Losing This One Could Be Tough: Sixers Face East-Worst Magic at Home

Losing This One Could Be Tough: Sixers Face East-Worst Magic at Home

You gotta respect the Orlando Magic's commitment to losing. They trade
one of the five best players in the league away and get nary a big-name
player or top-flight prospect in return, then they trade their best
player (only JJ Redick, but still) before the trade deadline for a
couple of scraps, none of whom are even starting for this 15-41 team.
Yes, the Orlando Magic are tanking the right way, losing 28 of their
last 31 games, all but guaranteeing themselves one of the league's worst
records and best chances at a top draft pick this summer—and probably a
couple more summers to follow.

That said, the Sixers have been
giving them a run for their money recently. Like Orlando, Philly has
lost their last five straight, and appear to basically be coming apart
at the seams—though at least we have arguable team MVP Thaddeus Young
back now, and if the practice session that the Funny-Looking Kid With
the Big Hair engaged in a couple days ago caused one or more of his
limbs to disintegrate...well, nobody's reported about it yet, anyway.
The Sixers actually have to be considered the favorite tonight, taking
on the utterly miserable Magic at home.

Still, given Coach
Collins' craftiness in his tanking efforts lately, we can't count the
Sixers out of losing this one completely. Look for Kwame Brown to get
the start because of "matchup concerns," for Jeremy Pargo to get 30
minutes because of a "gut feeling" and for Damien Wilkins to play at
crunch time because "he has a dad that was pretty good at basketball."
You hearing us, Orlando Magic GM Rob Hennigan? WE'RE COMING FOR THAT
NUMBER THIRTY SPOT.

7:00 tip from the WFC. In other news, John Mitchell writes that "Playing Bynum Won't Help the Sixers,"
which makes me wonder what will help the Sixers at this point. Voodoo?
Time travel? Opposite Day? Is there an Opposite Day coming up?

With T.J. McConnell, Hawks say Sixers have 'identity' worth respecting

With T.J. McConnell, Hawks say Sixers have 'identity' worth respecting

ATLANTA – The final score was a little lopsided and the game was sloppy at times, but after beating Philadelphia, 110-93, Saturday night, the Hawks said they see promise in the rising young Sixers.

The Sixers didn’t have the legs on the tail end of back-to-back games to keep up with another hot team, and Joel Embiid did not play, as Atlanta (26-18) won for the 11th time in 13 games to move within a half game of Boston for the No. 3 spot in the East.

Yet if not for the Sixers' 21 turnovers and a second quarter where Atlanta seemed to make every shot, the Sixers (15-27) looked enough like the team that had won eight of 10 games before arriving in Philips Arena that the Hawks see differences.

The biggest change in the Sixers between Saturday and the first two meetings of the season between these two teams — one played with Embiid and one without — is T.J. McConnell starting at point guard rather than Sergio Rodriguez.

McConnell had a game-high 11 assists against the Hawks in addition to his eight points, and the Sixers had 27 assists on a night where they hit 12 of 29 three-pointers.

“They have an identity,” said Atlanta forward Kent Bazemore, who scored 16. “McConnell is playing really well, putting pressure on the defense and their floor spacing is very good. Very disciplined group.

“Guys are in the right spots, if a guy drives, they have a plethora of options: a guy in the corner, a guy on the jumper, a guy on the wing. They kept us honest for a chunk of the game.”

Ersan Ilyasova scored 21 points on 15 shots and Robert Covington added 15 points and 10 rebounds, but the Sixers were gassed in the second quarter, as the Hawks hit 16 of 23 shots in a 37-point period.

Atlanta stretched a 62-54 halftime lead to 18 points late in the third quarter, but the Sixers cut the deficit to 94-87 with 6:46 left in the game on a pair of free throws by rookie Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot.

The Sixers whipped the Hawks, 20-11, in fast break points.

“They were getting some threes in transition,” said Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer, who was on the Spurs' staff for years with Sixers head coach Brett Brown. “Right now, they’re pushing the pace.

“T.J. McConnell does a great job of getting outlets, getting up the court and finding shooters quickly and they’re letting it fly. Covington and Ilyasova and those guys are collapsing us early and shooting early threes.”

The Sixers had problems on the boards in Atlanta, where Dwight Howard grabbed 15 and Paul Millsap added 10 as the Hawks built a 48-38 rebounding edge. Those numbers were every bit as important as Millsap’s 21 points and the 13 added by Howard.

That disparity on the boards and the Sixers' collective loose handle did in the visitors. Atlanta scored 17 points off the Sixers’ 21 turnovers.

Embiid was scheduled to rest Saturday anyway. It’s unclear whether he’ll play Tuesday against the Clippers, who will be without guard Chris Paul and forward Blake Griffin, or Wednesday at Milwaukee.

Embiid suffered a knee contusion in Friday night’s 93-92 win over the Trail Blazers and Brown said he’d be further evaluated Sunday.

Get him back in the mix, and The Sixers have a shot at starting another winning streak.

“We did a good shot of holding them to one shot,” Howard said after the Hawks outscored the Sixers, 14-0, in second-chance points. “They play really hard. They play aggressive. They play good team basketball. They share the ball and find the open man. They have a good group of young guys.

“It wasn’t as easy as people expect out of Philly teams. You have to respect them.”

Yordano Ventura, Andy Marte die in separate Dominican crashes

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USA Today Images

Yordano Ventura, Andy Marte die in separate Dominican crashes

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- Authorities in the Dominican Republic say that Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura and former major leaguer Andy Marte both have died in separate traffic accidents.

Highway patrol spokesman Jacobo Mateo says Ventura died on a highway leading to the town of Juan Adrian, about 40 miles (70 kilometers) northwest of Santo Domingo. He says it's not clear if Ventura was driving.

Metropolitan traffic authorities say Marte died when a car he was driving hit a house along a road between San Francisco de Macoris and Pimentel, about 95 miles (150 kilometers) north of the capital.