Lou Williams Outduels Kobe for Rousing Sixers Victory

Lou Williams Outduels Kobe for Rousing Sixers Victory

When the Phillies would win a wild game the past few seasons, often times I would come home late after covering the game from Citizens Bank Park and flip on Comcast to watch a bit of the 2:00 am replay to see what that one nasty Cliff Lee hook looked like on television or to hear what Wheels had to say about Hunter Pence's goofiness or what the crowd sounded like after an acrobatic J-Roll snag deep up the middle.

I had never done that for a Sixers game. Until they beat Kobe Bryant and the Lakers on Monday night, 95-90, at the Wells Fargo Center. This Sixers team has me wondering how Marc Zumoff and Malik Rose would call the big Lou bucket like I'd wonder how Franzke and L.A. called a Chase Utley inside-the-parker.

Yes, I watched the Sixers beat the Lakers twice last night. The first time in person. The second time on the late-night television replay.

This team has become that fun. [plenty of video highlights below]

There were a couple of fascinating aspects to Monday's win that were worth a second look. First, there was Kobe's insane first half in which he was making ridiculous shot after ridiculous shot. It wasn't like the Sixers were playing awful D on him, but it didn't matter.

Kobe was hitting shots from the parking lot.

Doug Collins told his players as much at the half. "Kobe was incredible in that first half. They had five threes and he had four of them. Three of them were off-the-charts tough and I said, ‘We’re not going to overreact to that.'"

And they didn't. They stayed within their game, but put a bit of added pressure on Kobe in the second half and used team defense and forced the other Lakers to beat them. Metta World Peace, Matt Barnes, and Jason Kapono were not up to the task.

Kobe surpassed his former teammate, Shaq, to move into the fifth spot on the NBA's All-Time scoring leaders list. Once he passed Shaq midway through the second quarter, however, Kobe went ice cold, hitting only two other field goals the rest of the game.

One of them was a fricking sick bucket though, reminiscent of a certain Dr.'s up-and-under reverse layup against a certain L.A. team. Compare the two layups here.

Then there was the absolutely ridiculous rebounding differential. The Lakers had 55 boards to the Sixers 30.

Yet, the Sixers still found a way to win.

"I don’t know if I’ve ever won a game where I’ve gotten out rebounded by 25,” Collins said. "But they just keep playing."

And you know what allowed the Sixers to stay in the game despite such an insane differential on the boards? They committed only four turnovers as a team the entire game. There have been games this season were Andre Iguodala alone committed turnovers on the first four possessions of the game (*not entirely true, but almost).

That's some amazing ball care. The four turnovers tied a franchise low. On a whole this season, the Sixers have taken very good care of the ball. But on Monday night they were simply fantastic.

[RELATED: Video: White-bearded kneeling Sixers fan taunts Kobe Bryant]

And finally, Lou Williams.

Sitting by the coaches podium in the media room amid a pool of reporters waiting for Coach Collins to address them following the win, Sixers CEO Adam Aron shared his thoughts to no writer in particular, "I've got your story for you in two words, 'Lou. Williams.'"

His idea may not sell many newspapers but his sentiment certainly rang true.

Lou. Williams. Went. Off. And it was one of the most exciting displays we've seen from any Sixers player in years.

Did it help that LouWill's red-hot fourth quarter came against Kobe Bryant after one of the best to ever play the game lit it up just a few short quarters earlier? Absolutely it added to the electric atmosphere.

Fans at the Wells Fargo Center were on their feet for the final few minutes thanks to LouWill awaking them. The "Beat L.A.!" chants were goosebump inducing. Even Doug Collins said it brought him back.

"To hear the fans out there chanting 'Beat LA!' it took me back to 1980 when I was a player. That's pretty nice to hear," Coach Collins said of the crowd.

Kobe went off early, LouWill went off late.

"I wouldn’t put my name in the conversation with Kobe, but tonight I made shots," Lou said with a smile after the game.

There were plenty of smiles to go around in South Philly last night.

*

Watch Lou Williams impressive run in the fourth quarter:

Lou was feeling the luv after the game:

Cubs reward Theo Epstein for turnaround with 5-year extension

Cubs reward Theo Epstein for turnaround with 5-year extension

CHICAGO -- Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts had dinner with president of baseball operations Theo Epstein in Arizona around the start of spring training.

If Epstein had any doubt about a contract extension, it ended right there. And on Wednesday, it became official.

Chicago announced a five-year extension, rewarding Epstein for an overhaul that has the long-suffering franchise eyeing its first championship since 1908.

"He started it off by saying some really nice things about me that might have hurt his leverage a little bit, and then I returned the favor by telling him that even if we couldn't work out a contract it would get awkward because I would just keep showing up to work," Epstein said. "As an employee, I will. I kept ruining my leverage."

The deal comes with the Cubs wrapping up one of the greatest seasons in franchise history and their fans believing this just might be the team to end the 108-year World Series title drought.

Chicago reached 100 wins for the first time since 1935 and was a major league-leading 101-56 heading into Wednesday's game at Pittsburgh. The Cubs clinched the best record in the majors with more than a week left in the regular season.

"In the five years under Theo's leadership, he has brought in a strong executive team and acquired and developed some of the best players in the game," Ricketts said. "Now, the results are on the field."

Terms were not disclosed.

It looks like Epstein isn't the only Cubs executive with a new deal. He said contract extensions for general manager Jed Hoyer and senior vice president of scouting and player development Jason McLeod will probably be announced in the next day or two.

Epstein, who was in the final season of a five-year deal when he left Boston in October 2011, had repeatedly said a new contract was a formality, that there were more immediate priorities. Ricketts had echoed that and indicated in the spring that he was prepared to make him one of the highest-paid executives in baseball.

"There was never any real drama throughout the summer," said Ricketts, adding the agreement was finalized a few days ago.

What took so long?

"We sat down at spring training, had a nice dinner, talked about getting an extension done," Ricketts said. "Basically, I told him I thought he was the best in the game at what he did. He told me no matter what I paid him he wasn't going to leave Chicago, so we were off to a good start. We checked back in on it a couple times during the summer. There was no real time pressure."

The new deal is a reward for a striking transformation that began with the arrivals of Epstein along with Hoyer and McLeod -- his friends from Boston -- following the 2011 season.

The Cubs tested some fans' patience by taking the long approach rather than going for a quick fix, but they have seen the benefits the past two years. Chicago is eyeing even bigger things after breaking out with 97 wins and reaching the NL Championship Series last season.

"When you have great leadership at the top, it usually filters through the rest of the group," manager Joe Maddon said. "A successful organization has that. We have that. I was very happy to hear the news. I'm very happy for Theo and his family and of course, us. It is great. It's a feel-good story. He deserves it. He's earned it. I'm very happy for him."

High draft picks such as 2015 NL Rookie of the Year Kris Bryant made big impacts, as did a number of trade acquisitions, including last season's NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo and potential Gold Glove shortstop Addison Russell.

The hiring of NL Manager of the Year Joe Maddon and signing of starter Jon Lester before the 2015 season showed just how serious the Cubs were about jumping into contention. And the additions of three-time Gold Glove outfielder Jason Heyward, pitcher John Lackey and veteran infielder Ben Zobrist along with the re-signing of outfielder Dexter Fowler this past offseason added to an already deep roster.

Throw in the emergence of Kyle Hendricks as a Cy Young candidate, and the Cubs are widely considered a postseason favorite.

There were missteps along the way, but the Cubs are in a far different and far better place than they were five years ago. And if they win it all under Epstein, it won't be the first time he helped end a long championship drought.

Before he took aim at the Billy goat curse, he took down the Bambino.

Epstein oversaw two World Series winners in nine seasons as Boston's general manager.

In Chicago, Epstein parted with high-priced veterans and loaded up the minor league system while expanding the team's scouting and analytics operation as part of an overhaul that saw the organization get stripped to its studs.

The Ricketts family also invested heavily in infrastructure in recent years, including new training facilities in the baseball-rich Dominican Republic and the spring training home in Arizona. They are also overhauling Wrigley Field and the surrounding neighborhood.

"There really wasn't anything important to me besides finding common ground, making sure that we could stay and see this thing through," Epstein said. "Our mission has not been accomplished yet."

Roman Quinn likely done for season; Aaron Nola is throwing in Fla.

Roman Quinn likely done for season; Aaron Nola is throwing in Fla.

ATLANTA – Roman Quinn spent Wednesday getting treatment on his freshly strained left oblique. The rookie outfielder will try to gauge his condition by doing some jogging and light throwing on Thursday, but all signs point to his being shut down for the remaining days of the season and continuing his bid to make the opening day 2017 roster in spring training.

“He’ll let me know tomorrow and be honest with me if he still feels it,” manager Pete Mackanin said Wednesday. "There’s no sense in him getting hurt with only four or five games left in the season.”

Quinn injured himself taking a swing in the fifth inning Tuesday. He blew out the same oblique at Double A Reading this summer and missed six weeks.

“I think he’s more scared than anything that it’s going to recur and he’s going to make it worse,” Mackanin said.

That should be enough to shut down Quinn right there.

“It’s definitely frustrating,” Quinn said.

Quinn was 15 for 57 (.263) with four doubles, six RBIs, eight walks and five stolen bases in 15 games before going down. He struck out 19 times but had a .373 on-base percentage on a team that struggles to get on base.

Mackanin sees Quinn as a player who could make the jump to full-time duty in the Phillies’ outfield as soon as April, but first Quinn must clear the injury hurdle that has cost him so much time since he was picked in the second round of the 2011 draft. Quinn has missed time with a ruptured Achilles tendon, a torn quad muscle, a broken wrist and oblique issues.

“He mentioned to me that because he’s so lean and doesn’t have a lot of body fat that might be part of the issue,” said Mackanin, referring to Quinn’s oblique issues. “They have so much health food available for the players that this could be a good way to make a change, so we can have a pizza and a burger once in a while.”

Mackanin got serious.

“With him, his big question mark is staying on the field,” the manager said. “That’s always going to be in the back of everybody’s mind because he doesn’t seem to stay on the field as much as you’d like him to. Resilience and reliability are important. So that’s going to be a big test for him next year. It’s obvious what he brings to the table as far as making things happen. He’s a catalyst for a lot of things, the least of which is coverage in the outfield, so it’s a matter of whether he can stay on the field or not.”

In other health matters ...
Reliever Edubray Ramos has a sore elbow and is day to day, and day to day at this time of the year might mean he’s done for the season. Mackanin said the elbow issue is not serious and could be a result of Ramos' pitching longer than he ever has in a season.

Also, Aaron Nola has begun to test his ailing elbow by throwing on flat ground in Florida. He will progress to a mound and eventually face hitters in the coming weeks as the club gauges whether he is fully recovered from his elbow strain or will require surgery that could cost him the 2017 season.