Pretty Easy After All: Sixers Hold Hornets to Franchise Scoring Low in Grind-Out Win

Pretty Easy After All: Sixers Hold Hornets to Franchise Scoring Low in Grind-Out Win

The tone could've been very negative here, considering that the Sixers
only scored 77 points tonight after struggling mightily to put ball in
basket in their first three games. But remarkably, the Sixers were the
far superior of the two offenses on display at New Orleans Arena
tonight, as they held the injury-ridden (even by Sixers standards)
Hornets to an incredible 62 points for the game—including only 25 total
in the second half—the lowest single-game point total in New Orleans
Hornets franchise history, and the lowest allowed by the Sixers in over
25 years. That's gooooood defense.

This game was uncomfortably
close for the first two quarters, with the Hornets even leading by one
at the half. But the Sixers clamped down on the Hornets in a big way in
the third quarter, with Jrue Holiday keying the effort by locking up New
Orleans PG Greivis Vasquez, simply refusing to allow Vasquez to turn
the corner on him and get into the lane, slowing their offense to a
crawl in the process. Lavoy Allen and Spencer Hawes also had some
surprisingly nice moments as help defenders, with Hawes notching three
blocks for his efforts. It was pretty fun to watch.

Philly's
performance on the other end certainly wasn't pretty—pretty just doesn't
seem to be a word we're going to use often with the Sixers offense this
year, at least until the team gets healthy—but it was effective enough,
again implemented by Jrue Holiday. Holiday had seven turnovers for the
game, six in the first half, but that's forgivable, considering he
basically was creating the team's offense on every possession—he ended
with 14 points and 12 assists, his second double-double of the season.

Perhaps
more importantly, Evan Turner finally got going (by this game's
standards, anyway), matching his previous season total of seven field
goals for 14 points, notching eight boards and three assists as well.
Lavoy Allen and Spencer Hawes also scored well, combining for 24 points
on 12-18 shooting, while Spence struggled a little to find the range but
still ended with 11 and six off the bench.

If you're noticing
that a number of the players mentioned in this game scored exactly twice
as many points as they had field goals made, there's a reason for
that—the team was terrible shooting the three (4-22 from deep) and shot a
miserable five free throws, converting on three of them. That's
certainly no stable recipe for offensive efficiency, and the three-point
shooting in particular you'd think has to get better, as a purported
strength of this team—Jason Richardson being out doesn't help, nor does
Dorell Wright and Nick Young combining for 2-12 from deep. And really,
Nick Young has just been historically bad for this team through four
games—he had a PER of 1.7 (10.0 is like the Mendoza Line) before this
game, and then he went 1-7 with one assist and one turnover.

Obviously
still a whole lot of issues with this team, and some that aren't going
away anytime soon. But after giving up triple digits to the Knicks in
consecutive games, holding the Hornets to 62 and getting a win on the
road to move back to .500 is enough for tonight. Next up: An Eastern
Semis rematch in Boston, where the Celtics needed overtime to beat the
lowly Wizards tonight, moving to 2-2 for the season (with both their
wins against Washington). Which struggling Eastern power will prevail?
Lavoy Allen likes our chances.

Want to play corner for Jim Schwartz? Must worry about more than deep ball

Want to play corner for Jim Schwartz? Must worry about more than deep ball

The Eagles might not have any top-flight cornerbacks, but they certainly have a lot of guys with some talent.

Many of them are young, and all of them are battling for just several roster spots.

That hodgepodge of talent has made the corner position one of the more intriguing spots at this year's training camp. We're not sure how it'll all shake out, who will be the starters, who will be the depth players.

But one thing's for certain: Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz wants all of them to be aggressive.

"It's going to be fun to watch the corners compete," Schwartz said after practice Tuesday. "We have some guys that can cover. We have some guys that have a great opportunity here. If they'll get up and they'll challenge receivers, like I said before, if you can cover — you can't cover many people if you don't want to challenge guys. That's God's honest truth. I could play the deep ball. I'd get my ass 50 yards deep and you couldn't get one over the top of me, but I couldn't cover anything else.

"There's a fine line in there. And the fine line is you obviously have to play the deep ball in this league, but if that's the only thing you're worried about, you're not going to cover anything else."

Schwartz said he's happy with the blend of veteran and young players on the roster, before rattling off five names: Nolan Carroll, Leodis McKelvin, Ron Brooks, JaCorey Shepherd and rookie Jalen Mills.

The one notable omission from that list of names is second-year player Eric Rowe, who finished last year as a starter, but has been somewhat of a forgotten man this spring and summer. On Monday, head coach Doug Pederson mentioned some "hiccups" Rowe encountered learning the new defensive scheme (see story).

Even with Rowe buried on the depth chart for now, there are still plenty of talented, young corners fighting for jobs.

Carroll, on the other hand, isn't young. He's 29 and a returning starter from last year. Schwartz praised Carroll's smarts and said he's been a resource for younger players. But Carroll is also coming off of a fibula fracture and subsequent surgery. That's why he's one of the select vets that reported to camp early.

"This is important for him now," Schwartz said. "It's a good opportunity for him to come back before the full club gets here, just to sort of test it out and see how he's feeling. You don't want to judge too much. He might need a day here or there. It helps that he's a veteran player."

It seems Carroll, on a one-year deal, has a decent shot of being a starter opposite McKelvin. During the spring, Brooks worked outside in the base package and moved inside to the slot. At times, the rookie Mills also played in the slot.

Schwartz said corners in the slot need a different set of skills than the ones outside. They need to have the "courage" to take on big-bodied running backs and the occasional pulling guard. They also need to cover differently.

"It's very rare that you're getting the same routes," he said. "You're not getting the same routes from the slot as you are from the outside. So there's a different skill set. Some guys can play both, some guys can't. So it's our job to determine over the next six weeks where all the guys fit in that."

Tonight's lineup: Ryan Howard starts; Ichiro in CF, 4 hits away from 3,000

Tonight's lineup: Ryan Howard starts; Ichiro in CF, 4 hits away from 3,000

Ryan Howard is in the Phillies' lineup Tuesday night, batting fourth against Marlins right-hander Tom Koehler. 

It's the second start in three games for Howard, who has actually been productive lately when he's gotten a chance to start. He went 2 for 3 on Saturday and had a homer in three of his previous five starts. Over that span he's gone 6 for 21 with three home runs and five RBIs as the Phillies' starting first baseman.

One of those homers was against Koehler last week at Citizens Bank Park, a two-run shot.

Howard's struggles this season have been well-documented and he's still hitting just .165, but he and Tommy Joseph have produced from a power standpoint. The only team in the majors that has more home runs from its first basemen than the Phillies (24) is the Cubs (26).

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Odubel Herrera, CF
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Cameron Rupp, C
6. Cody Asche, LF
7. Freddy Galvis, SS
8. Peter Bourjos, RF
9. Jerad Eickhoff, P

And for the Marlins:

1. Ichiro, CF (four hits away from 3,000)
2. Martin Prado, 3B
3. Christian Yelich, LF
4. Giancarlo Stanton, RF
5. Chris Johnson, 1B
6. Adeiny Hechavarria, SS
7. Jeff Mathis, C
8. Miguel Rojas, 2B
9. Tom Koehler, P

Adjusting to new home, Ben Simmons plays role model at Sixers Camp

Adjusting to new home, Ben Simmons plays role model at Sixers Camp

Wayne, Pa. -- Three steps. 

That’s all it takes before Ben Simmons is recognized walking through the streets of Philadelphia. 

This year’s No. 1 pick has been in the spotlight long before the Sixers drafted him in June, and now he's experiencing what it's like to be known as an NBA player in his new city. 

“I’ve been enjoying walking around South Street, getting some Ishkabibble's,” Simmons said Tuesday after a special appearance at the Sixers' Camp at Valley Forge Military Academy. 

At 6-foot-10, Simmons towers above most on the court, let alone on the sidewalk. Fans have been eager to welcome him to Philadelphia for a new chapter of the organization after three years of struggle. 

“Positive things,” Simmons said of the comments he receives. “I think a lot of people are excited, so I’ve been looking forward to it.”

Simmons understands the impact a professional athlete can have on young fans, and was excited to be at camp Tuesday.

Growing up in Australia, he never had the opportunity to hear from NBA players when he attended basketball camps. Now that he's in that position, the 20-year-old was glad to provide that memory to the 240 campers. 

“That would mean a lot if I was able to experience that,” Simmons said. 

Simmons demonstrated skill drills, such as passing fundamentals, interacted in a Q+A session and signed autographs for each camper. He also took individual photos for those who traveled internationally, including from Nigeria, Italy and Greece. 

“I’m just like them, but older,” Simmons said. “I’m just trying to be a good role model to them.”

Simmons plans to spend most of the offseason in Philadelphia as he gets settled into the city. He still has to move into his new home, but at least he knows where to get a cheesesteak in the meantime.