Bunch of Good Things But No Win For Sixers Against Grizzlies

Bunch of Good Things But No Win For Sixers Against Grizzlies

Well phooey. With a 33-point first-quarter that saw just about
everything go right for them, the Sixers looked like they were in pretty
good shape to finally win a second straight game (imagine!) tonight
against the Memphis Grizzlies, and even after the Grizzlies cut the lead
to shreds and then took the lead in the second, the Sixers persevered
and gave themselves several opportunities to win the game. But in the
end, gravity was not on their side tonight, and the Grizzlies eked out a
103-100 win that left Malik and Zumoff reaching for the peach schnapps.

It's a tough loss to swallow, because there were so many
positives you'd like to take out of a game like this. Evan Turner was a
marvel tonight, scoring from all over the court on the way to his
season-high 27 points and seven assists. Jrue got stymied a bit in the
second half but was absolutely on fire to start, still ending with 18
points and ten assists. Thaddeus Young scrapped his way to 23 and seven,
and played lockdown D on the other end against one of the NBA's
toughest post matchups, holding Zach Randolph to just four points. It
was an astounding group performance from our young core trio.

Unfortunately,
as good as Thaddeus was on Z-Bo, that's about as poor as Spencer Hawes
was on Marc Gasol. Not entirely Spence's fault, since Gasol is a rough
cover for anyone, and the Sixers made the conscious (and as it turns
out, very poor) choice to let Gasol fire away from the perimeter, which
he did to the tune of a season-high 25 points. Hitting from the
perimeter was a recurring theme for the supposedly ground-and-pound
Grizzlies, and Jrue and Evan also probably deserve a good deal of the
blame for some poor defensive switching and ill-timed help that left the
likes of Rudy Gay (26 points) and Jerryd Bayless (21 points, also a
season high) open to fire away from all over the court.

Really,
though, as with last week against the Spurs, this loss can be blamed on
poor late-game execution. Up 100-97 in the game's closing minutes, the
Sixers had several chances to give themselves some breathing room, and
ended up with the following series of possessions:

1. Jrue attempts a jumper double-teamed in the corner (strip, turnover)
2. Jrue finds Thad in the corner (??) for a three (clang, rebound Grizzlies)
3. Jrue pulls up for a contested two 22 feet away from the basket (clang, rebound Grizzlies)

Three
straight poor, low-percentage decisions from Jrue, 0 points for the
Sixers in three trips. Brilliant as The Damaja has been this season, and
much as we want him to be an all-powerful devourer of worlds at just 22
years of age, this is something that he's struggled with a bit this
season, and you hope and expect that this is just a matter of Jrue
needing to get his reps in these late-game stretches, and that the calm,
cool Holiday we know from the game's first three-and-a-half quarters
will soon start showing up reliably in the last half of the fourth as
well. But in the meantime, it gave the Grizzlies just enough time to
edge ahead by one with about 12 seconds to go.

The play that the
Sixers ran there to take back the lead ended up being unsuccessful, but
it was minorly encouraging just the same. Dribbling into the half-court
as the clock wound down to single digits, Jrue drew the double time
driving to the basket and whipped a pass to Thad in single coverage,
where he hoisted a five-foot jumper for the lead. It missed, but it's a
high-percentage shot, and one we've seen Thad make countless times
before, so you can't be mad at the team for the play ran—which in itself
is a victory of sorts for the Doug Collins 76ers. (Derek Bodner of
Liberty Ballers also points out that had Thad spotted Hawes creepeing up the baseline, Spence might've had an uncontested dunk. Next time.)

With
losses like this against superior teams, you have to keep in mind that
for large stretches of this season, it would be rare that the Sixers
even stayed in the games for this long. If you told me before the
Sixers' home games against the Spurs, Knicks and Grizzlies that they
would win one in a blowout and fight to the end in the other two, I'd
have been perfectly happy with that. (Wish they hadn't lost to the Bucks
in the middle, but such is life.) As long as Thad, Jrue and Evan keep
playing at this high a level—and it's worth pointing out that after
slumping for about a month straight, the Extraterrestrial is finally
back up in space, averaging 22 points, 6.8 boards and six assists over
his last four games—and as long as that funny-looking kid with the big
hair keeps getting healthier and healthier, wins and losses are really
not the most important thing anyway.

And if you really want
wins, there might be some to be had in the not-too-distant future. The
Sixers play their next six at home, with the next five being against the
Wizards, Kings, Magic, Pacers and Bobcats. Now the Pacers are good and
the Wizards have improved lately, but you'd still hope the Sixers could
get at least three of those, and perhaps even—wonder of wonders—two in a
row at some point. And if not, well, Jrue plays in the All-Star Game
soon after, and we (presumably) get Bynum back not long after that.
There is still much in life to look forward to.

As Eagles enter bye, Doug Pederson aims to thwart complacency

As Eagles enter bye, Doug Pederson aims to thwart complacency

The Eagles are 3-0. They’re alone atop the NFC East and have been the biggest surprise of the young NFL season.

Doug Pederson’s message to his team: You haven’t done anything yet.

Although the Eagles are riding high, Pederson doesn’t want his team to change its outlook or hard work. That’s what teams have to worry about once they’ve found some success.

“The biggest thing is complacency,” Pederson said Monday. “You think you've arrived. You think you are all that. When that creeps in, that's when you get beat. It's my job not to let that creep in. I've got to keep the guys focused and grounded. I told them this week they're going to travel and go home and people are going to pat them on the back and say how great they are.

“But next Monday, I'm going to tell them, ‘Hey, we're back to work. We're 0-0. This is Game 1 and let's go.’ That's just the way it has to be. You are building for one ultimate goal and that's a few weeks down the road. That's what you are trying to get to. But you can't get there unless you take care of the next opponent. It's my job to keep them focused that way.”

Being 3-0 (they’re one of five 3-0 teams) gives the Eagles a head start, but it certainly doesn’t guarantee them a playoff spot. This is the ninth 3-0 start in franchise history. They’ve made the playoffs just five times in the previous eight. And they recently missed the playoffs after starting 3-0 in 2014 under Chip Kelly.

In NFL history (before this season), there have been 276 teams to start with 3-0 records. Of them, 200 (72.3 percent) have made the playoffs.

“We just have to approach it the same, one day at a time,” Pederson said. “That's the way this business goes. You are on top of the world one minute, and you can be at the bottom of the heap the next. Just got to keep things even-keeled and can't get too high, can't get too low. Approach it the same. Like I mentioned earlier, you can't substitute for hard work. That pays off on Sundays. We just have to stay the course. Again, a lot of football left.”

While the Week 4 bye comes pretty early, the Eagles have a couple key players who will use the time to get healthy. And Connor Barwin pointed out that the bye is coming about closer to the halfway point between when the team started its tough training camp and the end of the season.

Pederson told his players to use the week to get away from football and free their minds. Meanwhile, Pederson and his coaches will use the extra time to self-scout and prepare for the final 13 games of the regular season.

With a first-year head coach and a rookie quarterback who was thrust into action a week before the opener, expectations outside (and perhaps inside) the building were tempered.

The Eagles aren’t an underdog anymore.

“We kind of enjoyed flying under the radar, but obviously a win like this against a team like the Steelers will open some eyes around the league,” Malcolm Jenkins said. “For us, nothing different. We’ll keep our preparation the same. We’ll stick our heads down and focus on the work day to day and understand what’s gotten us to 3-0.”

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Ivan Provorov displays durability, versatility in Flyers' preseason loss

Ivan Provorov displays durability, versatility in Flyers' preseason loss

BOX SCORE

NEWARK, N.J. — How much of a horse is Flyers defensive prospect Ivan Provorov?

Well, consider this:

The 19-year-old logged a game-high 28:48 of ice time Monday night during the Flyers' 2-0 split-squad loss to the Devils in which he also quarterbacked the first-unit power play (8:03) and had the most penalty kill time (3:58) (see story).

“I thought I played well,” Provorov said. “It took me a few shifts to get into the game. I competed as hard as I could.”

He said he was used to playing more than 25 minutes in Brandon (WHL), anyway.

“Of course, this is a better league, high pace and it will take a few games to adjust,” Provorov said.

Because the Flyers have yet to work on power play, the results aren’t there. They were 0 for 7 in the game.

“We haven’t done anything on the ice, but have done some video on the PK on the board but nothing on the power play,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “There’s other priorities now with so many players (64) in camp.”

Provorov worked both points on the power play and had just one official shot in the game.

“We didn’t get to do much power play [in camp],” he said. “It will get better as the preseason goes on.”

Rookie forward Travis Konecny worked the low slot on the top power play. He logged 18:34 of ice time, including 6:01 PP time. Konecny had two shots in the game.

He was on Andy Miele’s line with Scott Laughton. Konency had the only shots on his line.

Hakstol said Konecny and Provorov each “settled in” as the game went on. Hakstol isn’t sure if one or both will play Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center against the Islanders.

Konecny’s body language in camp exudes confidence unlike a year ago when he was skittish in his first-ever Flyers training camp. Now he sits back, takes it all in and has that look on his face of been there, done that.

In fact, he was trying to calm down some of his buddies, Anthony Salinitri and Connor Bunnaman, who were seeing the lights before the game.

“Me and [Ivan] Provorov were just talking,” he said. “We feel a lot more comfortable this year.

“I’ve been in this position here. I have my guys Salinitri and Bunnaman, we all hang out together and it’s their first year.

“They’re excited for their first preseason game just like I was last year, but I’m not thinking, ‘Wow, it’s an NHL arena.’ I’m thinking about the game and getting ready to play.”

Konecny was impressive last fall as an 18-year-old and Hakstol said he takes everything into account with more emphasis on the now than the past.

“Your body of work includes your season last year,” Hakstol  said. “Includes everything. The most important information is what you do right now. No question in my mind. I take everything into account.”

Take this into account: Alex Lyon is going to be a contender with Anthony Stolarz for the starting job in goal with the Phantoms this season. He was outstanding with 28 saves on 29 shots.

“They spent some time in our zone and had their big guns out there,” Lyon said of being under siege for two-thirds of the game. “They had a few shots but we did a good job keeping them to the outside. No super grade A opportunities.”

Lyon stopped two breakaways by Beau Bennett, one within three minutes of play.

“I felt like a newborn deer and could barely stand up,” quipped the former Yale goalie. “I was so nervous. It felt good to stop the first one.”