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.

Joel Embiid adjusting to new challenges in 1st NBA training camp

Joel Embiid adjusting to new challenges in 1st NBA training camp

GALLOWAY, N.J. -- With Joel Embiid's excitement to be on the court following two years of injuries comes the reality of his lengthy setback.

Embiid is participating in his first NBA training camp this week. While he has impressed with his natural abilities and improved skills, Embiid is facing challenges as he gets accustomed to the league.

"Everything is kind of off right now as far as catching the ball or shooting," Embiid said after practice Wednesday. "I've still got to get in the flow of the game."

Embiid has yet to play since being drafted in 2014. For the past two years he has worked out individually and in controlled settings. Practices, even in training camp, are different. 

"You see all the time when you realize he hasn't played basketball for a long time," Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. "He's trying to gather his feet and find his balance, he's trying to figure out stuff in real time speed on defensive assignments and rotations."

On Wednesday, Embiid went through practice without any minute restrictions and was feeling healthier from the cold and virus he had been battling (see story). Teammates have praised his physical presence and eagerness to compete. He makes an impact with his 7-foot-2 presence alone, but there is more he wants to improve. 

Embiid is adjusting to the speed of the game. He has been facing challenges with getting the ball in the post and spoke to the coaches about his frustrations. The staff explained they are focusing on pick-and-roll defense and getting out to run during training camp, but he will get that desired location in game situations. 

“You continue to see the size of Joel Embiid,” Brown said. “He's a big man and he's got a mindset to back up his physical gifts. He really wants the ball. He wants to get deep catches. He wants to dunk on people.”

Embiid always has been realistic about his transition to his rookie season. He has pointed out many times that he is a fast learner, and is anxious to soak up new knowledge and apply it to the court.

"It's really frustrating," he said. "But like I've said, you've got to trust the process, which I've been doing."

Tonight's lineup: Cody Asche starts in place of injured Roman Quinn

Tonight's lineup: Cody Asche starts in place of injured Roman Quinn

With Roman Quinn's season over with an oblique strain, Freddy Galvis moves up to second in the Phillies' lineup Wednesday night against the Braves.

Quinn's showing in the majors this month was a microcosm of his pro career to this point — he showed his speed with four steals and several infield hits, posted a .373 OBP in 69 plate appearances, but suffered another injury. Health has always been his roadblock.

With Quinn out, Cody Asche gets a start in left field against Braves right-hander Mike Foltynewicz, who he's homered off of. The presence of Quinn and Aaron Altherr has limited Asche's playing time — he's started only three games since coming back from Triple A on Sept. 10.

Asche bats seventh, a spot ahead of Aaron Altherr, who is 7 for 52 (.135) in his last 18 games and has four extra-base hits in his last 133 plate appearances.

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Odubel Herrera, CF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Ryan Howard, 1B
6. Cameron Rupp, C
7. Cody Asche, LF
8. Aaron Altherr, RF
9. Adam Morgan, P

Matt Kemp, who sat last night, returns to the Braves' lineup.

1. Ender Inciarte, CF
2. Adonis Garcia, 3B
3. Freddie Freeman, 1B
4. Matt Kemp, LF
5. Tyler Flowers, C
6. Dansby Swanson, SS
7. Mallex Smith, RF
8. Daniel Castro, 2B
9. Mike Foltynewicz, P