Coulda Happened: Sixers Stage Improbable Comeback Against Spurs, Lose Anyway

Coulda Happened: Sixers Stage Improbable Comeback Against Spurs, Lose Anyway

The MLK Miracle, we coulda called it. In a second-half performance that
seemed like it might result in the second straight incredible comeback
victory at the WFC, the Sixers battled from a seemingly decisive
17-point Spurs lead to an astounding seven-point advantage late in the
fourth quarter. But like the Seahawks in their NFC Divisional Round
game, the Sixers left too much time on the clock, and like the Japanese
after Pearl Harbor (according to Roger Sterling, anyway), they didn't
know how to handle success. A double-digit stretch of consecutive
scoreless possessions left them vulnerable to a late Spurs surge, and
the four-time champs capitalized, pulling out the 85-80 victory.

This
was the kind of game in which you see the difference between young
teams and old teams. The Sixers were able to get back in the game by
running on and attacking the Spurs in the third and fourth quarters, San
Antonio having gotten a little fat off their early success. But when it
came time to execute down the stretch, it was the Sixers who seemed
tight and indecisive, while the Spurs were their time-proven cool, calm,
collected selves, getting easy buckets out of their offense while
Philly hoisted up quick jumpers and turned the ball over repeatedly. It
happens, and the Sixers (one guy in particular) will learn from the
experience, but it's still disappointing.

As much as you hope
Eastern Conference coaches got to watch Friday's win against Toronto
before making a decision on Jrue Holiday's All-Star candidacy, you kinda
hope they turned off this one before the last quarter. For the first
time I can remember in a while—maybe all season—the team was absolutely
rolling while the Damaja was on the bench, and as soon as he was
re-inserted, the offense got loose and sloppy, and a couple turnovers
(Jrue finished with six) and missed shots (he went 7-20 for the game,
with his only Q4 bucket coming in garbage time) later, the Spurs had
erased the Philly lead, taking control shortly thereafter. Holiday still
ended with 15 points, eight assists and four steals, but rather than
making every play down the stretch like he did against Friday, he
learned that taking over a game against the Spurs is a much more
challenging proposition than one against the Raptors.

Still, the
Sixers get a lot of credit for making this a game at all, when it
looked for all the world in the first half that this was gonna be
another 23-point Spurs cruise-control victory. Most of that credit has
to go to Evan Turner, who was an absolute game-changer in the third
quarter, infecting the rest of the Sixers squad with his energy and
aggressiveness, scoring a couple layups in a row, crashing the boards
like crazy, and then running the offense beautifully while Jrue rested
in the fourth. He finished with one of his best stat lines of the
year—18 points on 8-15 shooting, with 12 rebounds and seven assists,
doing all the things we know ET to be capable of doing while in form. Of
course, he missed the biggest shot of the game—a corner three with
about 90 to go that could've put Philly up two—but ultimately, it was an
encouraging game from a player who's looked disturbingly disengaged at
times lately.

Ultimately, I think you take more good from this
game than bad. The fact that the Sixers did not go gently into that good
night, as they did so many times in weeks past, is undoubtedly a good
thing, and hopefully gets them feeling that even a large second-half
deficit against a team as good as the Spurs isn't insurmountable if they
play to their strengths and play as a team. Most Sixer losses of this
nature have come because it felt like they were the less talented team,
but that wasn't what it felt like tonight—it just felt like they were
the much less experienced team, which is true, and which (hopefully) can
be improved over time.

Turnaround opportunity tomorrow night against the Bucks. The season doesn't have to be totally lost just yet.

Instant Replay: Phillies 4, Marlins 0

Instant Replay: Phillies 4, Marlins 0

BOX SCORE

MIAMI — Jeremy Hellickson continued to enhance his trade value and Tommy Joseph had the big hit in the Phillies’ 4-0 win over the Miami Marlins on Monday night.

Hellickson shut down the Marlins for the second time in a week. The next time he pitches, it could be for them. The Marlins are one of the teams interested in the veteran right-hander. Scouts from several other contending teams were in attendance for Hellickson’s strong outing.

Joseph’s two-out double in the top of the eighth broke a scoreless tie.

Phillies pitching held the Marlins to two hits. The Phils have 11 shutouts this season.

Starting pitching report
Hellickson pitched six scoreless innings and gave up just a hit and a walk while striking out one. He exited for a pinch-hitter after just 70 pitches. The right-hander has pitched 14 innings and allowed just one run in his last two starts, both against the Marlins. He has lowered his season ERA to 3.65.

Miami’s Jarred Cosart came up from Triple A and pitched five scoreless innings. However, he threw 92 pitches. He allowed three hits, a walk and struck out one.

Bullpen report 
Trade candidate David Hernandez pitched a strong seventh inning for the Phils, picking up the win. Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez closed it out.

Miami right-hander Kyle Barraclough came up big in the top of the seventh inning. He struck out Cody Asche, Peter Bourjos and pinch-hitter Ryan Howard with runners on second and third to preserve a 0-0 tie.

Marlins right-hander Fernando Rodney struck out the first two batters in the eighth then gave up a four-pitch walk to Maikel Franco before Joseph’s two-out double delivered the game’s first run.

Rodney took the loss.

A.J. Ramos was charged with three runs in the ninth, two unearned.

At the plate
The Phillies survived 13 strikeouts, a 1-for-9 performance with runners in scoring position and 11 men left on base to score the win.

The Phils had just six hits. Joseph had a pair of them and now has 25 RBIs in 54 games.

Cesar Hernandez gave the Phils some cushion with an RBI single in the top of the ninth. Miami’s defense fell apart after that and the Phils scored two more runs to put the game away.

Asche had a hit to break an 0-for-26 skid. Bourjos is 0 for his last 17.

Trade talk
Andres Blanco is out for six weeks so he’s no longer a trade candidate, but others are (see story).

Up next
Jerad Eickhoff (6-11, 3.98) pitches against Miami right-hander Tom Koehler (7-8, 4.42) on Tuesday night. Koehler pitched eight innings of two-run ball in beating the Phillies last week at Citizens Bank Park.

NBA Notes: Dion Waiters signs 1-year deal with Heat

NBA Notes: Dion Waiters signs 1-year deal with Heat

Two people with knowledge of the situation tell The Associated Press that the Miami Heat have agreed to terms on a one-year deal with free agent guard Dion Waiters.

The two sides came to agreement on Monday. Waiters will make $2.9 million. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the team has not announced the deal.

Waiters averaged 9.8 points for the Oklahoma City Thunder last year, but had several big games in the playoffs. He played particularly well against Dallas and San Antonio in the playoffs before his role was reduced in the seven-game loss to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals.

Waiters will give the Heat another scorer off the bench (see full story).

Blazers: C.J. McCullom inked to four-year extension
PORTLAND, Ore. -- A person familiar with the deal confirms that guard CJ McCollum has agreed to a four-year, $106 million contract extension with the Portland Trail Blazers.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity on Monday because the deal hadn't been formally announced by the team. It was first reported by Yahoo Sports.

McCollum, who was named the NBA's Most Improved Player, averaged 20.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists for the Blazers during the regular season. He raised his scoring average by more than 14 points over the previous season.

As the 10th overall pick for the Blazers in the 2013 draft, McCollum bided his time on the bench for his first two seasons. He became a starter in the backcourt with Damian Lillard last season after four of the team's starters departed in the offseason (see full story).

Michael Jordan donates $2 million to ease racial tensions
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Michael Jordan is trying to help ease tension between African-Americans and law enforcement.

The NBA great and Charlotte Hornets owner said Monday he's giving $1 million to the Institute for Community-Police Relations and $1 million to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The aim is to help build trust following several shootings around the country.

Jordan says in a statement to The Associated Press on Monday that "as a proud American, a father who lost his own dad in a senseless act of violence, and a black man, I have been deeply troubled by the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement and angered by the cowardly and hateful targeting and killing of police officers," (see full story).

Phillies Phodder: On injuries, trade possibilities, more roster moves

Phillies Phodder: On injuries, trade possibilities, more roster moves

MIAMI — The Phillies will be without their best utility man and bat off the bench for at least six weeks.

Andres Blanco needs surgery to repair his broken left index finger. He suffered the injury making a tag play at third base during Sunday’s game in Pittsburgh. According to manager Pete Mackanin, Blanco will have a pin inserted in the finger during surgery on Wednesday.

“That’s a shame,” said Mackanin, who has called Blanco the best utility man he’s seen in his 47 years in pro baseball. “He was one of our best players. Maybe in six weeks he can come back. But it’s going to be a while.”

With the trade deadline a week away, Blanco would have been a nice fit on some contending teams. Now, he will stay put. 

Pitcher Jeremy Hellickson and outfielder Peter Bourjos remain strong trade possibilities. Hellickson started Monday night against the Marlins, who are interested in his services. A source confirmed a FOX Sports report that the Phillies have been scouting the low levels of the Marlins farm system in preparation for a potential deal (see story). The Marlins are considering other pitchers, as well. Some industry insiders view Hellickson and Bourjos as backup targets for teams looking for pitching and outfield help. Translation, the fate of bigger names on the trade market might have to shake out before the Phillies know if they can strike a deal. The trade deadline is next Monday.

The Phillies recalled infielder Taylor Featherston from Triple A to take Blanco’s roster spot (see story).

Mackanin gave a succinct answer when asked whether the team considered bringing up top prospect J.P. Crawford.

“None,” he said “No talk about him.”

Crawford could still see time in the majors later this season.

The Phillies are expected to make another roster move later this week when Aaron Altherr’s minor-league rehab assignment expires after Wednesday’s game. Altherr, who suffered a wrist injury that required surgery in March, is playing at Triple A. The Phillies could bring him up Thursday. To clear a roster spot for Altherr, the Phils could trade Bourjos or subtract a player such as seldom-used Jimmy Paredes.

Altherr was on target to be a starter in the Phillies outfield before he went down in spring training. He will play a corner outfield spot when he arrives.

“I'm sure he'll be here sooner rather than later,” Mackanin said. “I'm anxious to see him. He's important for us to get a good look at. I'd like to see two months' worth if I could.”