Jrue Holiday Has the Game of His Life, Sixers Blow Out Reeling Knicks

Jrue Holiday Has the Game of His Life, Sixers Blow Out Reeling Knicks

So apparently a lot can change over the course of an NBA season. Not
that the Sixers are a lot better then when they first faced the Knicks
in a humiliating home-and-home, losing both games by dramatic margins,
or that the Knicks are necessarily all that much worse, but suffice to
say, the third time was the charm for the 76ers, as they rode excellent
scoring nights from their top three perimeter scorers to a blowout just
as bad as those the Knicks inflicted on the Sixers not all that long
ago, winning 97-80 in a game that wasn't even as close as the final
score indicates.

Jrue Holiday proved that he is not one to coast
on his banked accomplishments, following his All-Star nomination on
Thursday with arguably his best game of the season and possibly ever,
scoring a career-high 35 (and he could've had more had the game not
devolved into garbage time in the 4th) on 16-25 shooting, with six
assists, five rebounds and (perhaps most impressively) just one
turnover. The real crazy thing about Holiday's performance in this one
is that it didn't even seem all that extraordinary—he got to the basket
easily a couple times to start off the game, and from there it was just
Jrue doing Damaj. This guy is special, for real.

Evan Turner was
a worthy second option tonight, scoring 20 on 8-14 shooting, with six
boards and three assists, keeping the team running (if not exactly
humming) during Jrue's brief absences on the floor. The Extraterrestrial
has now scored well in three straight, hopefully all the way out of the
scoring doldrums he was mired in for the better part of a month. And
Nick Young, getting a rare start, also showed he could be a good
sidekick to Jrue, nailing a couple threes that Holiday set him up for,
and getting to the line a team-high eight times on his way to 20 points.
The frontcourt didn't produce a ton, but they were solid defensively,
Spencer Hawes even ending with an uncharacteristic four blocks.

Ironically,
the one guy on the Knicks who really gave the Sixers trouble was the
one guy who wasn't there for the first two blowouts—Amar'e Stoudemire,
who the Ballers have always had trouble with and who they certainly had
no answer for in the post tonight, Amar'e ending with 20 points on 8-13
shooting. Luckily, Amar'e only played about 26 minutes, and the rest of
the Knicks were a scoring disaster, with the Knicks' other four most
prolific shooters—Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and the
recently returned Raymond Felton—combining to go an unthinkably
miserable 11-51, essentially shooting New York out of the game. Good
Sixer defense, perhaps, but likely also just an off night from a team
that appears to have lost its groove a little, losing seven of its last
12.

An interesting thing worth monitoring with these Sixers is
the steadily vanishing role of Dorell Wright. DWRIGHTWAY1 appeared to
have established hiimself as an important cog in the Sixers rotation in
late December and early January, and he won the Sixers that game in
Memphis nearly single-handedly, but after playing less than five minutes
against the Raptors and Bucks, Dorell picked up his first DNP-CD of the
season last night. Wright's minutes appear to have mostly been funneled
to Damien Wilkins, which is pretty odd considering that it would seem
Wilkins' best-case upside is as a poor man's Dorell Wright, and just
about every available metric rates Wright's contributions this year far
over Damien's. (This would appear to be a Doug Collins' Dawg House
alert—get out soon, Dorell.)

Big win for the Sixers, and one
which leaves them—believe it or not—just two games out of the playoffs
in the super-sad Eastern Conference, a margin likely to shrink even
smaller after the C's get a visit from the Miami Heat tomorrow
afternoon. Whether they can build on it or not will become clearer on
Monday, when the team hosts the Memphis Grizzlies, starting to roll
again with wins in four of their last five. I predict that if Jrue
Holiday makes 16 field goals again, their chances will be decent.

Tranquillo Barnetta will not return to Union next season

usa-tranquillo-barnetta-union.jpg
USA Today Images

Tranquillo Barnetta will not return to Union next season

Tranquillo Barnetta is going home.

In an abrupt announcement on Tuesday, the Union declared that the skillful Swiss attacking midfielder will not renew his contract with the club and will return to Switzerland following the 2016 season to play for his hometown club, FC St. Gallen.

According to MLS Players Union, Barnetta’s exit will free the Union of $687,500 next season.

“The entire soccer community here was so welcoming and I’m so thankful to everyone at Philadelphia Union for making me feel so appreciated,” Barnetta said. “Playing in front of my friends and family and making plans for life at the end of my career where I want to live is a force I can’t resist.”

Although the timing of the announcement is a surprise, the move isn’t one. With Alejandro Bedoya now in the mix, currently playing out of position in a box-to-box midfield role, the Union will replace Barnetta with Bedoya at the center attacking midfield spot. It’s a position that Bedoya is comfortable in, playing there with his previous club, FC Nantes.

Bedoya played for the injured Barnetta in the center midfield spot last Saturday and scored his first goal of the season in a 1-1 draw with Toronto FC.

But even with Bedoya ready to take over, the Union will miss Barnetta. Since joining the Union in 2015, Barnetta, 31, has been one of the better possession playmakers in MLS, scoring six goals and seven assists in 37 games.

“Tranquillo has been a key piece in what we’re trying to build here in Philadelphia but we appreciate his decision to return to Switzerland,” said Union sporting director Earnie Stewart, whose club has three matches left in the 2016 season, and will likely make the playoffs. “We look forward to continuing to push for the postseason.”

As Eagles enter bye, Doug Pederson aims to thwart complacency

As Eagles enter bye, Doug Pederson aims to thwart complacency

The Eagles are 3-0. They’re alone atop the NFC East and have been the biggest surprise of the young NFL season.

Doug Pederson’s message to his team: You haven’t done anything yet.

Although the Eagles are riding high, Pederson doesn’t want his team to change its outlook or hard work. That’s what teams have to worry about once they’ve found some success.

“The biggest thing is complacency,” Pederson said Monday. “You think you've arrived. You think you are all that. When that creeps in, that's when you get beat. It's my job not to let that creep in. I've got to keep the guys focused and grounded. I told them this week they're going to travel and go home and people are going to pat them on the back and say how great they are.

“But next Monday, I'm going to tell them, ‘Hey, we're back to work. We're 0-0. This is Game 1 and let's go.’ That's just the way it has to be. You are building for one ultimate goal and that's a few weeks down the road. That's what you are trying to get to. But you can't get there unless you take care of the next opponent. It's my job to keep them focused that way.”

Being 3-0 (they’re one of five 3-0 teams) gives the Eagles a head start, but it certainly doesn’t guarantee them a playoff spot. This is the ninth 3-0 start in franchise history. They’ve made the playoffs just five times in the previous eight. And they recently missed the playoffs after starting 3-0 in 2014 under Chip Kelly.

In NFL history (before this season), there have been 276 teams to start with 3-0 records. Of them, 200 (72.3 percent) have made the playoffs.

“We just have to approach it the same, one day at a time,” Pederson said. “That's the way this business goes. You are on top of the world one minute, and you can be at the bottom of the heap the next. Just got to keep things even-keeled and can't get too high, can't get too low. Approach it the same. Like I mentioned earlier, you can't substitute for hard work. That pays off on Sundays. We just have to stay the course. Again, a lot of football left.”

While the Week 4 bye comes pretty early, the Eagles have a couple key players who will use the time to get healthy. And Connor Barwin pointed out that the bye is coming about closer to the halfway point between when the team started its tough training camp and the end of the season.

Pederson told his players to use the week to get away from football and free their minds. Meanwhile, Pederson and his coaches will use the extra time to self-scout and prepare for the final 13 games of the regular season.

With a first-year head coach and a rookie quarterback who was thrust into action a week before the opener, expectations outside (and perhaps inside) the building were tempered.

The Eagles aren’t an underdog anymore.

“We kind of enjoyed flying under the radar, but obviously a win like this against a team like the Steelers will open some eyes around the league,” Malcolm Jenkins said. “For us, nothing different. We’ll keep our preparation the same. We’ll stick our heads down and focus on the work day to day and understand what’s gotten us to 3-0.”

Visit TicketIQ to discover the lowest prices on Eagles tickets anywhere, zone-level ticket data and seat views from fans just like you!