One, two, three four five ridiuclous wins for the Sixers after absurd Rockets OT victory

One, two, three four five ridiuclous wins for the Sixers after absurd Rockets OT victory

How about this for a lead: Tonight, in his first-ever start in the NBA (filling in for MCW and his bad arches), Tony Wroten--the point guard the Sixers bought from Memphis for a couple free tickets to the Please Touch Museum--racked up a triple-double, with 18 points, 11 dimes and ten boards, easily setting career highs in assists and rebounds and tying his career high in points. And guess what? That was only the third-most remarkable thing, and only the second-most remarkable performance, about the Sixers-Rockets game tonight.

The first-most, of course, was that they won at all--in overtime, by a score of 123-117. James Harden not being there for Houston certainly helped matters, though we countered that a little with Michael Carter-Williams' absence, but regardless, the Rockets probably should have taken care of business in this one, leading for the great majority of the second half and getting a 34-point, nine-three-pointer performance from Jeremy Lin. But the Sixers got a little lucky with a late-game three to tie it up, Chandler Parsons got off a lousy shot to win it, and the teams went to OT, where the Sixers just had a little too much magic for the Rock Boys to handle.

And the person who hit that late three? None other than our starting two-guard James Lee Anderson---who, after scoring 55 points across his first eight games as a 76er, dialed up an absolutely incredible 36 points on 12-16 shooting, more than doubling his previous career high. Anderson's 36 is the second-most points for any non-Iverson Sixer in a game this century, falling just short of the 37 our old friend Willie Green put up against the Raptors at the end of the '06-'07 season. (Yes, that actually happened. Joe Smith had 26 and 11!)

And of course, it was Anderson who hit the biggest shot of the night, that contested top-of-the-arc three with six seconds to go that really had no business going in but decided hey, let's go in anyway, live dangerously, see what happens.

Not generally the kind of finally possession that dreams are made of, but as the prophet Jerry Reed once said, when you hot, you hot. And Anderson was certainly that tonight, hitting a couple looks early and finally locating his season-long-missing groove from deep, ending up a most acceptable 6-8 from deep. Anderson had gotten flak from a lot of people for only hitting on 9-27 from three to start the season, but after his night tonight, he's raised his percentage from range by ten points, and is now shooting an imminently respectable 43% from deep. Has Sam Hinkie taught us nothing? Patience. Trust the process.

Anderson's hot shooting aside, it looked like the long-overdue emergence of Bad Evan Turner in the second half of this one might have been enough to do the Sixers in on its own. Evan was 6-10 at halftime, but went 3-13 for the rest of the night, taking far too many of the kinds of shots--pull-up jumpers, threes, pull-up threes--that he'd been so good at avoiding (and so smart to avoid) early this year.

To Brett Brown's credit, he seemed to make the conscious decision of taking the ball out of Evan's hands late in the fourth when it was clear he was spiraling out, letting the steady hand (!!!) of Tony Wroten run the show, with Spencer and Thad taking over as the offensive focus. And to Evan's credit, he played a large part in cooling off the red-hot Jeremy Lin on defense in the second half, and got a couple nice baskets in OT driving straight to the basket--no small feat with Dwight Howard and his six blocked shots (though c'mon, at least two-three of those were crystal-clear goaltends) patrolling the paint. ET also got to pad his stats a little at the end with some garbage free throws, ending with a very respectable 23/7/5 stat line, even if he needed 23 shots to get there.

And Wroten...dear lord, he was magnificent tonight. The decision-making is still pretty touch and go, and he always seems to go for the jaw-dropping whip pass even when a simpler pass will suffice (or no such pass is even really there in the first place), but he is just so dangerous turning the corner on the pick-and-roll, and if he can ever get anything even resembling a reliable jumper, he is going to be an absolute terror in this league. It's pretty clear at this point that at the very least, the Sixers got one of the steals of the off-season in T-Wrote, and the development of his game should be one of the top priorities for Brett Brown over the next few seasons.

Before we wrap on this one, we gotta take a minute to shout out the Big GOPper, Spencer Hawes, who chipped in 18 points, nine boards, four assists, three blocks and three steals, as well as playing excellent--no, really, excellent--post defense on Dwight Howard. And even though it'll never not be hilarious when he pulls up from behind the arc, we should probably point out that Spence is now shooting a stunning 17-34--that's right, 50%--from downtown, making his range shooting a legitimate weapon for this Sixers team. You still gotta put up with the occasional out-of-bounds fumble of the post feed here and there, and he's in danger of being posterized the second he steps on the court, but Hawes has been a legitimate starter for us this year, and should be able to fetch us a nice return come trade season if he's able to keep it up a little longer.

5-4. The Sixers will reach double digits in games this season, Friday night in Atlanta, before they post their first losing record. I didn't think they'd even have one yet. Can we just give Brett Brown the Coach of the Year trophy right now? Just give it to him. Don't be jerks about it.

Eagles-Vikings 5 things: Game much bigger than Sam Bradford's return

Eagles-Vikings 5 things: Game much bigger than Sam Bradford's return

Eagles vs. Vikings
1 p.m. on FOX

Eagles +3

A familiar face comes to town on Sunday when the Eagles host the Vikings, the NFL's last unbeaten team at 5-0.

There's more to this matchup than a certain jilted quarterback returning to Lincoln Financial Field though. After an inspired 3-0 start, the Eagles have come out flat in two consecutive games, both losses. If this squad has any hope of getting back on track in Week 7, they can't afford to focus on the high-profile former teammate in purple sleeves.

Grinding it out
How good is the Vikings' defense? Even though they're ranked fourth in the league against the run and eighth in yards per carry allowed, they've faced the second-highest number of rushing attempts. Simply put, between a fierce pass-rush and ball-hawking secondary, offenses are afraid to put the ball in the air against this team.

Opponents have decided the best way to beat the Minnesota defense is by keeping the ball on the ground — shorten the game, try to create manageable third downs and play the field position game. Of course, the best way for the Eagles to beat Washington's 28th-ranked run defense last week, with a fifth-round rookie right tackle making his first career start mind you, also would've been to hand the ball off early and often, which wasn't exactly the game plan that we saw.

As good as Carson Wentz is, the Eagles probably aren't going to beat this team by airing the ball out. It may be inefficient and look ugly, but this time, head coach Doug Pederson needs to lean on the ground attack and take the pressure off of his first-year quarterback and tackle. Otherwise, a Vikings defense that ranks third in the NFL in sacks and fourth in interceptions can take this game over.

Self-inflicted wounds
Ticky-tack calls or not, you can't blame the judgment of the officials for all of the penalties the Eagles have taken the past two weeks. Last week in Washington, they drew 13 flags for 114 yards. The week before, it was 14 flags for 111 yards. Is it really any coincidence in two losses the Eagles have been penalized 27 times for 225 yards? Unlikely.

Were one or two or even a handful of those calls excessive? Have officials missed some potential calls that could have gone the other way? Yes and yes, as is always the case. When it's that many penalties for that many yards though, you can only place so much blame on the refs.

Simply put, the players need to clean up their acts. According to, the Eagles are committing the most penalties per game at 9.8. Only one other team is above 9.0. All excuses aside, the Eagles lack discipline right now, and it's hard to beat anybody when they are continuously shooting themselves in the foot, let alone the only undefeated squad in football.

No gimmes
There is no bigger indicator of winning and losing in the NFL than turnovers. So what happens when the two teams who cough the ball up the least are going head-to-head?

One thing the Eagles did correct in Washington was the little giveaway problem that cost them the game in Detroit. After losing their first fumble and throwing their first interception of the season in the final three minutes of their loss at Detroit, the offense went back to playing turnover-free football on Sunday, one of the positive things that could be said for the performance.

Yet the only team that's committed fewer turnovers than the Eagles is the Vikings, who have just one through five games. The ball security these clubs have displayed is remarkable bordering on unheard of. So what happens when the unstoppable force meets the immovable object? The first one to blink, or in this case make a mistake, might just cost themselves the game in what could be a tightly contested tilt.

Just a pit stop
If it feels like the Eagles' 34-3 romp of the Steelers at the Linc was a long time ago, well, it has been almost a month. Since then, there's been a bye week followed by trips to Detroit and Washington, putting the last home game at exactly four weeks ago.

Don't get used to the feeling either. After their game against the Vikings on Sunday, the Eagles go back on the road for two contests against the division rival Cowboys and Giants.

What does it all mean? Besides a travel-heavy stretch, it suggests this sandwich game with the Vikings is an especially significant spot on the Eagles' schedule, particularly given the slow starts they've jumped out to as the visiting team of late. That can't be blamed entirely on going on the road of course, but it certainly hasn't helped. Vikings or not, the Eagles could use a positive showing on Sunday before they go away again.

The Bradford Bowl
You didn't really think we were going to completely gloss over Sam Bradford, did you? Not even mention his name?

It's interesting, because right now, the trade that sent Bradford to the Vikings and cleared the way for Wentz to start at quarterback for the Eagles looks like a win-win. Both head coaches agreed with that sentiment as well. Mike Zimmer says Bradford gave the Vikings an energy back after starter Teddy Bridgewater was lost for the season with an improbable injury, while despite coming back down to earth a bit the last two weeks, it's obvious the Eagles' future is bright with Wentz.

That being said, there are some additional bragging rights at stake for both signal-callers this week, whether they acknowledge it or not. If the Eagles win, it shows their gamble on Wentz being prepared to start right away was justified. If the Vikings win, pundits could argue the Eagles never should've traded Bradford in the first place.

These are only narratives of course, and the Eagles' investment in Wentz and the Vikings' desperation trade for Bradford are both left to be judged somewhere down the road, long after this game has been played. Nonetheless, the result on Sunday is sure to spark some interesting debate in the coming days.

Penn State upsets No. 2 Ohio State, 24-21

Penn State upsets No. 2 Ohio State, 24-21


STATE COLLEGE – As his team slogged through back-to-back 7-6 seasons in his first two years as Penn State’s head coach, Langhorne native James Franklin heard time and again that he was in need of a signature victory.

Now he has one, even if he refuses to admit it.

Junior cornerback Grant Haley returned a blocked field goal 60 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 4:27 left as the Nittany Lions stunned second-ranked Ohio State 24-21 on Saturday night.

“That’s for you (media) guys, all that signature stuff,” Franklin said.

Not exactly.

“It’s just a game that put Penn State back on the map,” Haley said. “We needed that signature win, and we did it tonight.”

The fans stormed the field after the Lions, 5-2 after their third straight victory this season, beat a ranked team for the first time since 2013 (Wisconsin). It was also PSU’s first victory over a team ranked in the top five since 1999 (Arizona) and its first over a team slotted as high as No. 2 since 1990 (Notre Dame).

Ohio State (7-1) saw winning streaks of 20 straight road games and 17 straight Big Ten road games come to an end, despite building a 21-7 lead through three quarters.

The Lions whisked 90 yards in five plays to cut the gap to seven with 13:32 left in the game, with quarterback Trace McSorley running two yards for the TD.

Freshman linebacker Cam Brown then blocked Cameron Johnston’s punt to set up a 34-yard field goal by Tyler Davis with 9:33 remaining, making it 21-17.

Ohio State mounted a drive behind J.T. Barrett, their splendid quarterback, moving from its own 13 to the PSU 28. Barrett’s 34-yard connection with wide receiver Noah Brown was the big play.

But the Buckeyes stalled, and Tyler Durbin came on to attempt a 45-yard field goal. Penn State safety Marcus Allen made a leaping block, however, and Haley scooped up the bouncing ball and beat Durbin and Johnston, the holder, down the left sideline for the go-ahead score.

Ohio State’s final drive of the night ended with a pair of Penn State sacks, the last a combined effort by defensive linemen Kevin Givens and Evan Schwan with 1:02 left.

When the final gun sounded, several Penn State players sprinted toward the south end zone and launched themselves into the front row of the stands, Lambeau Leap-style, among the delirious students. And thousands of fans, all clad in white for PSU’s traditional White Out, flooded the field.

“This is for everybody,” Franklin said later. “This community’s been through so much in the last five years (a reference to the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal and its aftermath), and this is a big step in the right direction, in terms of healing. I said very, very early on that for us to get where we want to be, we need this entire community together, and a win like tonight – I know I’m biased – but I believe that football has the ability to bring a community together like nothing else.”

Moments later, he caught himself and said he “didn’t want to spend a lot of time talking about the big picture.”

Rather, he added, “I just want to enjoy tonight.”