Garbage Time For All, Big Macs for No One: Sixers Beat Raps 97-62

Garbage Time For All, Big Macs for No One: Sixers Beat Raps 97-62

Well, this one isn't going to hurt our score differential any. On a line
graph, the Sixers' performance against the Raptors tonight would look
remarkably similar to last night against the Pistons—steadily climbing
for two quarters, then suddenly shooting almost straight up towards the
end of the third quarter into the fourth. Again, the Sixers thoroughly
outplayed the Raps in the first half, but missed open jumpers (Jodie,
oh, Jodie), failed to convert fast breaks, and let rebounds and passes
slip through their fingers, resulting in Toronto staying nearly level
with Philly throughout. Then in the third, a couple of shots started to
fall, the fast breaks got a little smoother, and before you knew it, the
Sixers were up 20, never to look back. The Sixers made Garbage Time out
of the entire 4th quarter, and ended up winning 97-62.

The key to the team's win tonight, as that number "62" would suggest,
was the defense. The Sixers, especially in the backcourt, had the
Raptors smothered, had them covered like my Waffle House hash browns,
cutting off driving lanes and getting their hands on the ball in what
felt like every possession, getting those deflections that Coach Collins
has preached about all season, causing turnovers and suffocating
possessions. They switched well on pick-and-rolls, they helped well on
layup drives, they got out to shooters and they played tough D in
general without fouling. (In fact, you'd have to say they got more than a
little help from the referees tonight, considering the Sixers only got
whistled for three fouls in the entire first half—their defense was
good, but no one's D is that good.)

Their stellar defensive effort—and it was not only the fewest points the
Raptors had scored since 2003, it was the lowest amount of points ever
scored by an opponent at the [Rotating Bank Name] Center—kept the
Sixers in the driver's seat, despite a lackluster first half on the
other end. Whatever juju was working for Jodie Meeks in the fourth
quarter last night did not carry over to this one, as he went a
miserable 2-11 (1-6 from deep) despite a whole host of clean, open
looks. Andre Iguodala wasn't much better, shooting 3-12 for the evening
and hearing a smattering of boos for an opening-drive airball. In fact,
no Sixer scored more than 14 points on the night, usually a sure recipe
for offensive disaster.

But that's sort of how this team works now, isn't it? 'Dre and Jodie
can't buy a bucket, Spencer Hawes (who has somehow become this team's
most potent offensive threat, and I don't even mean that in an
eye-rolling way) misses almost the entire second half with a tight back,
nobody gets particularly hot from the field—and we still string
together a 97-point performance and a 35-point win. It's sharing the
ball, it's taking care of the ball, and it's going nine deep—the ninth
tonight being Nik Vucevic, who had a very nice night scoring, passing
and rebounding the ball, nearly coming up with his first career
double-double (9 and 10), though he did get burned on defense by Andrea
Bargnani a couple times. It's not gonna get the team many nationally
televised games, but it is fun to watch, and so far this season, it's
getting them wins—decisive ones, at that.

5-2 for the Liberty Ballers now, their best start to the season since
they went 10-0 in '00-'01, Iverson's MVP season where the team went to
the finals. Of course, neither the blowout win or the best start in a
decade meant much to those in attendance at the WFC tonight, most of
whom left cruelly disappointed that Evan Turner would not shoot a three
in the team's final clock-dwindling possession, up 35, to try to get the
crowd the free Big Macs that come with a 100-point performance. Well,
the Lakers have had to put up with similar "WE WANT TA-COS!" chants for
as long as I can remember, even in the midst of three straight trips to
the finals and two championships, so hopefully the Sixers aren't taking
it as too much of a slight.

Next up: The 6-2 Pacers at home on Monday night, the first of three
games in three nights for the Sixers, and a game that should represent
the Sixers' first real challenge since returning East. Bring 'em on, I
say. We might not beat 'em by 35, but I like the chances of our nine
guys outplaying their nine guys just the same. TURNER AND VOOCH 4 LIFE.

Other RBs thriving, but Ryan Mathews (ankle) still 'the guy' when healthy

Other RBs thriving, but Ryan Mathews (ankle) still 'the guy' when healthy

Kenjon Barner has the third-most runs in the NFL of 14-plus yards despite having just 14 carries all year.
 
Wendell Smallwood ran for 79 yards and a touchdown Sunday in the first extended playing time of his career.
 
Despite their gaudy stats, Ryan Mathews will be the Eagles’ featured running back when he’s healthy, head coach Doug Pederson said Monday.
 
“I think we just continue the same way, really,” Pederson said. “When Ryan is healthy, he’s the guy, and then we’ll mix Darren (Sproles) in there and you saw what Wendell can do and we know what Kenjon’s all about.”
 
Mathews, who has been injury prone throughout his career, did not play after two early carries Sunday in the Eagles’ 34-3 win over the Steelers at the Linc.
 
Pederson said Mathews’ left ankle — originally injured in July, before training camp even began and then aggravated in the season opener against the Browns — is still bothering him.
 
“With that thing, that ankle, it’s something that for him it never loosened up (Sunday) and was stiff and so again (we) just opted on the side of caution more than anything else,” Pederson said.
 
Mathews gained minus-five yards on two carries in the first quarter and didn’t play again.
 
He's rushed for three touchdowns this year but is averaging only 3.2 yards per carry — 36th out of 40 backs with 20 or more carries this year.
 
Meanwhile, Smallwood is averaging 4.8 yards per carry, eighth-highest in the NFL, and Barner, with just 14 carries, has four runs of 14 yards. He’s averaging 6.1 yards per carry but doesn’t have enough to qualify for the league leaders.

Although Barner has the 58th-most carries in the NFL, only LeSean McCoy and Isaiah Crowell have more runs of 14 or more yards.
 
Sproles has been his usual electriyfing self in the receiving game and returning punts, but he’s averaging just 2.7 yards per carry.
 
Since opening day last year, Sproles is at 3.6 per carry — 50th of 52 backs with at least 100 carries over the last two seasons.
 
Pederson said despite Mathews’ injury history — he started more than nine games twice in his first six seasons — he has no problem with the workload he gave him in Cleveland. Mathews had 22 carries against the Browns, his second-most since 2013.
 
“I think that’s a good number for him, honestly, and then for everyone else to get a few touches after that we’re on track,” Pederson said.
 
“It’s kind of with Carson (Wentz), I don’t think you ever want to go into a game thinking you want to throw it 50 times. If you manage it and keep it around 30 and have a successful running game, I think that’s a good balance.”
 
How much Barner and Smallwood will work in once Mathews returns remains to be seen.
 
But it’s hard to argue with their production.
 
“Everybody’s a little different runner,” Pederson said Monday, a day after the Eagles improved to 3-0.
 
“Wendell did an excellent job between the tackles last night, sort of downhill, Kenjon sort of off-tackle, and of course Darren can do everything.
 
“So we’ll still keep the rotation the same, we’re not going to change much that way, and just want to get everybody in the football game.”
 
It’s tough to put together a running back depth chart for this team. Mathews had the most carries against the Browns, Sproles had the most against the Bears and Smallwood the most against the Steelers.
 
Last time the Eagles opened a season with three different backs leading the team in attempts was 1989, when Mark Higgs had 13 carries in the opener vs. Seattle, Anthony Toney led the way a week later with nine carries against the Redskins (that was the huge comeback win from a 20-0 deficit) and then Heath Sherman had a team-high 16 carries a week later against the 49ers (when Joe Montana threw four touchdown passes in the fourth quarter).
 
How similar this year turns out to 2003 and the original Three-Head Monster of Duce Staley — now the Eagles’ running backs coach — Brian Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter will sort itself out after the bye.
 
“It’s good to have that kind of depth at that position with as many touches collectively as a group that we’re going to get each game and the wear and tear on that position,” Pederson said. “It’s great to get that many guys in the game.”
 
The Eagles certainly do seem high on Smallwood, the only back in the group that Pederson didn’t inherit from Chip Kelly.
 
Smallwood missed most of training camp with a quad injury and concussion but has been very good since he’s been healthy.
 
“He’s much like Carson in how he prepares during the week,” Pederson said.
 
“We’ve been fortunate with our young players ... and how they work and how they handle themselves on and off the football field, and he’s done a great job in practice, he’s put himself in a position to help us, and it’s great to see him.
 
“We saw it early in the spring, we saw it in training camp before the injury.”

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson says Carson Wentz’s prep is ‘Peyton Manning-ish’

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson says Carson Wentz’s prep is ‘Peyton Manning-ish’

At 8 a.m. on Sunday, eight and a half hours before game time, Jordan Matthews was in the team hotel, going to get breakfast when he ran into Carson Wentz.

But the 23-year-old quarterback wasn’t interested in food at that particular time. He was going to watch film.

“Everybody thinks that’s like a crazy thing,” Matthews said on Sunday night. “That’s his standard.”

This is just the latest example of Wentz’s obsession with football and film study. Since the No. 2 overall pick arrived in Philadelphia, and especially since he was named the Week 1 starter, we’ve been regaled with stories of his preparation and drive. The anecdotes of Wentz’s arrival before the sun to watch film have flowed.

“It’s Peyton Manning-ish,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said on Monday, as the team heads into its bye week with a 3-0 record.

“And you hate to label, you don’t want to put labels on guys. But that’s how Peyton prepared and that’s how these top quarterbacks prepare each week. And he has that now as a young quarterback and that will just carry him throughout his career.”

When asked if Wentz’s film study habits reach obsessive levels, Pederson said that notion was “accurate.”

“He loves watching tape,” Pederson said. “I know I’ve mentioned he and the quarterbacks, Chase [Daniel] and Aaron [Murray], are in here at 5:30 in the morning and they’re exhausting the tape. He’s constantly, I hear him in the building talking about plays and routes and protections.”

Aside from Wentz’s just putting in the time during film study, his unique ability to recall plays quickly has given him a huge advantage during his first three games.

When asked if Wentz’s memory is photographic, Pederson said he thinks it is.

In between series, Wentz and the coaching staff are able to go over plays on their Surface tablets. They go over plays and then when he’s on the field, he recognizes a defensive front or coverage and can get the offense in a different play.

Through three games, Wentz’s preparation and memory have helped the Eagles get off to a quick 3-0 start.

“He’s a different player that way,” Pederson said. “He’s much like our last quarterback, Alex Smith, in Kansas City. It’s the same type of memory. For a young kid to do that, it’s pretty special.”