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.

Howard homers, embraces the moment, looks forward to final salute Sunday

Howard homers, embraces the moment, looks forward to final salute Sunday

BOX SCORE

The New York Mets and a slew of their supportive fans took over Citizens Bank Park on Sunday afternoon. The Mets posted a 5-3 win over the Phillies and streamed out of the dugout like school children at recess to celebrate clinching a National League wild-card playoff spot on the penultimate day of the season (see Instant Replay).

As the Mets players congratulated each other on the diamond, several thousand of their vocal fans cheered in the stands while Phillies fans headed to the exits longing for those days when their team used to have celebrations on the field.

There was a moment in the game, however, when it did feel like the good ol’ days at the ballpark, a moment when Ryan Howard owned the place like he used to and the Phillies fans drowned out the Mets fans with ease.

It came in the fifth inning when the Phillies were down by two runs and Howard came to the plate and turned on a pitch from Bartolo Colon and sent it into the right-field seats for a game-tying two-run home run. Phillies fans had seen Howard hit homers like this before because many of the 382 he has hit in his career have been clutch shots that have come in big moments, and though the Phillies have long been dead in the standings, this was an important game and thus a big moment because the Mets had a lot to play for and no competitor worth his salt would let another team walk on him.

The game didn’t stay tied long as reliever Patrick Schuster allowed a hit and a wild pitch in the top of the sixth before David Hernandez surrendered a two-run homer to James Loney as the Mets went up for good.

But at least Howard gave the Phillies fans in the house something to cheer about for a short while.

“It was cool,” Howard acknowledged after the game. “I was able to hit the home run, tying the game up. I tried to spoil it for them today a little bit, but they got us, and you’ve got to congratulate those guys because they scratched and clawed and did what they needed to do. That’s a good ball club.”

Howard’s home run, of course, was cool for another reason.

It might have been his last as a Phillie.

This is the veteran slugger’s final weekend with the team he helped win the 2008 World Series and a little love-in has developed between him and the fans. They gave him a standing ovation after the homer – his 25th of the season – and he responded with a curtain call.

“It was awesome,” he said. “To be able to hit the home run in the first place and then get the curtain call. To have the fans show that kind of appreciation is a great feeling.”

The Phillies will not pick up Howard’s contract option for 2017. On Sunday afternoon, he will play his final game for the Phillies. First pitch is at 3 p.m. The team will make an on-field presentation to Howard at 2:30.

Howard doesn’t know what the team has planned.

“I’m just going to show up and see what happens,” he said. “You know, I think it’ll be something cool. We’ll see what it is. Whatever it brings, I'll embrace it and take it and enjoy it."
 
Howard had spent the previous few days stiff-arming the attention that has come with his final days as a Phillie.

He put his guard down a little after Saturday’s game.

“I’m just taking the weekend as is,” he said. “I’m just trying to enjoy it, trying to embrace everything and take it as is. I’m not trying to look too much into anything. Actually, I’m just trying to go out there and win these ballgames. I mean, I’ve said it before, things will hit you when they hit you.”

The Phillies have not been to the playoffs since 2011, their last of five straight trips to the postseason. If anyone needed a reminder of what it used to look like around here, it was on the field after the game in the form of the Mets’ celebration.

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin did not watch the Mets celebrate. He’s waiting to experience a celebration of his own.

“There’s no doubt in my mind we’re going to get back where we need to be and we’re going to be one of those teams, just like the Mets are now,” Mackanin said.

Howard will turn 37 in November. He is the elder statesman on this club and he’s embraced that role in his dealings with younger players.

He used the Mets’ celebration as an opportunity to pass on some advice to the men who are his teammates for one more day.

“You never want to see somebody else celebrate on your home field, but for these young guys it's something where once you’ve seen it, you want to be those guys," Howard said. "When you see the other team out there, you want to be that guy next year. You want to be out there celebrating on your home field or somebody else's field.

“It's tough, but you take that and find a way to use that as motivation.”

North Dakota appears to be Eagles country

North Dakota appears to be Eagles country

It appears that Carson Wentz' fanbase in North Dakota is still pretty strong. Before North Dakota State’s game against Illinois State Saturday afternoon, fans were seen walking around the parking lot in Carson Wentz Eagles’ jerseys. 

Wearing Eagles gear at the tailgate was not all, however. A large group of people begun chanting “Carson” over and over to show their love and support for the Eagles quarterback. 

Wentz, along with Eagles practice squad cornerback C.J. Smith, a fellow Bison alum, showed up to North Dakota State's homecoming Saturday.

This is not the first time we have seen North Dakota State fans showing how much they adore Carson Wentz. Going back to the NFL draft, fans were seen on the red carpet wearing North Dakota State Wentz jersey’s and waving flags.

On Sept. 19, when the Eagles played the Bears, North Dakotans traveled to see Wentz play in person.

Clearly, Wentz has a lot of love from his fans back at home, but it is safe to say that Eagles fans love him just as much after he has led them to a 3-0 start.  

It doesn't hurt that Wentz' cousin, Connor, plays for North Dakota State. Connor is a redshirt junior tight end.

John Clark with Connor Wentz

A photo posted by Rob Kuestner (@rkuestner23) on