Commence the Ownage: Sixers Rout Suns in Phoenix

Commence the Ownage: Sixers Rout Suns in Phoenix

You know what's fun? Winning by a lot against a bad team. Good of the
Sixers to remember this in advance of their game tonight against the
Phoenix Suns, who left little doubt that they are, in fact, one of the
league's bad teams now. After playing the Suns tight for about a
quarter, our second unit started to pull away in the beginning of the
second, and by halftime the game was already a laugher. The benches were
pretty much emptied by the fourth (Craig Brackins! Still no Marreese
Speights though, sadface) and the Sixers cruised to an easy 103-83
victory, bringing them to 1-1 for the season.

Watching the away broadcast on League Pass, the Suns' announcers spent a
long time harping on the Sixers' balanced offensive attack, and tonight
the fixation really was deserved. Despite breaking the century mark in
scoring, no one on the Liberty Ballers scored more than 15—Andre
Iguodala, Thaddeus Young and Jrue Holiday tied for the lead with that
tally—while three other players also broke double-digits, including Lou
Williams (13), Jodie Meeks and Evan Turner (12 each). It was the kind of
team ball we grew accustomed to seeing from the boys last year, and the
kind that should bode well for the Sixers' consistently over this crazy
strike-shortened season.

As predicted, Thad and Evan were big factors off the bench. The former
was distressingly off on his jumper—the part of his game he needs to add
to become a true offensive force in this league—but displayed his
typical wizardry around the basket, absolutely shredding Philly native
Hakim Warrick on one particularly shaming dunk. Meanwhile, Evan showed
that his mid-range game has become a fairly reliable weapon in his
second year, with that little ten-foot floater he's been showing off
recently starting to look something like a trademark move. He went 6-9
with seven rebounds, no assists but no turnovers either, picking up his
Phoenix-plaguing ways from where he left off last season.

And while Spencer Hawes didn't have quite the game he had on Monday—only
three assists this time, with four turnovers—he continued to show an
improved scoring touch (nine points on 4-7 shooting) and was again a
force on the glass, notching 11 boards in just 26 minutes of game
action. With Hawes' improved play and Nikola Vucevic looking decent off
the bench in his first NBA action (6 points on 3-6 shooting, a couple
boneheaded turnovers but some nice extra passes and good instincts in
the pick-and-roll), perhaps the center position won't be as much of a
black hole for the Sixers this year as we had feared. (Perhaps.)

Now, as we rejoice in celebration of the fine evening for the Sixers, we
should also take a moment to observe the sad state of affairs for the
Phoenix Suns in 2011-'12. After spending the better part of the decade
as the league's most innovative, entertaining team, it appears that this
is the end of the line for the Seven Seconds or Less Suns. All the key
players of yesteryear have been replaced with mediocre role players like
Channing Frye, Josh Childress and Ronnie Price, and the last remaining
holdout from the glory years, the inimitable Steve Nash, may finally be
seeing the downslope of his career. Tonight was the worst night of
basketball I've ever seen the Hall of Fame point guard have—four points
on 2-11 shooting, with one assist (!!!) and six turnovers, and not a
single memorable play the entire night. It's hard to say if Nash is just
going through the motions in a rebuilding year or if the guys around
him just suck that much, but it's a depressing sight for any NBA fan to
see the two-time MVP languishing like this.

But still, this is a Philly sports blog, and from a Philly standpoint,
tonight was a rip-roaring success. The Ballers head to Utah next for a
Friday night game, against another franchise in a state of flux. With
tonight's win bringing Coach Collins' record in Philadelphia back to a
42-42 state of stasis, it'd be nice to pick up the W in Salt Lake and
officially make Dougie's tenure in the City of Brother Love a winning
one. At the very least, it's nice to not have to wait until Game Five to
see the Sixers get a win this year.

Flyers Weekly Observations: Snowball effect avoided Sunday

Flyers Weekly Observations: Snowball effect avoided Sunday

There wasn't any Flyers hockey to talk about during the bye week, but this past weekend’s back-to-back set still left us with plenty of material.

It was an up-and-down weekend for the Flyers. They fell at home, 4-1, to the Devils during an ugly showing on Saturday but rebounded with an exciting 3-2 OT victory over the Islanders Sunday in Brooklyn thanks to Claude Giroux’s game-winning tally that snapped a 13-game goalless drought.

Let’s take a look back at the weekend that was for the Flyers:

• That showing against Jersey on Saturday night? Let’s just say that’s not the way one hoped the Flyers would look coming off an extended break. The Flyers were outplayed again by the Devils, just like they were during a 4-0 loss to New Jersey in late December. I get the theory that they needed to knock the rust off after such a long break. But you also wanted to see some energy and it just wasn’t there. Give the Devils some credit, too, as they played well. Of course, there was that terrible call against Radko Gudas that really shifted the game in the Devils’ favor (more on that in a bit). But still, it wasn’t an inspiring performance overall and still had more of the same defensive breakdowns that have plagued the Flyers in recent weeks.

• That said, the Flyers had a great bounce-back effort Sunday night against an Isles team that has been revived after head coach Jack Capuano was fired and came into the contest on a three-game win streak. The Flyers fell down 2-0 and were victims of another questionable call during a pile-up at the front of the Isles’ net when the puck crossed the line but no goal was rewarded, but they showed something they haven’t shown over the past few weeks: resiliency. Over the last few weeks, when something has gone wrong for the Flyers, it’s all gone wrong for the Flyers. It’s been a troubling snowball effect. But that trend came to a halt on Sunday and the Flyers earned two much-needed points. It was encouraging, to say the least. The goal now is to find that kind of consistency again. Easier said than done.

• What a spectacular play by Ivan Provorov on the Flyers’ tying goal Sunday night. He took a pass at the Isles’ blue line, weaved his way around a defender to create space and then sent a centering pass to the crease area. Sure, there was some puck luck involved as it hit a defender’s skate and went in the net, but sometimes a player gets rewarded like that when making a great play. It was the kind of play that a lot of veterans wouldn’t have the poise to make, let alone a rookie who just turned 20 a few weeks ago. The kid is so impressive and he’s just going to keep getting better.

• Alright, alright, alright ... let’s discuss the Gudas clipping penalty against the Devils on Saturday. First off, it shouldn’t have been a penalty. It was a classic, hard hip check and a good, physical hockey play. Is Gudas not given the benefit of the doubt sometimes because of his reputation and suspension history? Probably so. But there was no gray area to discuss on this hit. It was a clean hockey play. And then if we’re to believe Wayne Simmonds, his unsportsmanlike call to give the Devils a full 5-on-3 advantage was for protesting a lack of explanation for the call. If true, that’s pretty weak from the official. Like we discussed earlier, it was one of the things that didn’t go the Flyers’ way and sent everything else crumbling down afterward. The Devils scored on the ensuing power play to take a 2-1 lead and it was game, set, match.

• Notice Dave Hakstol's finally using Travis Konecny during a 3-on-3 overtime on Sunday night? That’s a good thing to see. I get that a big part of the 3-on-3 OT is defensive responsibility and that Konency is still working to complete that part of his game. But sometimes when the game is on the line, you have to take the good with the bad. Konecny’s got the offensive arsenal to win a game in the blink of an eye. He should get more chances in OT as the season goes on. Nick Cousins saw the ice during Sunday’s OT, too. Good for him. Having more fresh legs and energy out there during those frantic overtimes never hurts.

• You guys peek at the Eastern Conference standings lately? If not, here’s a spoiler: The standings are a jumbled mess where parity is king. As of Monday morning, the Capitals, Blue Jackets, Penguins and Rangers are ahead of the field. But after those teams, it’s anyone’s ballgame. Heading into Monday night’s action, the Flyers hold the last wild-card spot with 52 points. The eight teams behind them are all within five points them, with last-place Tampa Bay (!) bringing up the rear with 47 points. So that’s 12 teams fighting for four playoff spots. It’s further proof that there are no nights off or easy games in the NHL. Every point matters. It should be a hell of a playoff race over the next few months.

Coming up this week: Wednesday at NY Rangers (8 p.m./NBCSN), Thursday vs. Toronto (7 p.m./CSN), Sunday’s NHL All-Star Game in Los Angeles (3:30 p.m./NBC)

NFL Notes: Redskins name offensive, defensive coordinators

NFL Notes: Redskins name offensive, defensive coordinators

ASHBURN, Va. — The Washington Redskins turned to internal candidates to fill two critical vacancies, promoting Matt Cavanaugh to offensive coordinator and Greg Manusky to defensive coordinator.

Cavanaugh was the team's quarterbacks coach and Manusky its outside linebackers coach last season. The Redskins announced the promotions Monday along with the hires of Kevin O'Connell as quarterbacks coach and Jim Tomsula as defensive line coach.

It has been an offseason of upheaval for the coaching staff after the Redskins fired defensive coordinator Joe Barry and a few assistants and offensive coordinator Sean McVay left to become head coach of the Los Angeles Rams.

In its efforts to replace Barry after ranking 28th defensively in consecutive seasons, Washington interviewed former Jacksonville Jaguars coach Gus Bradley, former Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine and former Buffalo Bills assistant Rob Ryan before opting for Manusky. The 50-year-old Manusky has been defensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts, San Diego Chargers and 49ers and worked with Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan in San Francisco.

Known for his fiery personality and booming voice on the practice fields, Manusky had only been on coach Jay Gruden's staff for one season as outside linebackers coach. Middle linebacker Will Compton tweeted: "Congrats to Coach Manusky!" when players were informed of his promotion.

Cavanaugh was Washington's quarterbacks coach for the past two years as Kirk Cousins twice set the franchise record for passing yards in a season. Cousins' status for 2017 remains in doubt after playing last season on the franchise tag, but with McVay gone he'll have a familiar face as his offensive coordinator.