Sixers get blown out by Minnesota, sky unfalls

Sixers get blown out by Minnesota, sky unfalls

In the words of a man whose name is an anagram for "oral sex," all we need is just a little patience. Philadelphia 76er fans were losing their collective minds a couple days ago after the team's unexpected road upset in Portalnd, and not totally unreasonably so, considering the win was their fourth straight on the road and the team was starting to look like a squad that might actually have playoff contention--a veritable worst-case scenario for the team's long-term prospects--on the brain.

But as I said back then, the winning streak wasn't as dramatic as it seemed. Three of the teams they beat were lousy squads the Sixers caught at pretty much the exact right squad, and the Portland win was about as fluky and unrepeatable as any Philly was likely to have this season, maybe even including the Miami game. The hotness was not meant to last, and I figured it would cool its boots sooner rather than later--though I'll admit I was a little terrified about the potential consequences if it didn't.

Well, no matter anymore. The Sixers can't undo four wins' worth of damage in one night, but it seems like whatever mojo they were summoning over their recent West Coast swing has now officially dried up with the team's 126-95 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves last night. Combined with a Nets win in Brooklyn last night, they're now back to a comfortable 4th in the Atlantic Division, possibly to fall to last tonight with a loss to Cleveland on the road and a Knicks win against Detroit tonight.

It was the same old story for the Sixers--poor three-point defense, lackluster rebounding, and far too many mental errors and terrible decisions with the basketball. They let up 16 threes and turned the ball over 22 times. They got destroyed by Kevin Martin and Kevin Love outside and Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Love (again) inside. It was enough to make you nostalgic for the unapologetically crappy 76ers teams of a couple weeks ago.

But really, it wasn't as bad as it looked, just like the Blazers win wasn't as good as it looked. The Sixers didn't do a great job defending beyond the arc, but watching the game, it felt more like the Wolves making a lot of shots than the Sixers really blowing rotations or losing their men on the perimeter. They let up a ton of offensive rebounds, but that'll happen on occasion playing a frontline of Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic with your own big man combo of Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes. That's the NBA: Sometimes shit happens, and sometimes it doesn't. Last night it did.

The turnovers were a bit much, though. Maybe it was inspired by playing the Timberwolves, one of the league's best-passing squads, but the Sixers--particularly Spencer Hawes, who seemed intent on proving he could out-outlet Kevin Love--went for way too many home-run-type passes that weren't really available to them, and absolutely killed their own momentum on about a half-dozen separate occasions throughout the game. It's always good to see the team playing on the aggressive side, but the Sixers were just downright careless a lot of the time, and that's not really acceptable.

But yeah, point is, every game's a new chance for this Sixers squad to get back to their losing ways, and they did in a big way last night. It'll be interesting to see if it drags into their game tonight against the woeful Cleveland Cavaliers, who may or may not have their banged-up franchise player Kyrie Irving in the lineup, and also may or may not be debuting their recent blockbuster trade acquisition Luol Deng (for the price of Andrew Bynum, who may show up soon enough on the Heat or Clippers or may just be done with this whole basketball thing). Seeing whether the team can recover from the dispiriting loss tonight may have a bearing on their next week or so of games, most of which are at home and winnable in theory.

Regardless of what happens tonight, the good news about the Deng-Bynum swap is that it means trade season is officially in full effect, and will no doubt be impacting the Sixers sooner rather than later. As always, we place our faith in our EGOT winner of a GM, and trust that winning or losing, tanking or contending, he can steward this Philly squad into a brighter tomorrow. In the meantime, stay frosty, Thaddeus Young.

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

The Sixers finished in the basement of the NBA standings last season with a league-low 10 wins. But with the influx of young talent and addition of a couple veterans to the roster, the Las Vegas oddsmakers are betting on the Sixers to make some strides upward in the 2016-17 standings.  

Last week, the WestGate Superbook in Las Vegas set the Sixers' over/under for wins this season at an optimistic 27½, which was the fourth-lowest projection in the league.

Similarly, while Bovada is projecting another season of basketball filled with mostly losses in Philadelphia, the sportsbook doesn't view the Sixers as a shoo-in to finish as the league's worst team for the second consecutive year.

Per Bovada, the Sixers have the fourth-longest odds (125/1) to capture the Atlantic Divison title for the first time since 2001-02, beating out the Nets (250/1) by a considerable margin.

The favorite to win the division is the Celtics at 20/21, trailed closely by the defending division champion Raptors (21/20). The Knicks are between the Raptors and Sixers at 10/1.

The Sixers (150/1) also edged out the Nets (200/1) in odds to win the Eastern Conference championship. The two teams in the conference directly ahead of the Sixers in that futures bet are the Hornets (100/1) and Magic (50/1).

The Cavaliers are the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference at 5/11, followed by the Celtics (5/1) and Raptors (14/1).

Least surprising of all futures odds, Bovada has the Sixers tied with four other teams for the longest odds to win the NBA title. The Nuggets, Kings, Nets and Suns were tied with the Sixers at 500/1 odds to win the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy.

The early favorites to win it all are the same two teams that met in the 2016 Finals. The Warriors are alone at top with the shortest odds at 4/5 trailed by the Cavaliers at 3/1.

Pete Mackanin will push to add hitter in meeting with front-office brass Friday

Pete Mackanin will push to add hitter in meeting with front-office brass Friday

ATLANTA — The Phillies entered Tuesday night’s game against the Atlanta Braves — No. 157 of 162 — ranked last in the majors in runs scored (591) and were hanging out near the bottom in a slew of other important offensive categories.
 
The stat sheet says the Phillies need more offense.
 
So does the manager.
 
Pete Mackanin plans to make his case for adding a bat this winter — the best fit would be in the outfield — in an end-of-season meeting with the front office Friday at Citizens Bank Park.
 
“Basically, having talked to the rest of the coaching staff, we’re all pretty much in agreement with what our needs are,” Mackanin said Tuesday afternoon. “I’m anxious to hear from (general manager) Matt Klentak and from (president) Andy MacPhail and if there’s an owner there. We’d like to hear what they have to say. We’re pretty much in agreement on a lot of what we need.
 
“I, for one, think we need at least one hitter that gives you quality at-bats.”
 
There could be hurdles in adding a bat. Money is not one of them. All of the team’s big contracts will be gone when Ryan Howard rides off into the sunset on Sunday. The team that spent over a half-billion in salaries from 2012 to 2014 (and missed the playoffs each time) has plenty of money and has vowed to spend it in due time. But that time might not arrive until team leaders believe the club has built a nucleus that would benefit from the signing of a "finishing" talent or two. The team is committed to building that nucleus from within, and there lies the potential hurdle in adding the difference-making bat that Mackanin craves. Building from within requires eventually giving players from the system an opportunity to prove themselves and grow at the major-league level. The front office, still very much committed to a rebuild, will be cognizant of blocking those players (the list includes Roman Quinn, Nick Williams, Dylan Cozens and others) and their opportunities. Klentak has said as much on several occasions this year.
 
Even Mackanin acknowledged that the situation is a Catch-22.
 
“I know I don’t want to block a prospect that has a chance to be a big part of it,” he said.
 
“But at the same time, I think by having one guy in the middle of the lineup or somewhere in the lineup that can take a little pressure off (Maikel) Franco and (Odubel) Herrera and the rest of them could do wonders. You look at when (Matt) Kemp joined the Braves. They all went off. They’re all hitting. They’ve scored more runs than anybody, I think, since the All-Star break. Last year, with (Yoenis) Cespedes, he joined the Mets and all of a sudden they all started hitting.
 
“I will give those examples. I feel that’s important.”
 
A number of outfield bats will be on the free-agent market this winter. Cespedes could be there if he opts out of his contract with the Mets, but he’s not likely to be interested in joining a rebuilding team and the Phillies are unlikely to want the long-term commitment a player like that would require. Dexter Fowler and Matt Holiday could be free agents if their options for 2017 are not exercised. Ian Desmond will be out there, but the Rangers will probably look to retain him. Jose Bautista, Josh Reddick, Brandon Moss and Colby Rasmus will also be out there. Martin Prado is the type of “professional hitter” that would appeal to Mackanin, but he agreed to a three-year contract extension with the Miami Marlins on Tuesday.