Sixers generously help Jrue Holiday and the Pelicans get back on track with blowout loss

Sixers generously help Jrue Holiday and the Pelicans get back on track with blowout loss

Guess it's no hard feelings between Jrue Holiday and the Philadelphia 76ers after the trade that sent him to New Orleans back in June--on our side, anyway. The Sixers did their old friend the favor of basically laying down for his squad tonight, not only letting Jrue get back on track, but giving the ailing 3-6 Pelicans by far their biggest win of the season, 135-98--also, by extension, the biggest loss of the Sixers' now 5-6 campaign.

In many ways, this was inevitable. The Sixers were on the wrong end of a back-to-back, undermanned with MCW missing his third straight game, and just generally due for a game where they got the crap kicked out of them. And this Pelicans team is just a bad matchup for Philly, with New Orleans exploiting the team's lack of consistent outside shooting by having their emerging superstar Anthony Davis swat just about anything the team tried around the basket. Davis had eight of the team's 14 blocks on the night, while the whole Sixers team ended with just two, both registered in garbage time.

After a pretty mediocre nine games to start the season, Jrue finally had it going on tonight. 14 points (on 6-9 shooting), 12 assists, hitting his jumper and making good decisions, and even playing a little defense on the other end on the likes of Tony Wroten and Evan Turner. And Ryan Anderson, who hadn't played all season (and whose absence probably hurt the Pelicans' offense a good deal), made a pretty dynamite return, scoring 26 on 10-16 shooting in just about 26 minutes. This was exactly the game the Pelicans needed to reverse their season's sagging momentum, and the Sixers were more than happy to serve it up to them.

On the flip side, after going nine games without a single really bad outing, Evan Turner was absolutely brutal tonight. You got the sense early he just didn't have the energy in this one--in the second quarter, he passed the ball right to Anthony Davis in the half-court, and not like Davis made a nice move to intercept it, just that Evan couldn't muster the force to send it past him--and a couple early blocks of his drives seemed to suck the life out of him. He finished with just four points on 2-11 shooting, though at least he only turned the ball over twice this time.

This ET game was bound to happen sooner or later--and given that this was his sixth game in nine nights, sooner was probably a good bet--and probably shouldn't be read into too deeply. Still, it did expose a real weakness in Evan's game, which is his badly flailing jumper from long distance. Evan has been good to focus his energy on getting to the basket this season, but with the Hornets denying any kind of access at the rim--even ex-Sixer Jason Smith had three blocks--and with Evan's tank sputtering a little, it would have been nice to see him getting his from the outside a little.

But outside shooting has really not been Evan's thing this year--his 0-2 from deep tonight makes him a miserable 4-28 for the season--and instead, he was just a total non-entity on offense tonight. In most games, he's been able to get to the basket and to his sweet spots frequently enough to still put up his points anyway, but he'll never be a complete offensive player until he can pull up from 16 feet or longer--or at the very least, connect on a catch-and-shoot--with some degree of regularity. You don't want to see him fall in love with the outside shot, but if he doesn't have it in his arsenal at all, that's a problem.

Turner's struggles were the most pronounced tonight, but nobody on the Sixers had a particularly good outing. Tony Wroten was solid again--19 points, including a couple made threes--and Darius Morris continues to give the team surprisingly solid minutes off the bench, but nobody on this team played defense, and Spencer Hawes particularly was repeatedly victimized by the speed and strength of the Pelicans. The Sixers are gonna give up points, but tonight wasn't a result of pace or style--it was just the Sixers being overpowered by what certainly looked like a much better team.

Oh well. It'll be interesting to see where both squads go from here--whether the loss puts the final nail in the coffin of the Sixers' improbably hot start, and whether the win can help the floundering Pelicans gain some momentum and finally get their head above water. But it's still just one game, and the Sixers will have a much more favorable matchup (though by no means easy) against the similarly up-and-down, defense-eschewing Dallas Mavericks, so hopefully a day's rest will do them some good and they'll at least come out swinging against Dirk and co. It's a long season, and the Sixers will lose a lot--lose big, lose small, lose creatively--before it's all said and done.

5-6 now, then, finally below .500 for the first time this season. If this really is it for the Sixers, and Tankadelphia is slowly creeping up to third gear (tanks probably have gears, right?), no regrets--it's been a great run, and more than enough to sustain us through a long season of losing. If it's almost time to shift our attention to The Other Sixers Season going on in the NCAA right now, so be it. Kentucky's on again tomorrow, FYI.

Joel Embiid feels 'great' after injury scare to left knee

Joel Embiid feels 'great' after injury scare to left knee

Of the nearly 20,000 people in the Wells Fargo Center on Friday night, Joel Embiid was seemingly the least concerned when he came down and injured his left knee. 

Fans held their breath and the Sixers looked on anxiously as the standout big man got up in visible discomfort and limped off the court (see highlights). Embiid, however, wasn’t worried. 

“I knew it was OK. I just landed the wrong way,” he said after the Sixers' 93-92 win over the Trail Blazers (see Instant Replay). “I’m great. The knee’s fine. They did an MRI and stuff, everything looked good.”

Embiid ran off the court on his own, was diagnosed with a left knee contusion and was cleared to return to the game. He aggravated his knee again driving to the basket and this time, the team held him out to be careful.

“The review is that he hyperextended his left knee,” head coach Brett Brown said. “There was a minor tweak again, and for precautionary reasons only, the doctors did not allow him to return. There will be more information given as we know it. But quickly, that's what we know.”

Embiid understood the team’s decision to sideline him for the final 8:50 while the Sixers went on a comeback run (see feature highlight). He still finished the game with an 18-point, 10-rebound double-double, five assists and four blocks in only 22 minutes.

“Obviously those guys, the front office, they care about my future, so they just shut it down,” Embiid said. “But I was fine.”

Embiid will not travel to Atlanta for Saturday’s game against the Hawks (pre-scheduled rest). He expects to be available for Tuesday’s home matchup against the Clippers. 

"You know how tough he is," Nerlens Noel said. "If it isn’t anything serious, he’ll be right back. At the end of the game, he was telling me was he was feeling great and there was no pain. He wanted to come back in the game … he’s a trooper. He always gives it his all and always plays hard."

Injuries to any player are worrisome, especially a franchise centerpiece with two years of rehab (foot) behind him. The Sixers have been methodical and cautious with his playing time. Embiid is on a 28-minute restriction and can play in only one game of a back-to-back series. 

The same player who is so closely watched, though, also plays with sky-high energy that doesn’t have a brake pedal. 

“You're concerned,” Brown said of seeing Embiid get injured. “It's clear to all of us that he plays with such reckless abandon. I think that we're all going to be seeing this and feeling this regularly. From flying into stands to stalking somebody in the open court to block a shot to the collision he often is in trying to draw fouls. That's just who he is. 

“I think that as he just plays more basketball and continues to grow, to not necessarily avoid those situations, just to perhaps manage them a little bit more. Right now, he's just a young guy that's just playing that doesn't know what he doesn't know and has a fearless approach underneath all that attitude.”

Fearless is an accurate description considering Embiid's trouble-free reaction to the awkward way his leg bent (he hadn’t seen a replay). 

“I kind of had that in college, too,” he said. “I think I’m flexible, so it’s supposed to happen.”

Best of NHL: Before visiting Flyers, Devils fall to Canadiens

Best of NHL: Before visiting Flyers, Devils fall to Canadiens

NEWARK, N.J. -- The toughest thing Montreal Canadiens goalie Al Montoya had to do against the New Jersey Devils was stay awake.

The Canadiens limited the Devils to a season-low 17 shots, and Shea Weber and Max Pacioretty each scored a power-play goal during a major penalty early in the third period of Montreal's 3-1 victory Friday night.

"I'd take this any night," Montoya said after the Canadiens snapped a two-game skid. "Your team is playing fantastic in front of you. Halfway through the game it's 1-1 and all I'm really focused on is making that next save. These guys did a phenomenal job and I just wanted to make that next save, and the power play was terrific. The guys were mainly terrific all night."

Alex Galchenyuk added a goal and two assists, and Alexander Radulov had three assists as Montreal ended the Devils' three-game winning streak (see full recap).

Big 2nd period helps Penguins roll Hurricanes
RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Pittsburgh Penguins have been beatable away from home this season. Good thing for them this felt nothing like a road game.

Phil Kessel had a goal and an assist during Pittsburgh's four-goal second period, and the Penguins routed the Carolina Hurricanes 7-1 on Friday night.

Conor Sheary scored twice, and Evgeni Malkin had a late goal and an assist. Carl Hagelin and Chris Kunitz joined Sheary in scoring during the second for Pittsburgh.

"In a win like that, I think it was a really complete effort from all the guys," said Sheary, who has four goals in three games. "It's fun to win on the road,” (see full recap).

Blackhawks beat Bruins on Hossa's late goal
BOSTON -- Blackhawks backup Scott Darling insists he isn't trying to take playing time away from No. 1 goalie Corey Crawford.

"I don't know if you guys know who my goalie partner is," Darling said with a smile after beating the Boston Bruins 1-0 on Friday night. "He's one of the best goalies in the world, hands down, no arguments. So I'm just pretty happy to get any games I can."

Marian Hossa scored with 1:26 left to break a scoreless tie, and Darling stopped 30 shots to post his second shutout of the season. Darling is 12-4 and he brought a 2.34 goals-against average into the game, even better than Crawford's 2.54 (see full recap).

Okposo gives Sabres OT win over Red Wings
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Kyle Okposo scored a power-play goal 4:34 into overtime and the Buffalo Sabres rallied to beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 on Friday night.

Ryan O'Reilly had a goal and an assist, and Sam Reinhart also scored to help the Sabres overcome a pair of one-goal deficits. Anders Nilsson made 32 saves for Buffalo, which has won two straight against Detroit in one season for the first time since 1989-90.

Darren Helm and Frans Nielsen scored for the Red Wings, and Petr Mrazek was sharp in stopping 33 shots.

The Red Wings had their three-game winning streak snapped and took a rare loss to Buffalo. They fell to 8-0-2 in their past 10 meetings with the Sabres and 31-4-3 with a tie in their past 39 (see full recap).