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.

Eagles Film Review: Carson Wentz's improvisation pays off big

Eagles Film Review: Carson Wentz's improvisation pays off big

Carson Wentz takes pride in not letting plays die easily. 

In Sunday’s 34-3 win over the Steelers, one play he didn’t let die ended up being the back-breaker in the blowout. 

We’re, of course, talking about the 73-yard touchdown pass to Darren Sproles at the 13:08 mark in the third quarter. Coming into the second half, the Eagles had a 10-point lead, but this touchdown pushed it to a 20-3 advantage and the rout was on. This play was a tone-setter (see story)

“That’s something that we talk about a lot,” Wentz said after the game. “We always say that a play is never dead. I like to make plays when we need to and everyone just does a great job of getting open in those situations.”

This was the first big off-schedule play Wentz has hit during his three weeks as the team’s starter, but the signs were there. In the Chicago game, there were several times where he showed his ability to extend plays. We broke them down in a film review last week (see story).

Throughout the week, Wentz had been compared to Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. One of the reasons was their shared ability to extend plays and make something happen. Big Ben showed his ability in the first quarter and almost connected on a huge touchdown pass to Markus Wheaton in the back of the end zone, but the receiver couldn’t pull it in. 

When Wentz got his shot later in the game, Sproles was able to pull it in, then make something happen with his feet. 

“I saw Carson scrambling this way,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “Darren was literally right in front of me and when I saw him wheel, my first reaction was to find the sideline to see if he stepped out to be quite honest.  He hadn’t, and Carson just — it was like in slow motion — floated that ball up the sideline and Darren did the rest from there. It was a tremendous play from those two individuals. I guess the last thing I did is I always look back to make sure there are no flags on the ground on those long plays.”

There were no flags. Touchdown. Game. 

Let’s take a closer look at the play: 

Wentz is in shotgun with Sproles in the backfield with him. The Eagles come out with three-wide on the far side of the field and a lot of space on the near side. 

Stephon Tuitt, who actually had a pretty good game against the Eagles, takes this route to the quarterback. When he gets to left guard Allen Barbre, Barbre either didn’t see him or didn’t react quickly enough. 

While Sproles is still running his short out, Wentz feels the pressure and is able to step up through the hole created by Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks. As soon as he makes it through, Wentz still has his eyes downfield. 

Now Wentz is through the hole and sees Sproles finishing his out-route. This is when Wentz, on the run, motions to Sproles to take off. This is something we’ve seen Wentz do a few times during his three weeks as Eagles quarterback. 

Wentz was left with a tough decision here. He could have run for 10, maybe even 15 yards. It was wide open, but he decided to try to make a play with his arm instead. 

“I always want to be a thrower first,” he said. “Even when a play breaks down, I’m always looking [to throw] because that’s where the big plays are happening. If I scramble I might get 5, 10, 15, 20 yards, but I’m not that fast. I always want to get it to the guys that can make plays. We always want to make plays when they’re there, and that’s what happened.”

With the line of scrimmage at the 27, Wentz has enough awareness to run horizontally to make sure he didn’t cross. And as soon as Pittsburgh safety Mike Mitchell takes that first step toward him, Wentz sees how much room Sproles has to work with. 

Ryan Shazier, who was covering Sproles on the play, froze and then started to step toward Wentz too. He said he thought the quarterback crossed the line of scrimmage, but Wentz was aware enough to stay behind.  

Once Sproles catches the ball in open space, he begins to do Sproles things. Defensive back Sean Davis took a bad angle on him and once he gets close, the veteran turns it inside. Davis said he was trying to buy time for the rest of his defense to get there and stop Sproles. It didn’t work. 

“Man, it’s Sproles!” receiver Nelson Agholor said. “Did you think he was going to get tackled?”

While he’s blocking downfield, Dorial Green-Beckham actually trips himself up and does a somersault. But it didn’t matter — Sproles didn’t need a great block. He pretty much did it himself. 

“Anytime that you can put it in the hands of [Sproles] something special can happen on any play, and he did the rest of it,” Wentz said. 

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Travis Konecny leaves impression with vets in Flyers' preseason win

Travis Konecny leaves impression with vets in Flyers' preseason win

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Michael Raffl had just finished playing alongside Travis Konecny, the 19-year-old kid that has Flyers fans abuzz about the now and future.

Yet for Raffl, he wasn’t thinking forward. Instead, he was looking back.

“Yeah, well, I couldn’t do that when I was 19, that’s for sure,” the 27-year-old said smiling, eyes wide open. “No, it’s impressive, he’s a really, really good hockey player.”

Konecny had that resounding affect Wednesday night at the PPL Center, recording a goal and an assist while leading the Flyers to a 2-0 preseason win over the Devils (see 10 observations).

He dazzled with speed and shiftiness.

He showed off vision and smarts.

When he touched the puck, he had everyone’s attention.

Paired with Raffl and Brayden Schenn in a game featuring mostly prospects, the 2015 first-round pick made the molding of Ron Hextall’s roster that much more difficult. With the general manager looking on, the highly touted winger started fast before making his imprint during a span of just four minutes and 34 seconds in the second period.

First, he redirected a blast by Andrew MacDonald to hand the Flyers a 1-0 lead. Not long after, the 5-foot-10, 184-pounder deceived the defense to find Raffl right in front off a backdoor pass for a 2-0 advantage.

“We had a cycle play going and he had a nice fake up top there and I was just going to the net,” Raffl said. “Somehow I was all by myself and he saw me, put a perfect pass on my tape and I just went around the goalie and put it in.”

Following his first goal, Konecny nearly tacked on another less than a minute later when he appeared to hit the crossbar on a shot. He also flirted with a few more assists.

“I think I just played relaxed,” Konecny said. “I came into the game tonight trying not to do too much and just keep things simple. The main thing for me was getting pucks out of the zone, so I think I did that well tonight and hopefully I can keep building on it.”

Relieving pucks from the zone isn’t a real problem when you possess the speed and skill of Konecny, who racked up 101 points last season at the junior level.

At just 19, that’s where he’ll have to return if he doesn’t crack the Flyers’ roster.

With cuts already made and more coming, that sometimes is on Konecny’s mind.

“It weighs on you a little bit. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about it and it’s definitely the time I need to step up and make sure I’m playing good hockey,” Konecny said. “And just earning another day — that’s just the way I’m looking at it. Every day I wake up and just work hard and move forward from there.

“I think everyone comes into camp and tries to give them (management) a reason not to send you back and make it hard on them.”

Wednesday night didn’t hurt his chances.

“He played a good hockey game,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “Had an impact offensively. He did a pretty good job. There’s some youthful mistakes in there, but overall, he had a real good night tonight playing with Raf and Schenner.”

Placing Konecny with two capable NHL forwards offered the Canadian an opportunity to prove what he could do if he was in fact on the big club.

“We played well together,” Konecny said. “I think from the start we just had a lot of communication, we talked in the room, in warmups, we all knew what we were going to do throughout the game and in certain scenarios.”

If anything, Konecny left an impression on Raffl.

“He’s a very smart player,” Raffl said. “Once he has the puck, he makes smart decisions with it. It was very easy to play with him out there. He plays a mature game and I really enjoyed it.”

Time will tell if more enjoyment is in store come Oct. 14.

Loose pucks
Anthony Stolarz and Alex Lyon combined for the shutout. Stolarz started and made 11 saves over 29:23, while Lyon played 30:37 and stopped seven shots. “I like both of our guys tonight,” Hakstol said. “Stolie did a good job, he made a difference in this game in the first 10 minutes, those two or three really good saves there. Then Alex came in halfway through, which isn’t an easy thing to do and was ready to go and did his job.” … Schenn, MacDonald and defensive prospect Robert Hagg finished with an assist apiece. … With the roster currently standing at 49, the Flyers expect to make 15 cuts on Thursday. … Defenseman Nick Schultz is out four to seven days with a lower-body injury suffered in Tuesday night’s preseason game. ... The Flyers are off Thursday before likely practicing Friday ahead of Saturday's preseason game at 7 p.m. against the Bruins at the Wells Fargo Center.