Can't Lose 'Em All: Sixers Defend Home Court Against Brooklyn Nets, Play Surprisingly Good Ball

Can't Lose 'Em All: Sixers Defend Home Court Against Brooklyn Nets, Play Surprisingly Good Ball

If it seems like I only write Sixers recaps after they win these
days...it's because I only write Sixers recaps after they win these
days. There's no point in recapping Sixers losses anymore because
they're not really news, they're just the regular course of
action—even losing to the Magic at this point can hardly be considered
an upset, or even "upsetting." It's only worth talking about it when the
team wins now. And for just the second time in the last 14 (!!) games,
the Sixers won tonight, beating the Brooklyn Nets 106-97.

The
really remarkable about this thing isn't just that the Sixers won, or
that they beat a team the Sixers trail by 13.5 games in the standings.
It's that they played really pretty darned well. They shot lights out
from beyond, hitting eight of their 15 threes. They moved the ball
brilliantly, dishing 31 assists with only six turnovers. They defended
with energy, getting burned by some superlative play by Deron Williams,
Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez—Spencer Hawes never had a shot against
Brook—but holding the rest of the Nets to a combined 15-38. They even
got to the free-throw line 27 times, their second highest tally in 2013.
They looked like a competent, professional basketball team—unlike, say,
the one that got outplayed by an 18-45 basketball team last night in
Orlando.

The entire starting lineup was key in this one—yes,
even you, Damien Wilkins, who scored an efficient 13 points on 5-8
shooting, including a couple key corner treys in the second half that
deflated the advancing Nets as they tried to cut into the Sixers' lead.
Thaddeus Young played his third awesome game in a row, scoring 16 on 6-9
shooting with ten boards and some nice tic-tac-toe extra-passing to
Hawes in the paint. And Jrue Holiday finally snapped out of the funk
he's been in the last four games, scoring 15 points on just eight shots
(with eight free-throw attempts!!) with 11 assists and just one
turnover. D-Will might've been slightly more dominant on the night
(27/13/6), but Jrue was right there with him tonight.

The game ball, however, goes to ol' Spencer "Frustration" Hawes,
who had probably his best offensive night of the year, putting up a
season-high 24 points on awesome 10-15 shooting, to go with ten boards
and seven assists, the latter also a season-high. The defense wasn't
necessarily there for Spence tonight, as he got burned badly and
repeatedly by Brook Lopez early on, but he was enormous on the offensive
glass tonight, getting a handful of big putbacks and a couple easy
buckets (including one breakaway dunk I was positive he was gonna
come up a couple inches short on) that helped put the Sixers out in
front on this one. Every once in a while, Spence has one of these
all-around games that make you understand why we were so excited to
spend $13 million on the guy, and though they're still far too few and
far between to merit the contract, it's nice to know he hasn't lost the
capability completely.

Tanking is still probably the way to go
for these Sixers, and I'll admit that while watching the Magic game on
Sunday—a game that would've been depressing even if the Sixers had
managed to win—I was basically hoping Orlando would pull out the W. But
to see the Sixers playing this well against a team as good as the
Nets—like the Warriors, not a great team, but undoubtedly a better one
than this Sixers squad—it's hard not to root for them. I don't want to
go the whole rest of the season without a reminder that there are in
fact guys on this team are capable of playing good ball. Besides, f---
the Nets.

Anyway, the team will almost undoubtedly resume their
plummeting ways during Wednesday's game against the Heat—and then
Saturday's game against the Pacers, and then, in all likelihood,
Mondays' game against the Blazers. All fair game, but I'm not gonna feel
bad about feeling good about this win, a needed oasis in this desert of
tanking.

Vince Velasquez feels the heat in Phillies' Sunday loss to Pirates

Vince Velasquez feels the heat in Phillies' Sunday loss to Pirates

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH --- Vince Velasquez wasn’t able to stand the heat Sunday afternoon.

The game-time temperature was 89 degrees with humidity to match at PNC Park. The Phillies' right-hander admitted he didn’t handle the weather well.

"You're going to go through various conditions, and it's something that you've got to really take into consideration -- to really lock in, stay hydrated because it can mentally drain you,” Velasquez said. “It kind of took a toll on me but I have to make the best of what I've got.”

Velasquez wound up pitching six innings in the blistering heat but did not factor in the decision as the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Phillies 5-4 on pinch-hitter Adam Frazier’s leadoff home run in the seventh inning, his first in the major leagues, off fellow rookie Edubray Ramos (see Instant Replay).

Velasquez had his worst of his five starts since coming off the disabled list June 26, allowing four runs and seven hits while walking four and striking out five. He threw 107 pitches, 64 for strikes.

In his first four outings after begin activated, he was 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA to raise his record to 8-2.

“Just looking at his body language, he showed that he was struggling to find the strike zone,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “He didn't have his best location. He did a good job; he just made a couple bad pitches when they scored the two runs. Obviously, he wasn't at his best, but he kept us in the game.”

While that kind of outing can breed confidence in a 24-year-old pitcher, Velasquez took no consolation in it. He was bothered about not being able to hold a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, giving up a tying two-run home run to Matt Joyce.

“I knew it was my last inning when I went out there and I have to be able to close it out there,” Velasquez said. “I’m disappointed in that. I need to be better in that situation.”

Joyce’s blast came on pitch after Starling Marte doubled on an 0-2 pitch. That, too, annoyed Velasquez.

“That's just a matter of finishing at-bats,” Velasquez said. “You've got to lock in on 0-2 counts when you're ahead. You've got to finish the at-bat. Knowing that that was my last inning, that's where you have to bear down and give it all you've got.”

Ramos then gave up the game-winning homer to Frazier an inning later, the first long ball given up by the 23-year-old right-hander in 14 career outings. The Phillies wound up losing two of three games in the series and are 3-7 since the All-Star break to drop to 10 games under .500 at 45-55 through 100 games.

“It’s a game we should have won but I put us in position to lose it,” Velasquez said.

Dallas Cowboys bus involved in fatal crash in Arizona

Dallas Cowboys bus involved in fatal crash in Arizona

KINGMAN, Ariz. -- Four people were killed Sunday when bus carrying Dallas Cowboys staffers but no players collided with a van on a northwestern Arizona highway.

The fatalities were passengers in the van, Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman Quentin Mehr said. But the bus occupants emerged uninjured.

"All on the bus came through OK with some bumps and bruises," Cowboys spokesman Rich Dalrymple (DAHL'-rimp-ul) said in an email.

Dalrymple said the bus was only carrying members of the franchise's staff but would not say how many. There were no players on board.

The two vehicles collided in the afternoon on U.S. 93, about 30 miles north of the city of Kingman, according to DPS.

The crash shut down at least one lane of the highway that serves as the main route between Phoenix and Las Vegas.

The bus was on its way to a Dallas Cowboys fan event in Las Vegas. Charles Cooper, manager of GameWorks entertainment center in Vegas, said the session with 50 to 75 fans was scheduled for 3 p.m. PDT. People were already waiting when the president of a Las Vegas Cowboys fan club called to relay news of the accident. The event was subsequently canceled. Cooper says the team mascot was supposed to appear.

After the Las Vegas stop, the bus was scheduled to go on to Oxnard, California for the team's training camp. Members of the organization typically take a bus two weeks before the camp starts and make stops along the way.

Report: Phillies preparing for possible Jeremy Hellickson trade to Marlins

Report: Phillies preparing for possible Jeremy Hellickson trade to Marlins

Jeremy Hellickson may be staying in the NL East past the trade deadline. 

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that the Phillies are scouting the Marlins' minor league teams in advance of a possible Hellickson deal. 

This comes on the heels of a report from a radio host in Miami that Marlins starter Wei-Yin Chen may need Tommy John surgery. Chen left with an elbow sprain during Wednesday's loss to the Phillies and was placed on the disabled list. Ironically, Chen was starting against Hellickson, who will face Jarred Cosart in place of Chen on Monday.

Hellickson's value rebounded significantly this season after struggling in Arizona and Tampa Bay the last few seasons. After dealing with a shoulder injury, Hellickson pitched to ERAs above 4.50 in each season from 2013-15, leading to the Diamondbacks trading him to the Phillies for limited value. 

However, in 20 starts, Hellickson, who will be a free agent after the year, has anchored the Phillies' rotation, bringing a 3.84 ERA over 119 ⅔ innings into Monday's scheduled start. He also has a nearly career-best strikeout rate and has regained his signature command that made him a strong performer with the Rays.

The Phillies are aided this trade deadline by a lack of starting pitching options available on the market. With many teams in contention looking for an additional starter, Hellickson is an attractive piece who could help a team in a pennant race.