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.

Today's lineup: Phillies try to salvage game against struggling Anibal Sanchez

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Today's lineup: Phillies try to salvage game against struggling Anibal Sanchez

Justin Verlander mowed down the Phillies last night in a 3-1 Tigers victory, but the Phils have a chance to strike back this afternoon against a struggling pitcher who hasn't had much career success against them.

Anibal Sanchez will take the hill for the Tigers and oppose Aaron Nola in today's series finale (1:10 p.m. on CSN). To say Sanchez hasn't had a great start to his season would be an understatement. He's 3-5 with a 6.32 ERA and opponents are batting .270 against him.

In his career against the Phillies, Sanchez is just 4-8 with a 4.94 ERA. Granted, most of those numbers came in the early part of his career with the Florida Marlins, when he regularly faced powerful Phillies lineups. As one might expect, Ryan Howard, who is again in the lineup today as the designated hitter and batting fifth, has seen Sanchez plenty of times. His 42 at-bats against Sanchez are tied for third-most against the 32-year-old righty. Howard's done OK against Sanchez — 9 for 31 (.290 average) with two homers and four RBI. Maybe some familiarity will finally lead to a breakout game for Howard. But, if his massive slump is any indication, maybe not.

For as poor as Sanchez's start to the season has been, Aaron Nola's first six weeks of 2016 have been at the other end of the spectrum.

Today's Phillies starter is 3-3 with a 2.85 ERA. But he's been better than those numbers show.

His .900 WHIP is third in the NL, as is his 5.82 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His 6.45 hits allowed per nine innings is fourth in the NL, as is his 1.65 walks per nine innings. His 64 strikeouts rank eighth in the NL. Imagine if he got more than the 2.89 runs of support he's been getting in his starts.

As for the rest of the Phillies' lineup today, the only changes see Andres Blanco getting the start for Cesar Hernandez, batting seventh and Cameron Rupp behind the plate, batting sixth.

Phillies
1. Odubel Herrera CF
2. Freddy Galvis SS
3. Maikel Franco 3B
4. Tommy Joseph 1B
5. Ryan Howard DH
6. Cameron Rupp C
7. Andres Blanco 2B
8. Tyler Goeddell LF
9. Peter Bourjos 1B

Tigers
1. Cameron Maybin CF
2. J.D. Martinez RF
3. Miguel Cabrera DH
4. Victor Martinez 1B
5. Nick Castellanos 3B
6. Steven Moya LF
7. James McCann C
8. Mike Aviles 2B
9. Jose Iglesias SS

Watch: Miguel Cabrera gives Jeremy Hellickson thumbs up for fooling him on nasty pitch

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Watch: Miguel Cabrera gives Jeremy Hellickson thumbs up for fooling him on nasty pitch

The Phillies once again couldn't find much offense and fell to the Tigers in Detroit last night by a final of 3-1.

But at least the pitching showed something.

There was a fun moment between Jeremy Hellickson and Miguel Cabrera after Hellickson threw quite a nice pitch that fooled Miggy.

Here's how Jim Salisbury described the fun battle:

Hellickson served up a down-the-middle fastball to Miguel Cabrera in the first inning and Cabrera swatted it for an RBI double. He has four RBIs in the first two games against the Phillies.
 
In the third inning, Hellickson struck Cabrera out on a nasty changeup for the third out. The pitch was so good that Cabrera flashed Hellickson a thumbs-up before spiking his helmet to the ground.
 
Hellickson’s changeup has been very good lately.
 
“I really feel comfortable with it right now and I’m throwing it for a lot of strikes,” he said.

And here's the thumbs up:

Eagles 2016 training camp schedule features 2 open practices

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Eagles 2016 training camp schedule features 2 open practices

Eagles rookies, quarterbacks, and select veterans will report to training camp on Monday, July 25. 

The rest of the veterans will report on July 27, with the first full-team practice of training camp taking place on Thursday, July 28 at 3:30 p.m., the team announced Wednesday. 

The majority of training camp practices this summer under Doug Pederson will take place at the NovaCare Complex, beginning at 8:15 a.m., which is earlier than the team practiced during camp under former head coach Chip Kelly. The early practices hark back to training camps under Andy Reid at Lehigh, although now the team will have its walkthroughs in the afternoon. 

The Eagles will have two practices open to fans at Lincoln Financial Field: Sunday, July 31 at 10 a.m. and Sunday, Aug. 14 at 7 p.m. Both open practices are free and don't require tickets. Seating will be on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

The Eagles will have several off days throughout camp: Aug. 2, Aug. 9, Aug. 12. And camp ends on Aug. 16, with the preseason opener vs. the Tampa Bay Bucs in the middle, on Aug. 11.