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.

Today's lineup: Jorge Alfaro makes second straight start

Today's lineup: Jorge Alfaro makes second straight start

Catcher Jorge Alfaro is making his second straight start after Saturday's 10-8 win.

Alfaro, the Phillies' top catching prospect, has gone 0 for 11 with a walk in his three career starts, all coming in the last two weeks since he was called up. Alfaro was acquired in the Cole Hamels trade last July and is 1 for 13 with a walk in five games. 

The 23-year-old will catch Jake Thompson in a game that means a lot more to the Mets (1:10/CSN).

Giving Alfaro playing time allows Phillies fans the chance to get a glimpse of the future. Roman Quinn has received plentiful playing time after was called up in the mid-September and Alfaro, like Quinn, is trying to leave an impression on the Phillies' brass before spring training.

Quinn is not in the lineup on Sunday as Aaron Altherr and Cody Asche man the corner outfield spots. Freddy Galvis moved up to second in the lineup after staying in the bottom half of the lineup in recent games.

Ryan Howard will bat fifth, playing likely his final game at Citi Field with the Phillies. While he has batted just .203 in 52 career games at Citi Field, he alos has 11 home runs there after smashing 12 homers at Shea Stadium, the Mets' previous stadium.

Here's the full lineup that will oppose Robert Gsellman and the Mets.

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Odubel Herrera, CF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Ryan Howard, 1B
6. Cody Asche, LF
7. Aaron Altherr, RF
8. Jorge Alfaro, C
9. Jake Thompson, P

For more on today's game, check out Steven Tydings' game notes

Phillies-Mets 5 things: All the pressure on Mets, Gsellman

Phillies-Mets 5 things: All the pressure on Mets, Gsellman

Phillies (70-85) at Mets (82-73)
1:10 p.m. on CSN

After two rough losses for the Phillies and their pitching staff, the offense picked them up and came through with a 10-8 win. 22-year-old Jake Thompson takes the hill this afternoon while Robert Gsellman starts a crucial game for the Mets.

Here are five things to watch on Sunday.

1. All the pressure on New York, Gsellman
The Mets remain 0.5 games up on the final National League playoff spot. 

While their pitching staff was falling apart at the seams going into (and during) this series, the one saving grace for New York was its soft schedule, facing the Phillies seven times in its last 10. Meanwhile, the St. Louis Cardinals have to deal with the MLB best Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants end the year vs. the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers.

However, a loss on Saturday (thanks in part to Noah Syndergaard getting scratched with strep throat) puts the Mets in a precarious position. They're tied in the loss column with the Cards and Giants while fighting for one of two playoff spots and their rotation most closely resembles their Triple A team from Opening Day. 

Gsellman is one of those pitchers who started the year never having tasted the major leagues. In fact, he started the year in Double A. His first career start came at Citi Field last month against the Phillies and resulted in his first career loss after he allowed four runs in six innings. 

He's been better since that start, carrying a 3.13 ERA into Sunday. The 23-year-old righty will likely start vs. the Phillies again next weekend, meaning the Mets' season rides in part on a rookie with just 31 2/3 innings in the majors. 

2. Young man on a roll
While Gsellman lost his last start, Thompson has won his last two starts. The young righty is on a hot streak as his season nears an end.

Thompson's ERA has goe down in each of his last five starts, a stat made less impressive by the fact that he began that run with a 9.78 ERA. He has gone at least five innings in his last eight starts and has shown glimpses of why he was such a valued prospects.

In September, Thompson is 2-1 with a 3.09 ERA over four starts. He's still allowed 33 baserunners in 23 1/3 innings during that span, but it's been much better than his lackluster August.

While Thompson is in line to start next weekend against the Mets as well, today could be his final start of the season. He has already set a career-high in innings and the Phillies may not want to extend him one more start.

3. What to look for in the season's final week
Including Sunday, the Phillies have just seven games left in their season. They're eliminated from playoff contention, but there's still plenty to watch as the Phils take on Braves and Mets.

Ryan Howard's final fairwell: With his five-year, $125 million deal coming to a close this year, Howard is almost certainly playing his final games in Philadelphia next week. He'll get plenty of starts and may even face the Mets' Bartolo Colon, who he's smacked three home runs off of in his career.

Playing spoiler: As mentioned above, the Mets have everything on the line both today and next weekend in Philadelphia. There are few better ways to end a postseason-less season than knocking a rival out of playoff contention.

More looks at the kids: Roman Quinn's emergence over the last two weeks has been fun to watch and Jorge Alfaro may get more chances in the last seven games. Beyond them, Thompson, Tommy Joseph and others close out a nice first season. 

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Maikel Franco has looked more like his 2015 self over the last few weeks. He's batting .310 in September with three home runs, matching his August total. His 15 RBI this month are his most in a month other than July. 

Mets: Asdrubal Cabrera has been on fire this month as well. After battting .405 in August, he's batting .333 and has five home runs, including the walk-off homer on Thursday. He's slugging .628 this month after putting up a .786 slugging percentage in August. 

5. This and that
• In Gsellman's August start vs. the Phillies, he only allowed one run while he was in the game. However, he left the bases loaded in the 7th with no outs before A.J. Ellis knocked in the decisive two-run double to give the Phils a lead they would not relinquish.

• Six different Phillies batters had hits off Gsellman, including Jimmy Paredes who went 2 for 3 with a double and an RBI. 

• Despite pitching injuries, the Mets have the eighth-best team ERA in September with a 3.64 average. The Phillies are 15th in baseball with a 4.10 ERA this month.

• The Phillies are 6-9 against the Mets this year. They're already ensured of a better finish than last year's 5-14 mark vs. New York.

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