Sixers Chat: Wrapping the Bulls Series and Previewing the Celtics

Sixers Chat: Wrapping the Bulls Series and Previewing the Celtics

It's been a crazy couple of weeks for the Philadelphia 76ers, as they
pulled off the weirdest upset in NBA history against the East-best
(though roster-depleted) Chicago Bulls and now face an aging-but-loaded
Celtics team with the chance to make the Conference Finals (!!) for the
first time since 2001. As always, we called in Michael Levin of the
excellent Sixers blog Liberty Ballers to help us put the Bulls series to
bed, see what we have coming with the Celtics, and generally figure out
what the hell is going on.

Andrew: All right, so first and foremost: You stopped laughing about that Game Six ending yet?

Michael Levin, Liberty Ballers: Yeah at some point I had to go to sleep, so eventually, yeah. It was close though.

Our editor at the Level wrote an article about the two FTs being 'Dre's signature moment as a Sixer. You agree?

Yeah
I'd guess that's how he'll make his stamp. When I think signature
moment I think of like something he does often? So maybe a huge dunk to
win it or a big stop. But in terms of meaningful, yeah this was the
biggest moment.

Which would you have said to be more likely before Thursday: The
Sixers winning a playoff series on 'Dre's clutch FT shooting, or the
2008 Phillies winning the world series on Pat Burrell stealing home?

Hahahha Dre's foul shots. I've seen Pat run far too many times to
know he's not stealing home or anything else anymore. Not since he was
like 22. Dre used to be a decent foul shooter. He just tailspinned the
past two years.

But can you think of a more...maybe not ironic, but like,
poetically unexpected way for the Sixers to have won this series? How
many times have we seen 'Dre come up on short in this near-exact
situation?

It was perfect poetic justice. Maybe Turner nailing a three. Or Lou
making a huge defensive stop. But Dre at the line was the ultimate
vindicator for him and for the team. I hate to say "you can't script
this" and that crap, but it was the absolute perfect way to end that
game.

Did it even cross your mind that he might make both, or were you thinking "Just hit one, send it to OT"?

I
don't know that I thought will he make one or two or none, I knew I was
confident. Earlier that game I said he'd been money from the foul line
this series. Which, money for him was like 80%. So I felt better about
his foul shooting at least temporarily, but I've seen him miss so many
late game free throws that it probably crossed my mind that he'll brick
both. But I'm not sure -- in hindsight it feels like I was confident.

It seems like the Sixers, who have struggled all year to close
out close games even against subpar teams, finally figured out how to do
it in this series. Is that legitimate development, a fluke against an
undermanned team, or just odds saying you have to win a couple close
games eventually?

I'd say the last two. Without Rose and Noah, the Bulls don't have
many options to go to. CJ Watson shouldn't have been in the game at the
end, but he had to because he's the only alternative. He shouldn't make
that pass to Omer Asik, who ALSO shouldn't have been in the game. But
when you're that undermanned, you gotta play somebody.

And yeah I've been saying "they're due" all season long. You can
only lose by 4 so many times before something goes their way. And the
Basketball Gods picked a good time to finally give them a few bounces.

How much of an upset, if at all, would you call this win? Were the Bulls still a better team, even without their top two guys?

I'd call it even. The Sixers are as good as the Bulls minus their two best players. Not exactly a confidence booster.

So sad, yeah.

If the Bulls had a few games without
Rose and Noah going into the series, i think it would have been
different. But happening so close together when you have this gameplan
and then it falling apart, I don't think they had time to recover.

What was your primary feeling after the end of Game Six,
excitement and elation over the Sixers' win, or relief that both the
Sixers weren't going to blow the series and you wouldn't have to watch a
Game Seven?

Hahahaha ummm....excitement for Dre. That was the #1 thing. And
yeah, I was really thrilled that we don't have to watch another game
between those two teams. Even if the Celtics series won't be much
better. Or possibly (gasp), worse.

And I wasn't so worried that the Sixers would blow the series,
because I'm not exactly invested in their success this postseason, but
it's fun to watch them win, even with the knowledge that no, all of this
doesn't matter because they're not good enough.

Was there one unreserved positive that we could take from the
series win, besides just "Hey, we won a series for the first time in a
decade"?

Initially, it was the success of [Evan] Turner and
Jrue [Holiday]. But that kind of tailed off towards the end, so....I'm
not sure. I guess the positive would be - they won a series, and now
people in Philadelphia might watch them play. That could be nice. I
think it would take another series win for people to actually care. But
we'll see if it's at least temporarily meaningful for the state of
professional basketball in the city.

What grades would you give Evan and Jrue's performances in this series?

Both
of them were pretty terrific defensively, especially Jrue. And they did
take the ball to the basket a lot, which I liked. So I'd give Jrue a B+
and Evan a B. But I might be going a little easy on them because I'm in
love with both of them. So take that into consideration too.

What grade would you give Coach Collins?

C-. Got the wins, but I disagreed with so many of his calls that it makes me hyperventilate.

Were you disappointed that in the end, he trusted Lou and 'Dre over Jrue and Evan again?

Yeah especially because of how the series started. It was very
promising and then...Boss. Dre in Game 5 was more on him than it was
Doug, in my opinion, but I'm bitter about him benching Evan in favor of
Lou towards the end.

Are you worried about the win sidetracking the Sixers'
development? That maybe it'll be an excuse to get the band back together
yet again in the off-season?

My opinion is that if the
owners watched this series and think this team deserves to be kept
together, then we have a bigger problem than just one year of not
rebuilding. They'd have to be batshit crazy to think this team that
barely beat the Bulls minus their two best players is worth keeping
together.

But do you think that now, Andre Iguodala, Playoff Hero is untradeable in the off-season?

No I think he's still gone. What they get for him I'm not sure. I'm hoping a pick, a contract, and a prospect.

What about Spencer Hawes? Did he make himself money in this series, and will it be the Sixers giving it to him?

I
can't imagine the Sixers bringing him back. I'm operating under the
assumption that Doug is the coach next season, and I'm pretty sure he
will be. That's why I don't think Andre or Spence will be back.

Lou [Williams]...... I'm worried. Really worried. My hope is that he
wants to start somewhere and he'll go where the money is. But if he
likes being here and doesn't mind coming off the bench, then we're in
trouble.

Who do you think the Celtics were hoping came out of this series?

Sixers. The Bulls would still give them trouble inside.

Even with the young legs and the 2/3 wins and everything?

Yeah
I'm sure they don't really care about the 2 out of 3 wins in the
regular season. One game was when Pietrus went down. And both games had
the Celtics at the end of long stretches. They know they're the better
team.

But do you think the youth will be any kind of advantage for the
Sixers? Can they win a game or two running the C's out of the gym?

Yeah
I think they've certainly got a chance to, providing one of the bigger
Celtics gets hurt. Youth is mostly on their side, and if they commit to
pushing it in transition and a few shots go in, we could be talking
about a series.

How do you think the Sixers deal with [Celtics Point Guard Rajon] Rondo? How would you have them do it?

I'd
put Turner on him. Have a bigger guy handle him, disrupt passing lanes
and such. Get Jrue on [Avery] Bradley and make him as annoyed as he'll
make Jrue on the other end.

Is [Celtics Forward Kevin] Garnett the toughest matchup for the Sixers in this series? How do they handle KG?

I
think Brand/Thad/Spencer/Lavoy will all take turns on him. He'll get
his but I don't think he'll be the problem. I'm more worried about the
Sixers not being able to score than the Celtics scoring a lot.

Who's the key for the Sixers offensively, then? Is there one?

It's
everybody. They need help from everyone. I think Sugar Bear [Elton
Brand] will have a big series because he's crazy like that. If Thad can
break out that would be huge. Dre making Pierce work on the other end
would certainly be nice. And obviously Evan and Jrue. Get to the basket,
get people in foul trouble. Find Elton for open jumpers. Gotta hit
shots, gotta keep moving. Can't dribble yourself into trouble.

If there's one thing you want to see from the team in this series short of them actually winning it, what would it be?

Evan
and Jrue. Efficient and being used frequently. Attacking the basket,
playing good defense, and getting the call when it matters most.
Everything else is gravy.

How confident are you feeling that they'll be the ones Collins leans on?

Not very!

All
right, give me a prediction of winner and games, and then give me the
odds you think the Sixers have of pulling out the upset.

Hahah this is going to contradict everything I've said but
Sixers in 6. And I have no clue what the odds are. That's my pick, for
better or worse.
 
Where is that pick stemming from?

Cuz
Fuck Me, that's why. Everything the Sixers do is to spite me
personally. So they'll win, resign Lou and Spencer to max contracts, and
I'll be here shaking my head. Oh and then they'll get plastered by
Miami. Before resigning those guys, obviously.

Maybe LeBron and Wade get hurt and the Sixers make the finals
just by virtue of still having seven or eight competent basketball
players to dress.

That's going to be how it has to happen. Then they'll win it all and we'll be like What the Fuck just happened.

---

8:00 tip on Game One form the TD Banknorth Garden tonight. Go Sixers.

Jon Dorenbos advances to America's Got Talent finals

Jon Dorenbos advances to America's Got Talent finals

Jon Dorenbos' magic run continues.

The Eagles' long snapper on Wednesday was voted into the finals of NBC's America's Got Talent.

Dorenbos performed this incredible trick Tuesday night to advance.

Shortly after receiving the results, Dorenbos expressed his gratitude.

Dorenbos will play in the Eagles' preseason finale on Thursday night. He'll get some time off from the show, as he was part of the first semifinals. The second semis round starts next week.

This is all super cool. Dorenbos' magic has lots of meaning. If you don't know about his story, read it here.

Instant Replay: Nationals 2, Phillies 1

Instant Replay: Nationals 2, Phillies 1

BOX SCORE

The Phillies’ losing streak against the Washington Nationals this season rose to nine games in a 2-1 loss Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park.
 
The Phils gave up five first-inning runs and had just nine hits in being swept in the three-game series. They had four hits Monday night, three on Tuesday and two on Wednesday.
 
The Phils entered the game hitting .239 as a team. Only San Diego was worse in the majors.
 
The Phillies have lost three in a row and seven of their last nine.
 
Starting pitching report
Adam Morgan absorbed his ninth loss but had the best of his 16 starts in the majors this season. The lefty gave up a first-inning home run to Jayson Werth then did not allow another run until there were two outs in the seventh. He was one strike away from getting out of the frame with a 1-1 tie when he gave up a full-count RBI single to Wilson Ramos.
 
In all, Morgan gave up just three hits in 6 2/3 innings. He walked none and struck out five. He had entered the game with a 6.50 ERA and lowered it to 6.21.
 
Washington lefty Gio Gonzalez (10-9) held the Phillies to two hits and a run over six innings.
 
Bullpen report
Blake Treinen, Marc Rzepczynski and Shawn Kelley closed it out for the Nats. Manager Pete Mackanin pinch-hit Ryan Howard against the lefty Rzepczynski with two outs in the eighth. Howard, hitting .138 against lefties, struck out. Rzepczynski stayed on for the ninth. He walked Cesar Hernandez to lead off the frame then got Odubel Herrera to bounce into a double play before handing off to the righty Kelly. Herrera has two sacrifice bunts this season, but was not asked to get one down on this occasion.
 
At the plate
Freddy Galvis clubbed his 15th homer, a solo shot in the fifth, for the Phillies’ only run.
 
Werth’s homer in the first inning was his 20th of the season. It was a bomb to dead center. It came off the bat at 107 mph and traveled 453 feet. Werth also homered in the first inning of Monday night’s game. He has reached base safely in 55 of his last 57 games.
 
Ramos’ tie-breaking hit against Morgan came one batter after Anthony Rendon extended the seventh inning with a two-out double.
 
Ramos leads major-league catchers with 71 RBIs.
 
Reinforcements coming
The Phillies will add three players from the minors on Friday (see story).
 
Up next
The Phillies are off on Thursday. They open a three-game series with the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park on Friday night. Here are the pitching matchups:
 
Friday night — RHP Jeremy Hellickson (10-8, 3.80) vs. RHP Joel De La Cruz (0-7, 4.66)
 
Saturday night — RHP Vince Velasquez (8-6, 4.21) vs. TBA
 
Sunday afternoon — RHP Jake Thompson (1-4, 7.86) vs. RHP Julio Teheran (4-9, 3.12).

Union goalie John McCarthy ready for 1st MLS start of season

Union goalie John McCarthy ready for 1st MLS start of season

CHESTER, Pa. — Long after Wednesday’s morning training session ended, John McCarthy remained on the practice field to sign autographs for a bunch of young campers.
 
This is a typical activity for the popular Philadelphia native, who in many ways is a perfect backup goalkeeper for the Union.

But this weekend, McCarthy will be more than just an ambassador for fans. With Andre Blake on international duty with the Jamaican national team, the La Salle alum will be thrust into the limelight and make his first MLS start of the season when the Union face the Chicago Fire on Saturday at Toyota Park (8:30 p.m./TCN).  

“Obviously he’s itching to get his first MLS game this year,” Curtin said. “He’s a professional. This is what he prepares for. It’s similar to a backup quarterback role — you have to be ready when your number is called, and I know Johnny will be. He’s a guy I trust a great deal. He’s a winner. He won big games last year, and I expect him to do the same in Chicago.”

McCarthy indeed had a memorable rookie season last year, starting 11 games in league play while playing a key role in the Union’s run to the U.S. Open Cup final. 

But with Blake overcoming injuries and growing into an All-Star this year, McCarthy’s opportunities for playing time have dried up. So far in 2016, he’s played in just one U.S. Open Cup game on top of the 11 starts he's made for the Union’s USL affiliate, Bethlehem Steel FC.

How has he dealt with such a change?

“You don’t want to change anything up,” McCarthy said. “You just want to be as consistent as possible, keep training the same and keep your mindset the same because it’s the same when you’re sitting on the bench. You’ve got to be ready to play — and the opportunity is here.”

Another international call-up for Blake left the door open for McCarthy to potentially start June 1 vs. Columbus Crew SC. But Curtin instead opted to go with Matt Jones, who gave up two goals but got the win in what's been his only MLS start. Jones has since been dealing with an injury though, which led to McCarthy getting the nod this weekend. 

Despite the competition, McCarthy insists he and Jones — and Blake too — have maintained a great rapport.

“We’re all really good friends,” he said. “We all sit next to each other in the locker room. We can give each other crap off the field, joke with each other and stuff, and then when it comes to [being] on the field, it’s time to work. And we work together as a group because at the end of the day, whoever’s playing, we want the best for them and we want to win.”

McCarthy certainly wants the best for Blake, who is set to start in net for Jamaica in a couple of key games vs. Panama and Haiti as the Reggae Boyz look to advance to the fifth round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. 

Alejandro Bedoya will also be involved in the final two games of the fourth round of qualifying as he joins the U.S. national team. And if he plays in Friday’s game vs. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines as expected, it will mark just the second time in club history an active Union player plays for the USMNT.

That’s a big deal, according to Curtin.

“Listen, when kids watch the game and they see who’s on the national team, that’s who they should all aspire to be like,” Curtin said. “I think Alejandro is a player every kid should want to be like. … To have a guy from the Union with this badge represent our country is really powerful. I think that shows the growth of our club. We want more and more of our guys to represent our country.”

At the same time, Bedoya’s absence will naturally create a big hole for the Union, who are dealing with injuries to other midfielders. Blake — who’s usually good for a spectacular save or two — not being in Chicago will be tough for the team to cope with, too.

But Curtin is eager to see some of his bench guys fill important roles this weekend — especially McCarthy.

“All goalies are a little bit crazy in their own way,” Curtin said. “I put Johnny right in that category. So he’s not fazed by pressure. I think he embraces pressure. He’s a fighter. He has a good strong mentality and he works his tail off every day in training.
“He’s one of our hardest working guys. He stays after to take shots, and puts a ton of work in. I’m happy and excited for him to get his opportunity now.”