Sixers Lose to Pistons, Ensure Another Year of Textbook Mediocrity

Sixers Lose to Pistons, Ensure Another Year of Textbook Mediocrity

Goddamn it. A meaningless regular season loss after the Sixers had
already sewn up the seven seeed shouldn't hurt like this, but for the
last month or so of the season, all I wanted for this team was to get to
42 wins. A plus-.500 record. A winning record. But it just
wasn't meant to me, as the team lost five of its last six games to limp
into the playoffs at 41-41. There are stipulations, of course—namely
Andre Iguodala and Lou Williams, two of the team's key rotation players,
both missing time—but it's still far from satisfying, and not a
terribly encouraging way to be entering the post-season.

It wasn't
all bad last night, though. The Sixers' presumptive backcourt of the
future entering the season, Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner, both got some
seriously nice burn, averaging a combined 39 points, 14 assists and nine
rebounds on 14-24 shooting. But the team just doesn't have the depth to
play shorthanded, and when you've got Jason Kapono out there playing
meaningful fourth-quarter minutes (and taking the final shot of the
season and possibly his Sixers tenure with a corner three to tie the
game—which of course he missed, considering he didn't hit a single
clutch shot over the course of his two seasons earning 12-plus million
as a Liberty Baller), the results probably aren't going to be pretty.
The Pistons hit the one or two big shots they needed to, and the Sixers
failed to answer, because they're a terrible-enough fourth-quarter team
even with their two go-to fourth-quarter guys available. Final score:
Detroit 104, Philly 100.

We'll have more about the team, the season that was and the
upcoming playoff picture (grim though it may be) over the next few days,
but right now I just want to stew in anger over the fact that no matter
how great and rewarding this team's turnaround over the last four
months has been, it still couldn't end in even the most superficial of
feel-good victories. I've tried convincing myself that this team is
different than the two other 'Dre-led Sixers teams that made the
playoffs since Iverson left, that they were more talented and of tougher
moral character, but the similarities are really getting staggering.
And it's hard not to think that this team isn't going to be lucky just
to once again make it to Game Six of the first round before bowing out
of the post-season.

Penn State uses dominant second half to top No. 6 Wisconsin for Big Ten title

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USA Today Images

Penn State uses dominant second half to top No. 6 Wisconsin for Big Ten title

INDIANAPOLIS — Penn State’s offense rewrote the Big Ten Championship’s offensive record book Saturday night but its 38-31 victory over Wisconsin wasn’t secure until the final minute.

And Linebacker U. got the game-saving play from the secondary.

Wisconsin, armed with a pair of timeouts and lining up for a fourth-and-1 play from the Nittany Lions’ 24, called on Corey Clement. Clement, who’d already racked up 166 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, got the ball but never got close to the marker.

Grant Haley made sure of it.

The junior cornerback wrapped up Clement’s legs and safety Marcus Allen kept Clement from leaning forward and the game was over. Penn State (11-2) has the 2016 Big Ten title and, at worst, will play in the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2009.

“They ran [a counter] early in the game and split it for a touchdown,” Haley said of the final play. “I saw them set the edge, so I got triggered really well and Marcus finished off the play.”

Haley and company watched the Badgers run wild in the first half; 164 yards and three touchdowns, including Clement’s 67-yard scamper. Wisconsin, one of the conference’s best rushing teams this season, managed less than half that total (77) in the second half.

“They really weren’t running that many plays,” Haley added. “We just came out in the second half and had a jolt. 

“We just had the energy going into the second half.”

Wisconsin got the ball twice in the fourth quarter but managed only 65 yards - 51 of which came on its final drive.

“Give credit to Penn State for coming out in the second half and making those adjustments and allowing those big plays to happen,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. 

Give plenty of credit, too, to the Nittany Lions’ offense. 

Quarterback Trace McSorley was named the game’s most valuable player after completing 17 of his 25 passes for 319 yards and four touchdowns - both championship game records. He helped Penn State complete the biggest comeback in the game’s six year history after his team fell behind 28-7 in the first half and also finished the regular season with 3,360 yards and 25 touchdown passes, both school records.

Saeed Blacknall had six catches for a Big Ten Championship-record 155 yards and two touchdowns and DaeShean Hamilton finished with 118 yards on eight grabs.

Tailback Saquon Barkley, injured in last weekend’s victory over Michigan State, returned with 88 yards and a touchdown on the ground and caught an 18-yard scoring pass from McSorley early in the fourth quarter to put the Nittany Lions ahead for good.

Penn State, in its first-ever trip to this game, is coming home from it with just its second outright Big Ten title. It’s on a nine-game winning streak that has seen it average 40 points per contest.

It also could present the College Football Playoff selection committee with a bit of quandary. The Nittany Lions, who were ranked seventh by the committee last week, topped the No. 6 Badgers and claimed a conference championship, something likely playoff teams Alabama, Clemson and Washington all boast.

On the flip side, Penn State’s last defeat was a lopsided 49-10 loss at Michigan, which sits at No. 5 in the rankings and likely won’t move into the top four after losing last week to No. 2 Ohio State.

Penn State coach James Franklin stated his team’s case after Saturday night’s win, but also made it clear he and his team won’t be moping their way to Pasadena, Calif., where the conference champion is slotted if it is not chosen for the playoff.

“We’ve got great options in front of us,” he said. “I hear people on TV talking about they feel like maybe the playoff has taken away from the bowls. 

“Are you kidding me? The Rose Bowl? It doesn’t get a whole lot better than that.”

Report: Jordan Matthews (ankle) not expected to play vs. Bengals

Report: Jordan Matthews (ankle) not expected to play vs. Bengals

Jordan Matthews will not play Sunday against the Bengals after missing practice all week with an ankle sprain, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Matthews is the Eagles' leading receiver with 57 catches for 686 yards and three touchdowns. The team has called him a game-time decision.

Second-year receiver Nelson Agholor will reportedly be inserted back into the lineup. If Matthews doesn't play the Eagles will have only four healthy receivers active on Sunday: Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham and undrafted rookies Bryce Treggs and Paul Turner.