Is This It? Sixers Get Another Chance for Statement Win Vs. Bulls

Is This It? Sixers Get Another Chance for Statement Win Vs. Bulls

Good as it was that the Sixers dispatched the Magic Monday night—a lot
more handily than the 74-69 final score would indicate, I might add
(again)—we all knew it wasn't going to be one to silence the critics.
The Magic had lost three of four, were officially in team-wide tailspin,
and probably weren't all that great to begin with. But the good news,
sparing though it may be, about this next stretch of six games that the
Sixers will play, is that nearly every one of them is a chance for that
longed for Statement Win to establish the Sixers as legit contenders in
this league. Defeat the Heat, Lakers, Clippers, Spurs and/or Hawks (the
last in Atlanta) and people will no longer be able to flippantly dismiss
the Ballers as a team that "hasn't beaten anybody yet."

tonight's game against the Bulls might be their best shot at it yet.
There's still excuses to be had on both sides—starting center Spencer
Hawes is still out for the Sixers, while starting wings Rip Hamilton and
Luol Deng are probably out for the Bulls—but even at 85% each, the
Sixers and Bulls are two of the top teams in the East, and it looks like
no one's gonna go this whole strike-condensed season without losing a
key player or two to injury anyway. At the very least, the Bulls should
have All-Everything point guard Derrick Rose at the ready, and all he's
done is score over 30 points in each of his last three games—a win
against the reigning MVP will be impressive regardless of who's flanking

Of course, that means we're gonna need one hell of a performance on both
ends from our boy Jrue Holiday, who had one of his worst offensive
games of the season against Orlando on Monday, finishing with six points
on 3-11 shooting (though he did contribute six assists, with only one
turnover). Having to stay in front of D-Rose for 48 minutes is one of
the least enviable tasks in the league, but Jrue has proven to be a
capable on-ball defender when need be, and we're certainly going to need
it tonight with our front-court reinforcements (helllooooo again Tony
Battie) not so likely to provide stellar help defense.

By the way, interesting stat about The Damaja, courtesy of NBA stat guru
John Schumann—his +181 rating for the month of January (as in the
Sixers scored 181 more points than their opponents when he was on the
court) is the highest in the entire league. It's due in large part to
the fact that the Sixers as a team have been blowing out so many of
their opponents—and indeed, Thaddeus Young is #3 on the list with
+151—but still, interesting indeed for a player whose season many would
describe as being disappointing to be the leader in such an absolute

7:00 tip from the WFC. The Sixers, especially Evan Turner, say No Hard
Feelings with Coach Doug Collins after his blowup at the team for
letting the Magic creep into the game late on Monday. "If we're going to
be a legit team in the playoffs, then we can't let
teams score 18 points in the last three minutes and not get one stop,"
said Collins. "At the end of the day, playing like that [late in the
game] is going to cost us in the future" agreed Elton Brand. All right,
so we're all good then? Good. Let's do this thing.

Ex-Penn State TE Brent Wilkerson gets probation for indecent assault

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Ex-Penn State TE Brent Wilkerson gets probation for indecent assault

BELLEFONTE, Pa. — A former Penn State football player will serve five years' probation and register as a sex offender after pleading guilty to indecent assault.

Twenty-two-year-old Brent Wilkerson was sentenced Tuesday after pleading guilty in connection with a February outing to several bars with a young woman and others.

Police say Wilkerson was drunk but the woman was sober when he insisted on making sure she got home safe.

The woman tells police Wilkerson pushed her upstairs to her bedroom where he fell asleep. The woman says she went to bed later and woke up to find Wilkerson kissing and fondling her and fondling himself. He later apologized in a text message.

Wilkerson was kicked off the team in March. Court records say he lives in Clinton, Maryland.

Union-Toronto FC 5 things: Embracing the playoff underdog role

Union-Toronto FC 5 things: Embracing the playoff underdog role

Union vs. Toronto FC
7:30 p.m. on ESPN2

Riding a seven-game winless run entering their first playoff match since 2011, the No. 6 Union (11-14-9) will attempt to hit the reset button and unseat the third-ranked and heavily favored Toronto FC (14-9-11) on Wednesday (7:30 p.m., ESPN2) at BMO Field.

Here are five things to know:

1. Playing underdog
The struggling Union are happily accepting the role as underdogs against MLS Cup-hungry Toronto FC.

"It's a difficult task but it’s not impossible,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. "Not many people are giving us a chance. We've been a good team when we're considered the underdog and my guys have responded well in that situation. This is no different."

To fully embrace that underdog role, and in an attempt to wash away the stink of how they ended the regular season, the Union are treating Wednesday as a hard reset. For them, the playoffs will be a fresh chance to prove themselves.

“It’s a new season now,” said Union center back Ken Tribbett, who helped his club draw Toronto FC at BMO Field on Sept. 24. “In the playoffs, anything can happen. We go up to Toronto and it’ll be a good test. We have to stay sharp for 90 minutes and hopefully we can come back here with a win.”

And there is a reason to be slightly optimistic about the Union’s chance. Despite a 1-0-1 record against the Canadian side this season, the Union, who lost 3-1 in the first match, played much better on Sept. 24 at BMO Field. They clogged the midfield and ground the Sebastian Giovinco-less club into a 1-1 draw.

“It’s encouraging that we have gone there recently and played well,” Curtin said. “I think we have a group that has a belief, and one that is pissed a bit about how things have ended. They are motivated.”

2. Leaning on experience
While the 2016 Union will ultimately be known for their reliance on youth — a group that included Keegan Rosenberry, who has played every minute this season, Fabian Herbers, Josh Yaro and Ken Tribbett — it’s the veterans that will lead them on Wednesday.

“This is a pressure game for everybody,” Curtin said. “We have a good balance of guys who have played in big spots, like (Chris) Pontius, Tranquillo (Barnetta), (Alejandro) Bedoya. (C.J.) Sapong has played in big games, you can go through the list.”

Yet despite Curtin’s need for his veterans to lead, his reliance on youth means the younger players need to be reliable. The manager admitted that pressure can change how people play, and he is making sure the Union youth movement remains steady on Wednesday.

“We have young guys, there’s no question about it,” Curtin said. “These guys will play in their first playoff game and a lot of the guys on our roster have never been in a playoff game. You hope they rise to the occasion and I’m confident they will.”

3. Pressure on Toronto
Making their second-ever postseason appearance, high-priced Toronto FC has its sights set on bigger things than the Union in the play-in playoff round. That’s why Curtin believes the pressure is squarely on his opposition.

“I’d say the pressure is on them, they are the home team,” the manager said. “My guys should be loose, they have nothing to lose. It’s fair to say, they are the home team and they want to make a deep playoff run. We want to make some noise.”

Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney knows his team will be excited, so he’s trying to instill a high intensity but controlled start for his club.

“We expect a little of the unexpected at the start,” he said. “The game settles down eventually, but at the start, there’s a lot of emotion into it and you want to play with the right kind of caution but the right kind of intensity to put the opposing team on their back foot.

“The guys are ready to go, ready to go after Philadelphia.”

4. Keep an eye on
Jozy Altidore: It would be easy to go with Giovinco here, but Altidore has a recent history of crushing the Union. He has two goals in his last three games against the Union and buried 10 in 23 games this season.

“Jozy is a guy who can stretch the field and is dangerous,” Curtin said. “He’s not a guy you can shut down, it’s not possible. He’ll have his moments, you just have to make those looks as predictable for (goalkeeper Andre Blake) as you can. You hope he’s a little off on the night.”

Tranquillo Barnetta: Without added inspiration, the Union offensive catalyst has been one of the club’s best players all season. On Wednesday, Curtin expects a little extra from Barnetta, who is not returning to the Union in 2017.

“I’ve talked a ton about how special he is, he’s been a great attribute for the Union and a guy we want to prolong the season for,” Curtin said. “He’s played in the big spots, the big games and there’s something extra there for him.” 

5. This and that
• On the injury front, Union center back Yaro sprained his MCL while returning from a concussion. “It’s a two-week injury,” Curtin said, “so it will be unfortunate he won’t be part of the Toronto game.”

Warren Creavalle is also fighting injury. The defensive midfielder left Sunday’s match with a rib injury but could be available for Wednesday. “It’s painful for him,” Curtin said. “He’s a tough kid and he wants to be a part of this game.”

• The Union and Toronto FC are deadlocked all time, with a 6-6-5 record against each other. 

• The Union are 2-4-3 at BMO Field.

• Both clubs enter Wednesday limping. Since August 27 (the Union’s last win), Toronto FC is 2-1-4, while the Union are 0-5-2.