No One Goes 82-0, Probably: Sixers Get First L of Season Against Knicks

No One Goes 82-0, Probably: Sixers Get First L of Season Against Knicks

It feels like we were overdue for a game like this, despite the fact
that we've only technically played one game so far this season. The New
York Knicks simply outplayed the Philadelphia 76ers today, in virtually
all phases of the game, largely because at this point in the season,
they're probably a considerably better team. More on that in a minute,
but the end result for this afternoon was a 100-84 Knicks victory that
was never really in question from the first quarter on.

Despite
all the bad moves and worse PR for the Knicks front office that you've
no doubt heard about this off-season—letting Jeremy Lin sign with the
Rockets largely out of spite, trading for a bunch of
past-their-past-their-prime veterans, losing to the Lakers in the Steve
Nash sweepstakes, even losing Amar'e Stoudemire to injury for the first
two months of the season—the end result for New York is a team that,
whether by design or dumb luck, actually makes a lot of sense.

The
team's construction, as currently constituted isn't totally unlike the
Iverson-led Sixers teams of the early '00s, building around Anthony's
transcendent offensive talents with smart, veteran role players that can
play defense, move the ball and hit open shots—the one exception being
J.R. Smith, who's there to play poor-man's Melo with the second unit.
I'm not sure how it'll play for New York against more star-studded
lineups in the post-season, or once nominal secondary star Stoudemire
returns from injury, but so far so good for these Knicks, who have won
two games against playoff teams by a combined 36 points, and appear on
track to win a lot of games this regular season.

Meanwhile, it
might be a bit strong to say that the Sixers never had a chance today,
but the odds were certainly against them, especially with the early-game
loss of Jason Richardson to an ankle strain. (Damn you, front row
photogs!) The team needed Nick Young, Dorell Wright and Evan Turner to
step up in our most consistent wing scorer's absence, and the trio
combined to shoot 9-30, effectively torpedoing the team from the
outside. Nick Young was especially ghastly, adding nothing beyond his
non-existent shooting stroke, killing the team's momentum with a dumb
box-out foul on Jason Kidd just as they were making a run back in the
second half, and ending with a -29 for the game, which seems generous if
anything.

Turner was better than the Swagged One, but not much.
As he'll likely do throughout the season, he was able to contribute via
the defensive boards, actually scraping together a double-double for
the afternoon, and he managed to get to the free-throw line six times (a
team high by far, sadly), hitting all six. But his outside shot was
predictably flat, his ball-handling was sloppy, and he got burned on
defense repeatedly by the likes of Ronnie Brewer and J.R. Smith, closing
late on shooters and failing to switch in time. To say we need more
from Turner to have a chance to stay competitive in Andrew Bynum's
elongated absence would be an understatement, but let's say it anyway:
Evan, you gotta do better than this.

The positives today came
from Jrue Holiday, who kept the team in the game with his outside
shooting, draining five of six behind the arc for 27 points. Still,
Jrue's distribution was off, as his seven assists came with six
turnovers, and his outside shooting belied a passiveness getting into
the paint, as the Damaja took nary a shot from the free-throw line
today. Meanwhile, it was good news, bad news with Thaddeus Young, who
scored 16 points in the paint but needed 14 shots to do it, and who
collected an impressive six offensive rebounds, but didn't grab a single
board on the defensive glass. Spencer Hawes was effective early but got
into foul trouble quickly, largely thanks to some aggressive driving
from Carmelo Anthony.

Oh yeah, speaking of Melo—the Sixers
didn't have a prayer against him. Now, Anthony gets his against all
teams in the end, and he averaged about 20 a game against the Sixers
last year as well, but with All-Defensive stopper Andre Iguodala digging
in against #7, he needed a whole lot of shots to do it, shooting less
than 37% against Philly for the year. He had no such trouble against
today's Sixers, blowing by the likes of Evan Turner and the hopelessly
over-matched Thaddeus Young, scoring 27 points on efficient 10-18
shooting, and sending the ball in its route along the perimeter for an
inevitable open Knicks three-pointer when the team attempted to double.
We here at the 700 Level fully believed it was time to let Andre
Iguodala go when we traded him last off-season, but you don't give up a
player that good without occasionally feeling his absence, and today was
one of those games.

The Sixers will get another chance against
these Knicks tomorrow night at home, and with Melo and the Knicks
hopefully getting a little less love from the refs and with Coach
Collins getting a chance to retool his defensive gameplan, maybe the
Sixers will fare better. But Anthony's dominance today shows us what
we're missing with our star center Andrew Bynum riding the bench, and
what a disadvantage we're going to be at without it against teams with
players like him until Bnum's return. In any event, the Sixers wings are
gonna have to step it up considerably in the team's next few
games—Jrue's not gonna hit five three-pointers too many more times this
season, and he can't make Collins' prediction of being a top-five assist
guy a reality as long as his teammates are clunking their open jumpers.

Still, we knew the undermanned Sixers were gonna lose some
games like this early, so there's no reason to panic about one such
defeat. Split the early season-series tomorrow night, and we can
certainly live with the loss today. Too early in the season to start a
losing streak already, anyway. 

Best of NBA: Rockets overcome Russell Westbrook's 7th straight triple-double

Best of NBA: Rockets overcome Russell Westbrook's 7th straight triple-double

OKLAHOMA CITY -- James Harden scored 21 points, and the Houston Rockets overcame Russell Westbrook's seventh consecutive triple-double to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 102-99 on Friday night.

Harden also had 12 assists and nine rebounds to help the Rockets win their fifth straight. Houston withstood Harden's 6-for-23 shooting effort.

Westbrook finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. He has the longest triple-double streak since Michael Jordan had seven straight in 1989. The most in a row is nine by Philadelphia's Wilt Chamberlain in March 1968.

It was Westbrook's 12th triple-double this season and the 49th of his career. He is the NBA's active leader in the category and ranks sixth all-time.

The Thunder had won the previous six games during Westbrook's triple-double binge (see full story).

James moves into 9th on scoring list as Cavs top Heat
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James scored 27 points to move into ninth place on the NBA scoring list, and the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Miami Heat 114-84 on Friday night.

James passed Elvin Hayes on a driving layup with 6:58 remaining and has 27,315 career points. The four-time MVP was removed about a minute later and received a loud ovation from the Cleveland crowd.

Kevin Love, a game-time decision because of back spasms, scored a team-high 28 points and had 15 rebounds for the Cavaliers. He missed the morning shootaround but was in the lineup after warming up on the court about an hour before tip-off.

Kyrie Irving added 23 points for the Cavs, who have won three straight after losing three in a row.

Derrick Williams scored 17 points to lead the short-handed Heat, who have lost four straight (see full story). 

Schroder has career-high 33, Hawks rally past Bucks
MILWAUKEE -- Dennis Schroder scored a career-high 33 points and the Atlanta Hawks rallied from 20 down in the second half to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks 114-110 on Friday night.

Paul Millsap had 23 points and 14 rebounds for Atlanta. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 18.

The Hawks, who ended a seven-game losing streak Wednesday with a win over Miami, trailed by 20 at halftime. A 40-point third quarter put them back in the game.

Jabari Parker scored 27 for Milwaukee. Giannis Antetokounmpo, in foul trouble throughout the game, had 14.

Atlanta pulled ahead 105-103 on Kyle Korver's jumper with 3:15 remaining, giving the Hawks their first lead since early in the game (see full story). 

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets top Red Wings to notch 5th straight win

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets top Red Wings to notch 5th straight win

DETROIT -- Brandon Dubinsky scored a tiebreaking goal in the second period and the surging Columbus Blue Jackets won their fifth straight game, 4-1 over the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night.

Lukas Sedlak got his first NHL goal for the Blue Jackets, who have earned at least a point in 12 of their last 13 games. Cam Atkinson contributed a short-handed goal in the first period for Columbus.

Dylan Larkin's power-play goal in the second was the only scoring of the night for the Red Wings. Sergei Bobrovsky had 32 saves for the Blue Jackets.

Sam Gagner scored into an empty net with 13.9 seconds remaining (see full story). 

Staal scores in 6th round of SO to lift Wild over Oilers
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Eric Staal scored in the sixth round of a shootout and the Minnesota Wild beat the Edmonton Oilers 3-2 on Friday night.

Matt Dumba and Jason Zucker scored in regulation for Minnesota, which has won three straight.

Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk made 25 saves. He entered with a league-best .946 save percentage and 1.65 goals-against average.

Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had goals for the Oilers, whose four-game losing streak began with a 2-1 home overtime loss to the Wild last Sunday.

Staal scored on a backhand deke before Nugent-Hopkins fired wide in the sixth round (see full story). 

Raanta, Rangers beat Blackhawks, 1-0, in overtime
CHICAGO -- Nick Holden scored 55 seconds into overtime, Antti Raanta made 26 saves against his former team and the New York Rangers beat the Chicago Blackhawks 1-0 on Friday night.

Derek Stepan passed from the boards to a streaking Holden in the middle of the ice, and he beat Scott Darling on the stick side for his fourth goal of the season.

Darling was going for his second straight shutout while subbing for injured starter Corey Crawford but had to settle for another solid performance.

Raanta, who made his NHL debut with Chicago in 2013 and played for the Blackhawks for two seasons before he was traded to New York, improved to 15-0-3 in 20 career appearances at the United Center.

The 27-year-old Raanta had 17 saves in Thursday's 2-1 victory at Winnipeg, and coach Alain Vigneault opted to give him a second straight start over Henrik Lundqvist because of his recent play and his success in Chicago (see full story).

Oshie, Johansson, Grubauer lift Caps over Sabres
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- T.J. Oshie and Marcus Johansson each scored a goal, Philipp Grubauer made 27 saves and the Washington Capitals beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-1 on Friday night for their third straight win.

Jakub Vrana and John Carlson also scored, helping Washington beat Buffalo for the third time in 15 days.

Kyle Okposo scored and Robin Lehner made 25 saves for Buffalo. The Sabres have lost three of their last four.

Oshie gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead 6:43 into the second period when he lifted a shot from the right edge of the crease past Lehner. Jay Beagle drew two defenders into the corner and sent the puck back to a wide open Oshie for his ninth goal of the season (see full story).