Golf Clap: Sixers Clinch Playoffs, Winning Record With Win in New Jersey

Golf Clap: Sixers Clinch Playoffs, Winning Record With Win in New Jersey

Bust out the Canada Dry. The Philadelphia 76ers have clinched a playoff
spot—their fourth in the last five years, a feat matched in the East by
only Boston, Miami, Orlando and Atlanta—by defeating the Deron Williams-less New Jersey Nets
in the Nets' last-ever game in the Garden State. The win not only
ensures that the Sixers will be playing May basketball, but also
guarantees the Ballers their first season with a winning record since
2004-05. The Sixers now sit at 34-30, the same record as the New York
Knicks, though the Knicks have the tiebreaker due to winning the season
series.

The win was the kind of team-wide, bench-centric effort that the team
used to breeze through lesser squads earlier in the year. Thaddeus Young
and Evan Turner went a combined 13-16 from the field for 28 points,
while Andre Iguodala posted a trademark near-triple-double with 14
points, seven boards and nine assists. Even Lavoy Allen got into the
mix, playing in the stead of an ineffective Nik Vucevic (just 2:20 of
game time after starting at center), scoring nine points on 4-5 shooting
with four rebounds. Things got a little sticky in the third, but Thad,
Evan and Sour Patch Lou Williams helped the team separate going into the
fourth, and the Nets fans took one last chance to boo their team on
their home floor.

 
So...yay? Making the playoffs, that's a good thing, right? Depends on
who you ask, I suppose. Watching your team in the post-season is
supposed to be the reward for sticking with your team through the entire
regular-season grind, but obviously it's hard to get too enthused about
this Sixers team that had gone 6-13 before their recent three-game
winning streak, demolishing all of the excitement this team had started
the season with. It's probably still a preferable finish to last year,
when the team lost five of their last six (including a humiliating home
loss to the Detroit Pistons at season's end) to finish the year at .500
again, but it's not exactly the Phils clinching the NL East or anything.

Now, the Sixers have two games left, at Milwaukee and at Detroit, while
the Knicks play the Clippers at MSG and the Bobcats in Charlotte.
Optimally, both teams will win both remaining games, so the Sixers can
enter the playoffs feeling good about themselves while still slotting
into the eighth seed, allowing them to face the maybe-less-superhuman
Chicago Bulls instead of the Miami Heat in the first round. Regardless
of who they face, it's hard to believe that they can do better than the
ol' First Round Tough Out playoff warmup, though against the Bulls, at
least they'd have a (very, very distant) shot. Is that worth the
possible difference between (roughly) the 17th pick and the 12th pick in
next year's draft? You be the judge.

On an even-less-triumphant note, I'd like to issue a fond farewell to
the New Jersey Nets. Yes, the team sucked for a long time, yes, their
games against the Sixers were always unwatchable, but I still feel a
great deal of affection and sympathy for the beleaguered Nets. That
Prudential Center was a very underrated place to watch a basketball
game—my friends and I could basically get an entire section to ourselves
for about $2 each on StubHub. They'll be infinitely cooler in Brooklyn,
but likely a lot less lovable. Godspeed, New Jersey basketball.

NFL Playoffs: Matt Ryan, Falcons dismantle Packers to reach Super Bowl LI

NFL Playoffs: Matt Ryan, Falcons dismantle Packers to reach Super Bowl LI

The Atlanta Falcons are headed to their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history after routing the Green Bay Packers 44-21 in the NFC championship game.

Matt Ryan threw for four touchdowns, including a 73-yard catch-and-run for a highlight-reel score by star receiver Julio Jones. The defense played just as crucial a role in containing quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' offense.

Rodgers had 287 yards with three touchdown passes and an interception. But the Falcons got to Rodgers with pressure and forced two Green Bay turnovers. Rodgers was outplayed by Ryan, who even ran for a 14-yard touchdown.

Atlanta will play either New England or Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl on Feb. 5 in Houston.

The only other time that Atlanta made the Super Bowl was in the 1998 season. The Falcons lost 34-19 to the Denver Broncos.

The Packers fell in the NFC title game for the second time in three seasons.

2017 NBA draft prospect watch: Jonathan Isaac has a banner week

2017 NBA draft prospect watch: Jonathan Isaac has a banner week

Two of the country's top prospects faced off in the Pac 12 this week while a top 10 forward saw his season come to a premature close. However, we begin this week with the breakout performance by Jonathan Isaac.

Jonathan Isaac, forward, Florida St. (6-11/205)
Isaac's potential had everyone in the basketball world's curiosity. Now his play on the court has their attention. The Seminoles hosted No. 15 Notre Dame, which had yet to lose in ACC play before the Wednesday game. 

The freshman forward dominated in the 83-80 win. He had 23 points on 7 for 9 shooting from the field. He made both his threes, all seven of his free throws and also had one assist. His other stats were also otherworldly. He picked up 10 rebounds and had seven(!) blocks, including one on a late Notre Dame shot to get back into the game after he'd put the Seminoles ahead with a three. All this was in just 25 minutes

He followed it up with a similar game against Louisville. In 28 minutes, he had 16 points on 4 for 7 shooting, making one three and, again, all seven free throws. Add in two assists and two blocks to aid in the 73-68 win. Isaac has shown himself to be an athletic freak, a potential stretch-four at the next level and one with tremendous defensive potential, displayed with his nine blocks this week.

OG Anunoby, forward, Indiana (6-8/235)
Anunoby has had an uneven season, but he, at the very least, showed flashes of the ability that make him a top player for this year's draft class. However, a knee injury suffered on Wednesday finished off Anunoby's season, forcing him to undergo surgery that will keep him off the court for the rest of Indiana's schedule.

This may knock him out of the 2017 draft entirely. As a freshman last year, his NCAA Tournament performance was enough to make him a lottery pick in an even weaker draft field than the upcoming one. He chose to remain in school and it isn't farfetched to believe he will return to Indiana for his junior year to get more seasoning, a better draft field and another year of education.

Lonzo Ball, guard, UCLA (6-6/190)
There are going to be quite a few marquee matchups in the Pac 12. One of the first this year came in the form of UCLA-Arizona in Los Angeles on Saturday. The No. 3 Bruins lost, 96-85, but that had nothing to do with Ball's standout performance (more on the Wildcats below). He pushed the ball in transition, drove to the hole with ease and made 4 of 8 threes with his quirky shot. 

He had 24 points on 10-for-15 shooting and had eight assists, six rebounds, two steals and a block. When you watch Ball score so naturally, it's easy to forget his potential as a point guard, but then he whips up beautiful assists as he did many times on Saturday. The freshman has everything you want in a point guard.

Lauri Markkanen, forward, Arizona (7-0/225)
The No. 14 Wildcats picked up their biggest win of the year, moving to 7-0 in conference play. As you can expect, Markkanen had a big game to push Arizona past UCLA. He had 18 points on 6 for 10 shooting, was 3 for 3 from three and made three free throws, all which grabbing seven boards. Like Isaac, he is a tantalizing talent as a stretch-four, hanging out around the perimeter and spotting up for threes well.

He now has 16 made threes in his last four games and has averaged over seven boards in that stretch. He's not unbelievably thin like many fours his age. The freshman really can battle down low and get his shot, and he justifies his prospect status on a game-by-game basis with his ability.

Markelle Fultz, guard, Washington (6-4/195)
Washington lost on Saturday, moving to 9-10 and 2-5 in conference. But it's worth talking about Fultz's standout Wednesday night. The freshman willed his team back from 17-points down with a 37-point performance en route to an 85-83 OT win over Colorado. In 43 minutes, he was 13 for 24 from the field and 11 for 15 from the free throw line.

Don't think he's just a scorer, though. He had eight assists, five rebounds, three steals and three blocks, doing it all for the Huskies as he usually does. The freshman sensation was 0 for 2 from three, but he is normally efficient from beyond the arc. He alone is the reason to watch the under .500 Huskies.

While the 9-10 Huskies are unlikely to make a late run towards March Madness, the strong Pac 12 should provide many marquee matchups for Fultz. He faces off vs. a stout Arizona team next Sunday afternoon. Six days later, the long awaited matchup between Fultz and Ball up in Seattle goes down with presumably many scouts in attendance.

Quick Hits

Malik Monk, guard, Kentucky (6-4/185)
Twenty-seven points on 9 for 14 shooting, 4 for 7 from three, 5 for 6 on free throws, three rebounds, one assist, two steals and four turnovers in an 85-69 win over No. 24 South Carolina.

Josh Jackson, guard/forward, Kansas (6-8/203)
Fifteen points on 6 for 14 shooting, 2 for 5 from three, 1 for 3 on free throws, five rebounds, two assists, four steals and six turnovers in a 79-67 win over Texas.

Jayson Tatum, forward, Duke (6-8/204)
Fourteen points on 4 for 9 shooting, 1 for 4 from three, 5 for 6 on free throws, three rebounds, one assist, three turnovers and five fouls in a 70-58 win over Miami.