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.

Temple at No. 19 Navy: Owls go for first AAC title

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Temple at No. 19 Navy: Owls go for first AAC title

Temple (9-3) at No. 19 Navy (9-2)
Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium
Saturday, noon, ABC

It would have been hard to picture Temple in the American Athletic Conference championship game after the Owls’ first game of the season, a 28-13 loss to Army.

But that’s exactly where they are three months later, as Temple will take on No. 19 Navy in the conference championship game Saturday.

The Owls and Midshipmen have both been handling opponents as of late. Temple’s won its last four games by at least three touchdowns, while Navy has outscored opponents 141-62 in its past two games.

Let’s take a look at how one of the country’s top offenses and one of the country’s top defenses match up.

Scouting Temple
The Owls' defense seems to get better every week. Temple ranks No. 3 in the Football Bowl Subdivision in total defense and No. 10 in scoring defense. The only two teams that rank higher than the Owls in both categories are Alabama and Michigan.

Teams haven’t scored more than 13 points against the Owls in their last four games, and Temple is outscoring opponents 123-23 during that stretch.

Redshirt-senior defensive lineman Haason Reddick was named a first team all-conference selection earlier this week. He leads the FBS in tackles for loss. Redshirt-senior Praise Martin-Oguike is coming off one of his best games of the season last week against East Carolina, in which he had two sacks, including a forced fumble. He has seven sacks this season.

On offense, Temple’s goal this week will be to sustain drives and keep Navy’s offense off the field. The Owls are currently No. 5 in the FBS in time of possession, holding the ball for more than 34 minutes per game.

Earlier in the week, coach Matt Rhule said senior quarterback Phillip Walker was questionable for Saturday’s game. Walker will likely play, but the Owls might be without one of their top offensive weapons.

Rhule said sophomore running back Ryquell Armstead is doubtful. Armstead has 842 yards and 13 touchdowns this season.

Scouting Navy
The Midshipmen have one of the simplest — yet at that same time one of the best — offenses in the country. Navy ranks No. 2 in rushing yards at 342 yards per game.

Quarterback Will Worth runs the triple option for Navy. He has 2,544 total yards of offense and 33 total touchdowns. He’s passed for 1,363 yards and rushed for 1,181 more.  Worth has a touchdown in 11 straight games.

Worth has attempted 258 rushes compared to 115 passing attempts. Four other Navy players have at least 40 rushing attempts this season.

Senior wide receiver Jamir Tillman is the Midshipmen’s best receiving threat. The 6-foot-4 wideout has 32 catches for 533 yards and two touchdowns.

Navy’s defense hasn’t been quite as elite as its offense. The Midshipmen have allowed 30 or more points in four of their last five games.

The Midshipmen are allowing 265 passing yards per game. Opposing quarterbacks have averaged 313 yards and three touchdowns in their last three contests.

Storyline to watch: Can Temple find a way to stop the triple option?
The last time these two teams played was in 2014, when Navy ran for 487 yards and four touchdowns in a 31-24 win against the Owls at Lincoln Financial Field. Temple’s most recent matchup against the triple option was when it lost to Army in its season opener. The Black Knights ran for 329 yards and four touchdowns. With only a week to prepare, Temple will have to find a way to cure its option woes if it wants a chance to win Saturday.

What’s at stake?
The Owls have only won one other conference championship in program history, when they won the Mid-Atlantic Conference in 1967. A win would also give Temple its third 10-win season in program history. If Western Michigan loses Friday night, Temple also puts itself in contention for a spot in the Cotton Bowl with a win.

Prediction
Temple has to figure out this option thing at some point, right? The Owls’ ability to convert on third down and sustain long drives will help slow Navy's offense. This one will most likely come down to who has the ball last, but the Owls are a little bit more well-rounded, so they get the edge. Temple 31, Navy 28