SIXERS BACK, SIXERS BACK, ALL THESE BES SCREAMING THAT SIXERS BACK

SIXERS BACK, SIXERS BACK, ALL THESE BES SCREAMING THAT SIXERS BACK

What is going on with this professional basketball team. Just
when you think they're gonna zig, they zag, just when you think they've
got it figured out, they post a 12-point first quarter, and just when
you think they're gonna roll over, they get to the line a whole bunch of
times in the third quarter, start to gain some momentum, and complete
one of the most unlikely comebacks in an NBA post-season absolutely full
of them. Now all eyez are on the Celtics as they return to Boston,
still with the home-court advantage but missing out on a clear chance to
finish out the league's most perplexing bunch o' scrappers.

And once again, the comeback win was sealed by that clutchiest of clutch
clutchsters, Andre Iguodala. With the Sixers and Celtics tied at 83,
Iguodala scored five enormous answered points in the final 90 seconds of
this one to put the Sixers firmly in control of their own destiny.  All
of those memories of clanked jumpers, layup-drive no-calls, and general
late-game meltdowns are quickly fading to black as Andre Iguodala, Guy
You Can Count on To Do Shit starts getting chest-puffier with each
unlikely playoff victory.

First and foremost, the Sixers deserve salutations for powering through
one of the worst shooting nights in playoff history, courtesy of
second-year goofball Evan Turner. The box score says that he ended at
5-22, but we all know that he was actually 2-67 in this one, missing
from just about every possible spot on the court, on predominantly open
looks to boot. We generally love Evan here at the Level, and we're sure
he was just acting on Coach Collins' orders to "Be Aggressive, B-E
Aggressive," but hoooooly hell would it be nice if the Extraterrestrial
actually made some jumpers. (Turner did finish with 16 and 9, with only
one turnover in 36 minutes, so it wasn't all bad from ET.)

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, back to praise for Andre
Iguodala. Specifically, praise to him (and perhaps Coach Collins as
well) for figuring out a way to really help this team on
offense—spotting up in the corner for catch-and-shoot threes. 'Dre's
pull-up three game has never been phenomenal, but he's shown an aptitude
all year for connecting off the catch-and-shoot, helping to contribute
to his career-high 39% rate from deep this season. Tonight, he went
three for three on such shots, including the biggest shot of the night,
when he converted on a Lou Williams drive-and-kick from behind the arc
to put the Sixers up two possessions with less than a minute to go.

Speaking of Sour Patch Lou, it was easily the Sweetest game of the
post-season for our Sixth Man of the Year runner-up, as he scored 15
points on 5-11 shooting—including a stretch in the second quarter where
he elbowed the Ballers back into the game on a three and two straight
three-point plays—as well as handing out a team-high eight assists. I
give Lou a whole lot of crap on this website, and a lot of the time he
deserves it, but if he played more games like he did tonight—scoring,
but not forcing the issue, and making all the right passes—I wouldn't
even consider joining the monastery when we give him 5 years, $35
million in the off-season.

Besides 'Dre and Lou, the heroes of the game for the Sixers were the
closing frontcourt for the Sixers, Lavoy Allen and Thaddeus Young. Elton
Brand and Spencer Hawes were as miserable tonight as they have been all
series, combining for a mere five (FIVE!!) points tonight, but the
Sixers got energy, hustle, rebounding, and (by comparison anyway)
scoring from the Allen/Young duo, and Collins was wise to ride them down
the stretch, as they were able to hang and bang with Garnett, who was
finally kept in check tonight, scoring a mere nine points on 3-11
shooting (with seven turnovers!) as Lavoy & Thad combined for 20 and
19 rebounds. It'll be interesting to see if one or both of these guys
gets stuck in the starting lineup for Game Five, given how much more
effective they've been than the dinged-up Brand and the, uh, generally
deficient Hawes.

Of course, I'd be a little remiss if I didn't mention another MVP for
Philly tonight—our boys in black and white. The Sixers shot 36 free
throws to the Celtics' 19, many of which came in the second and third
quarters as it seemed like the Sixers were never going to hit another
field goal again. It felt like the Ballers were almost getting pity
calls for a while, with the C's getting clobbered on a couple layup
drives on their end while the whistles remained silent. It'll all
basically even out in time so I'm not gonna cry too foul (NPI) on it or
nothing, but it has to be mentioned in explaining how the Sixers were
able to win this game after starting out down 18-3 and still trailing
51-33 at half.

How else were they able to win this game? Well, we maybe never really
know for sure. It was a little like that Grizzlies-Clippers Game One
where you were watching it thinking "Hah, that's funny, the Sixers are
only down 14," "Hah, that's funny, the Sixers are only down eight,"
"Wait a minute...the Sixers are only down four?" "Did the Sixers just
take the lead?" "HOLY CRAP ARE THE SIXERS GOING TO WIN THIS GAME??" It
was like a Robb Stark sneak attack—by the time that the Celtics (or
anyone else) know what was happening, it had already happened. And
really, how can we be surprised by anything this team does at this
point? What a weird post-season.

Game Five from Boston this Monday. Who knows what other crazy twists and
turns this post-season takes from here? Dunno, but hope they don't
involve anymore 2-67 shooting nights from Evan Turner. They give me the
saddies.

Joel Embiid declares himself '#FinallyHealthy' on Instagram, creates great new hashtag

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Joel Embiid declares himself '#FinallyHealthy' on Instagram, creates great new hashtag

When will Joel Embiid be cleared to make his NBA debut? That question still remains.

But the big man is making it known, he is setting his sights on that game (whenever it may be) and being part of the Sixers’ new chapter.

Monday night Embiid posted a photo of himself in a Sixers jersey with the caption “Wish we could fast forward to next season #FinallyHealthy#TrustTheNewProcess.”

Wish we could fast forward to next season #FinallyHealthy #TrustTheNewProcess

A photo posted by Joel Hans Embiid (@joelembiid) on

That second hashtag, though? Just tremendous.

Yes, even in the midst of an electric Western Conference Finals Game 7 between the Warriors and Thunder, Embiid is thinking ahead to next season.

Embiid, the third overall pick in 2014, has yet to play in an NBA game because of foot injuries. He has been going through non-contact drills during his rehab, teasing viewers with videos of his three-point shooting, and dabbling in soccer moves.

Embiid has been expressing his excitement of playing next season on social media. Seven weeks ago, a caption included “We'll see y'all next season. ME PERSONALLY.”

Instant Replay: Nationals 4, Phillies 3

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Instant Replay: Nationals 4, Phillies 3

BOX SCORE

Jeremy Hellickson did everything he could Monday night to stop the bleeding a rough road trip through Detroit and Chicago provided the Phillies.

But the usually consistent Hector Neris had his worst inning of the year and Washington pounced.

The Nationals scored three runs in the top of the eighth inning and snapped a four-game losing streak to the Phillies with a 4-3 win on Monday at Citizens Bank Park.

Jayson Werth’s two-out RBI single plated the tying run in the top of the eighth to even the score at 2-2. Neris then walked Chris Heisey to load the bases for Daniel Murphy, who homered earlier. He delivered with the crushing blow, a two-run single that put the Nationals ahead for good.

Jonathan Papelbon, whom the Phillies have had success against at Citizens Bank Park, worked around back-to-back doubles by Maikel Franco and Ryan Howard to start the ninth inning and to pick up his 14th save of the season.

Papelbon fanned pinch-hitter Tommy Joseph with a slider, blew a fastball by Cesar Hernandez and got Tyler Goeddel to line out to second base to end the game.

The Phillies, now losers in eight of 10, saw their record fall to 26-25. On Tuesday, they’ll try to avoid falling to .500 for the first time since April 26.

Starting pitching report
In a pitcher’s duel against Washington’s Tanner Roark, Hellickson was dominant in seven innings of work. He needed just 79 pitches in those innings before being lifted for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the seventh inning.

For the fifth straight time, Hellickson held his opponents to three runs or less. He struck out eight Nationals and scattered just three hits while not issuing a walk. Hellickson left the game in line for the win, but the Phillies' usually efficient bullpen faltered.

Hellickson struck out the side in the sixth inning, which ended with Werth swinging through a breaking ball.

Bullpen report
Neris entered Monday having not given up a run since May 6, a streak of nine and 2/3 innings. He started off by striking out Wilson Ramos with his nasty splitter.

Neris then walked Danny Espinosa before getting pinch-hitter Clint Robinson to line out for the inning’s second out. But command continued to be an issue. Neris walked Ben Revere to keep the inning alive for Werth, who made him pay. And then Murphy made it worse.

Jeanmar Gomez came on to clean up the eighth inning and then pitched a perfect ninth inning.

At the plate
The Phillies used their small ball ways to score the game’s first run in the bottom of the second. Back-to-back one-out walks of Hernandez, who would steal second and reach third on a wild pitch, and Goeddel put runners on the corners for Hellickson, who executed a perfect sacrifice safety squeeze bunt to score Hernandez.

After Washington tied the game at 1-1 on a Murphy home run, the Phillies struck back in the bottom of the sixth with a Freddy Galvis homer on a 1-2 slider down in the zone. Galvis went down to get the pitch and drove it to the right field seats for what turned out to be the game-winning run.

Howard, who was given the start at first base after sitting Sunday, was 0 for 3 with a pair of strikeouts and a long flyout to deep right-centerfield before he smashed an RBI double to follow up Franco’s double to kick off the ninth inning.

In the field
Howard’s leaping catch of Ramos’ line drive to end the second inning helped keep the Nationals off the board early.

Goeddel, who made that game-ending throw to the plate a few weeks back, again showed off his arm in the top of the seventh inning. With Bryce Harper on first base after being hit by a Hellickson fastball in the knee, Murphy, moments after hitting a home run foul and out of play, drove a pitch toward the gap in left-centerfield.

Goeddel closed on it and quickly fired to first. Harper, slow getting back to the base, was doubled off as Howard deceptively waited to show his glove until the ball neared. Washington manager Dusty Baker challenged the play, but a review that lasted two minutes and 15 seconds confirmed the call on the field.

Franco made a catch in the eighth inning similar to Howard’s. Robinson sent a line shot over the head of Franco, who made a full-extension grab with his glove. He appeared to injure his left shoulder on the play but remained in the game.

Asche on the way?
Cody Asche, who continues to work his way back from an oblique injury, went 1 for 4 Monday afternoon with a home run - his second during his rehab assignment - in Lehigh Valley’s 6-4 win over Norfolk.

Asche’s 20-day rehab assignment concludes Wednesday. Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said the club would look at Asche then and said it's a “possibility” the 25-year-old joins the Phillies after.

Up next
The Phillies continue their 10-game homestand on Tuesday with Aaron Nola (4-3, 2.86 ERA) facing off against Washington’s Joe Ross (4-4, 2.52).

NL East Wrap: Mets SP Matt Harvey gets back on track in win over White Sox

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USA Today Images

NL East Wrap: Mets SP Matt Harvey gets back on track in win over White Sox

NEW YORK -- On the mound in the seventh inning for the first time this season, Matt Harvey gave up his first walk of the game and his second hit, leading to a sacrifice bunt and a second-and-third jam.

"You kind of think about the worst at that point," he said. "You start getting some negative thoughts that creep in your head."

But 11 days after disappointed fans at Citi Field booed him like a villain, the Dark Knight was back - at least for one afternoon.

Harvey retired Todd Frazier on a foulout and J.B. Shuck on a grounder to escape trouble, Neil Walker homered off Jose Quintana on the second pitch of the bottom half and the New York Mets beat Chicago 1-0 Monday to send the reeling White Sox to their seventh straight loss.

"Today's a big first step," Mets manager Terry Collins said.

Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia got six straight outs to complete the two-hitter, preserving Harvey's first win since May 8. Harvey struck out six, walked two and threw four pitches of 98-98.5 mph after not topping 97.5 mph previously this season. He threw 61 of 87 pitches for strikes (see full recap).

Mallex Smith's 3-run triple powers Braves past Giants
ATLANTA -- Mike Foltynewicz is showing he can be more than just a fastball pitcher - and that he can be part of the Braves' long-term rotation.

Foltynewicz continued his recent upswing by allowing only three hits and one run in six-plus innings, Mallex Smith hit a three-run triple and Atlanta beat Jeff Samardzija and the San Francisco Giants 5-3 on Monday.

The Braves survived San Francisco's two-run, ninth-inning rally. They have won three of four and are 5-21 at home, still easily the worst in the majors.

Foltynewicz (2-2) gave up a leadoff homer to Brandon Belt in the second inning, but allowed only one other runner to advance to second.

Foltynewicz, 24, has had other recent strong starts, including eight scoreless innings in a 5-0 win at Kansas City on May 14. His start on Monday may have been his most impressive demonstration of altering the speeds of his fastball while mixing in a curveball and slider (see full recap).

Locke tosses three-hit shutout against Marlins
MIAMI -- Jeff Locke tossed a three-hitter and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Miami Marlins 10-0 on Monday night.

Gregory Polanco's grand slam, Sean Rodriguez's two-run homer, and David Freese's four hits helped power the offense for the Pirates, who won the first of a four-game series in Miami. The first two games were originally scheduled to be played in Puerto Rico, but were moved due to concerns of the Zika virus.

Locke (4-3) struck out one and did not walk a batter while throwing 67 of 105 pitches for strikes. It was his first complete game in 101 career starts. Locke retired 19 straight at one point and needed just six pitches to get through the seventh inning.

The announced crowd of 10,856 was a season-low for the Marlins, who entered the day averaging just under 20,000.