Sixers Host Toronto: Got Got to Get It

Sixers Host Toronto: Got Got to Get It

With the Sixers trailing the Celtics by 1.5 games in the Atlantic, they absolutely must win games like tonight's matchup with the Toronto Raptors if they want to have any shot at earning top honors in the division. Allow us to go on a couple of Toronto-related tangents for a minute here.

I'll say this about the FBI-relocated former Sixers' mascot Hip-Hop: if there was one thing I enjoyed about him it was when he sling-shotted himself into a bunch of trashcans or whatever they were and try to knock as many of them over like bowling pins. There was always the believability that he could actually hurt himself.

Alas, the Philadelphia 76ers are currently sans mascot, but the Toronto Raptors still have some monstrosity of a dinosaur that likes to try and rollerblade down steps while wearing an inflatable costume -- likely an even more laughable endeavor than using yourself as a bowling ball.

You've probably seen the infamous .GIF of him wiping out in tremendous fashion. The National Post uncovered the story behind this famous fall and it's wonderful. The Canadiens over at TBJ have my favorite take, "From the very first 'So he wanted to rollerblade down the stairs in the
inflatable costume' clause (WHY???), this is great. It puts everything
in perspective and finally answers the question of why the Raptor’s head
is so chompy. I had previously assumed it’s just because he is a hungry
dinosaur, but the deflation really makes sense."

...bear with me for a second on this transition here...

You know what doesn't make sense though? If Lou Williams can score so damn easily, why can't he defend at all? He knows what it takes to stop himself on the offensive end, so why can't he just do that to others at the defensive end?

Again via the Canucks at TBJ, from a Sports Illustrated piece on the Sixers' team-first style and their non-superstar star, Andre Iguodala.

“I learned from being a go-to guy what I didn’t like,”
Iguodala says. “Coaches tell you, ‘Get to the hole. Don’t settle for
jump shots.’ So when I guard somebody, I want them to settle for
jumpers—outside the paint but inside the three-point line—and then use
my length to contest late.” [...]

“It makes no sense to me why so many good scorers can’t defend,”
Iguodala says. “Like Lou Williams. He’s one of the toughest guys to
guard in the league, but he can’t guard anybody. I don’t get that.”

What's the deal with Lou Williams' defense?

7:00 pm tip from the Wells Fargo Center. Reaaally need to beat the Raptors or we're going to start to worry even more. Andre Iguodala, who was poked pretty harshly in the eye last night, is expected to start and wear goggles. Stylin' Dre.

Andre Blake the Union's first MLS Best XI team member since 2010

Andre Blake the Union's first MLS Best XI team member since 2010

Andre Blake continues to rack up the accolades.

A couple of weeks after being named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, the rising Philadelphia Union star was named to the MLS Best XI team as one of the league’s top players in 2016.

The rest of the team included:

• Forwards Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC), David Villa (New York City FC) and Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls)
• Midfielders Ignacio Piatti (Montreal Impact), Sacha Kljestan (Red Bulls), Mauro Diaz (FC Dallas) and Giovani dos Santos (LA Galaxy)
• Defenders Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Axel Sjoberg (Colorado Rapids) and Jelle Van Damme (Galaxy)

Blake’s inclusion on the Best XI is not a surprise considering he already took home top goalkeeper honors. Even though he didn’t have the best numbers in the league, he made the spectacular look ordinary in his first full season as an MLS starter.

But it is unique for the Union, who haven’t had a player make the Best XI since Sebastien Le Toux was included for his 14-goal, 11-assist effort in Philly's 2010 expansion season.

Union winger Chris Pontius, who recently won the 2016 MLS Breakout Player of the Year award, made Best XI while with D.C. United in 2012. Former Union players to be honored on the prestigious list were Bakary Soumare with Chicago in 2008 and Justin Mapp with Chicago in 2006.

Another big honor like this will likely only increase the chatter that Blake could be sold to a big team in Europe soon. But a couple of weeks ago, the Union goalkeeper insisted his only focus for 2017 is on Philadelphia.

“From a personal standpoint, I’m hoping to have an even better season than 2016,” he said at the time. “To be able to go in and be consistent and do everything I can for the Union — and maybe be the goalkeeper to get them their first [MLS] Cup.”

Steve Mason named NHL's 1st star after strong week

Steve Mason named NHL's 1st star after strong week

There’s a number of reasons why the Flyers have a five-game winning streak, why they’re playing better hockey, and why they own the No. 1 wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
 
Perhaps the biggest reason of all is goaltender Steve Mason, who has won four of those games, compiling a 1.71 goals against average and .945 save percentage during that span.
 
Mason was named the NHL’s first “Star of the Week” on Monday. St. Louis Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko and San Jose Sharks goalie Martin Jones were second and third stars.
 
“The team is on a roll right now and I’m a benefactor of that,” said Mason, who needs a win Tuesday against Florida to tie his career-high streak of five set Dec. 17-30 in 2013, during his first, full season as a Flyer.
 
“There’s strong play in front of me. The team is playing a little tighter in our defensive zone of late and making the goaltender reads that much more simple. 
 
“Right now, there’s a comfort level with the guys in front of me … Winning five in a row is nice and we’d like to keep making ground in the standings.”
 
His four victories last week were tops in the NHL. Among them, he had a season-high 45 saves in a 3-2 shootout win against Boston. 
 
Like many goalies, Mason prefers action. Games such as the 3-2 overtime win at Ottawa last week when the Senators only fired 21 shots, bother him.
 
“Those games, when you are not getting a lot of shots, the ones you do get will be a high-grade scoring chance,” he said. “And when you’re sitting around a few minutes not seeing the puck and all of a sudden see a chance like that …
 
“It’s more difficult to play [those games] than the games where there is a constant workload and you’re not thinking, but just playing. For myself personally, those are the games I enjoy the most. When I see a lot of pucks.”
 
The Flyers have seen dramatic improvement over the past month in their overall defensive play, from both their defensemen in down-low coverage in the slow and with their forwards on the backcheck.
 
Mason said the team has gone through “growing pains” with trying to integrate some younger bodies to the lineup this season – Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, and Nick Cousins  come to mind.
 
“You have to familiar with everybody,” he said. “Have a constant lineup where guys go out  shift after shift and night after night, you know what to expect from one another. When you have that kind of confidence in guys, it makes playing easier.” 
 
Mason’s 4-2 victory at Nashville on Sunday saw him go over .500 for the first time this season with a 9-8-3 record. 
 
His GAA is coming down at 2.76 while his save percentage has risen to .904.
 
“I was aware of it obviously, just because of the way the year started,” he said. “It’s taken a lot of work to get it above the .900 level.
 
“We’re obviously going to continue to work at getting it even better. The way the team’s playing right now and the way everybody’s clicking, we’re going at a good pace right now.”