well,
hitting 13 threes helps. Though Love and Pekovic didn't score or board
to their standards, that's not to say they weren't essential to the
Wolves' attack—they set some massive screens with their big bodies that
the Sixers' backcourt, particularly Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner, found
absolutely impossible to navigate around, springing their guards for
some inconceivably open looks from beyond and elsewhere. (Not that Jrue
and ET necessarily did their best to get around them, either.) Suddenly,
the likes of Josh Howard, Malcolm Lee and Derrick Williams were
lighting it up—seven Wolves scored in double figures, and again, neither
were Love or Pekovic, their two leading scorers per game.

And
as the Wolves bombed away from three, the Sixers found themselves unable
to answer in a similar fashion. The sixth-best three-point-shooting
team in the league went 5-20 from three tonight, with the team's
arguable two best deep threats, Jrue and Jason Richardson, combining to
go 0-7. (Remarkably, Evan's hot three-point shooting continued tonight,
with the Extraterrestrial going 2-4 from deep.) Add to that a miserable
13-23 performance at the free-throw line, and the Sixers never had a
shot to keep up with the Wolves on offense, as their defense kept being
gashed for uncontested jumpers.

Now, to a certain extent, the
Wolves were just white-hot, and got a little lucky tonight—they entered
the game the worst three-point-shooting team in the league, so even with
a shambolic Sixers defensive effort, they probably wouldn't make that
many threes most nights. (One from Josh Howard that bounced off and in
after the Sixers opened the third with a quick four points was
particularly back-breaking.) But the lack of fight from the Sixers to
contend on defense, especially in the first half as the game quickly
slipped away from them, has to be seen as disturbing, and certainly
Coach Collins thought so, forgoing his traditional opening remarks at
his post-game conference and expressing frustration and confusion at the
team's lack of effort.

Looking for positives, the team's
starting lineup again scored fairly well, with four of five in double
figures, and Evan Turner leading the way with 19, though he needed 20
shots to do it. You could see Evan's jumper slipping away over the
course of this game, and his confidence along with it, looking
frustrated after just missing a couple good looks and badly missing a
couple free throws—never a good sign with Evan, who has been relatively
steady from the stripe this season. Both Evan and Jrue were guilty of
offensive stagnation tonight, and Malik and Zumoff were killing them for
taking too many quick jumpers in the half-court, without allowing for
any kind of play to develop. (Jrue ended with just 13 on as many shots,
though he did have nine assists.)

But it wasn't really the
starting lineup that killed them in this game, at least not on offense.
The bench was absolutely miserable, being outscored by Minny's reserves
57-22. As much as the Sixers could use the development of a young backup
point guard, Maalik Wayns has just been awful on both sides of the ball
in limited minutes this season, ending tonight with two points on 1-6
shooting. Spencer Hawes was nearly as bad, filling out the box score a
little in garbage time but failing to really contribute anything of
substance with the game actually on. Is this really the same guy who was
our best offensive player the first week or two of the season? How
could he possibly suck this badly now? Anyway, you'd neverthink the team
would miss Nick Young so badly, but somebody has to score off this bench.

Next
up, we have a home-and-home in back-to-back nights with the Celtics. At
10-8, the sky is hardly falling for the Sixers, but with two losses in a
row and the schedule only getting harder from here, Philly really needs
to win one of those two games against Boston to keep their head above
water. Otherwise, we might be heading for lottery balls sooner than
you'd think.

Joel Embiid 'shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry'

Joel Embiid 'shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry'

NEW ORLEANS -- Of all the players Joel Embiid could be compared to, a similarity between a 7-foot-2, 270-something-pound center and a 6-foot-3, 190-pound point guard wouldn’t seem like a match.

That’s exactly what Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry sees, however, when looking at Embiid and reigning MVP Steph Curry.

“He’s different than anybody that’s been in this league in a long, long time,” Gentry said Thursday before the Sixers win over the Pelicans. “He’s a tremendous talent, he really is. I’ve never seen a guy that size, and with that kind of strength, that’s got such a soft touch. He shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry. It’s so soft when it leaves his hand.”

Curry is shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 40.1 percent from three. Embiid is 45.8 percent from the floor is 44.2 percent from long range.

Embiid flashed a big smile and paused to react when hearing of Gentry’s praise. He had been feeling hard on himself after going 0 for 5 beyond the arc against the Pelicans (see story).

“Steph is probably one of the best shooters in the league right now," Embiid said. "So that compliment means a lot."

This time, Steve Mason bailed out by Flyers' teammates

This time, Steve Mason bailed out by Flyers' teammates

Steve Mason was not his sharpest Thursday night and he's the first to admit it.

"There's nights where you're not feeling as sharp as you'd like to," Mason said. "This is a situation the guys in front never quit. They earned the two points for sure."

Mason yielded five goals for the third time this season, but made enough saves to secure the Flyers' seventh straight win, a 6-5 victory over the Oilers at the Wells Fargo Center.

The win streak is the longest the Flyers have had since Dec. 2-15, 2011, when "Mr. Universe" Ilya Bryzgalov was their goaltender. Mason finished with 28 saves.

"The guys bailed me out," Mason said, "When your goalie is not making the saves that you need, but the guys keep battling in front, from a personal standpoint, it's huge to see."

Making his 16th start in the Flyers' last 17 games, Mason appeared to show signs of fatigue against Edmonton. He's started the last six games, winning all six.

His current six-game win streak is a career-high, and the five goals allowed Thursday is the first time he's allowed more than two goals during this current streak. 

Entering Thursday, Mason was 5-0 with a 1.74 goals-against average and .947 save percentage in his previous five starts, and 8-3-1 with a 2.11 GAA and .930 save percentage since Nov. 12. So Thursday is just a small blemish on Mason's impressive résumé of late.

"I didn't think he looked tired," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. "This win's a little bit indicative of the type of team we have. A couple nights ago, Mason was the best player. He picked up a lot of guys around him and tonight maybe wasn't his best.

"But it was pretty good. The guys battled hard. They picked up some of the slack. That's what it takes. Every guy's not going to be at their best every night.

"You'd like them to be, and I know the guys want to be at that level, but when one piece isn't working, the other part has to pick it up."

The Flyers' offensive outburst came two days after Mason stole two points against the Florida Panthers, and nine days after the goalie stole another two points against Boston.

Twice on Thursday the Flyers faced two-goal deficits, and both times they found a way to erase them. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it's the first time in Flyers' history they were able to win a game in which they were down two goals twice.

"Once we got it to 5-4," Mason said, "I tried to lock it down as best I could. There's nights where you're not feeling as sharp as you'd like to.  … Coming back in a couple of days, from a personal standpoint, I got to be more sharp."

After going falling behind 2-0, the Flyers tied it, 2-2, with three goals in 72 seconds in the second period, the quickest three-goal burst since Feb. 14, 2009, vs. the Islanders. 

Then, the Flyers fell behind 5-3 before Voracek sparked a three-goal third period with his 10th of the year at 6:31. Claude Giroux tallied his second of the game, and Michael Raffl pushed the Flyers to victory with his sixth of the season at 18:31 of the final stanza.

"It's a great feeling to come back from behind," Flyers rookie defenseman Ivan Provorov said. "You never want to be in that position, but that's the way it sometimes go. We stuck with it and came from behind and won the game. It's a great effort."

Of the five goals allowed Thursday, the first goal Mason allowed was the only one that can be pinned on the netminder. It was not a great goal to give up, on the second shot of the game, too. Afterward, he said the read was the backdoor play, but Leon Draisaitl slipped it through Mason's five-hole for his fifth goal in as many games.

"Some nights you can be better than the other nights," Provorov said. "And that's what the team's all about. We play for each other. If someone has a mistake, we all help him out and play for each other. That's why we win games."

"That's how you become a great team," Voracek, who tied a career-high with four points, said. "Mase playing the last six games the way he did, it wasn't his night.

"We came big for him. It's how you get into the playoffs, and it's how you have success in the playoffs. It's a good thing we won the game and get rolling now."