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.

Instant Replay: Flyers 3, Islanders 2 (OT)

Instant Replay: Flyers 3, Islanders 2 (OT)

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — The Flyers, in dire need of a confidence boost, found one at the Barclays Center.

Trailing 2-0 in the second period on Sunday night, the Flyers stormed back to beat the Islanders in overtime, 3-2, and stop some serious bleeding.

Claude Giroux netted the game-winner, his first marker in 13 games.

On Saturday, the Flyers’ return from five days off was unceremonious to say the least, as they lost badly to the Devils, 4-1, after entering their NHL mandated bye week losers in 11 of the last 14 games.

So this was a game they desperately had to have and got it.

The Flyers (23-19-6) picked up just their fourth win since Dec. 17, improving to 4-9-3 since rattling off 10 straight victories, a streak that seems like ages ago.

Speaking of streaks, the Flyers snapped a nine-game losing slide on the road in which they had been outscored, 36-12.

The Islanders (19-17-9) had their three-game winning streak halted. On Tuesday, New York fired its head coach Jack Capuano.

Notable goals
Shayne Gostisbehere converted a nifty wraparound pass to Giroux, who finished the winner.

Ivan Provorov made it all possible with a beautiful play to tie the game at 2-2 less than two minutes into the final stanza. The rookie defenseman took a pass at the blue line and patiently maneuvered by two Islanders before unleashing a shot from the circle that got past Islanders netminder Thomas Greiss off the skate of his own defenseman Adam Pelech.

It marked Provorov’s first goal since he scored two against the Blackhawks on Dec. 3.

Wayne Simmonds kept another game from unraveling when he beat Greiss with 5:50 left in the second stanza. Simmonds gathered a loose puck off the skate of Brayden Schenn and fired it home to trim the deficit to 2-1 and give him his team-leading 19th marker.

"It was a bouncing puck and [Radko Gudas] made a great play and kept it in,” Simmonds said at second intermission. “There were a couple more bounces and I just picked it up and shot it far side and it went in.”

In the first period, Islanders leading scorer John Tavares got things started with a takeaway that resulted in Steve Mason under siege. Tavares, who stripped an Andrew MacDonald pass to Jakub Voracek, went in uncontested on Mason, who denied the shot and follow attempt from Anders Lee. With the puck still loose in the crease and Mason on his side, Ivan Provorov knocked it out but right to Nick Leddy for a clean wrist shot and goal with 6:35 remaining in the opening stanza.

At 4:47 of the second period, Mason was unable to control a rebound and New York took advantage. Alan Quine came in and fluttered the puck over Mason’s shoulders to give the Islanders a 2-0 advantage.

No goal
The Flyers had 33 seconds of 5-on-3 action early in the second period, when they put the puck on Greiss, who couldn’t secure it. It created a mad jumble of bodies at the net but somehow the puck never crossed the goal line. The play was ruled no goal and later confirmed by official review.

The Flyers failed to score later at 5-on-4 and the Islanders used the momentum to extend their lead moments later on Quine’s tally.

Goalie report
Mason, who had not won since Dec. 21, made 36 saves.

He entered with a 4.03 goals-against average over his last 10 appearances but made a number of timely stops, including four in one wild sequence of a New York power play during the third period. He also turned away a Tavares breakaway in the extra session.

Coming off back-to-back shutouts in which he made 55 total saves, Greiss stopped 44 shots. He went to a full split to rob Sean Couturier midway through the second period and stoned Provorov in overtime before allowing the winner.

Power play
The man advantage, which went 0 for 6 on Saturday and was 0 for its last 11 coming in, went 0 for 3.

The Islanders finished 0 for 2.

Penalty kill
Lacking discipline in their first game back from the bye week, the Flyers were forced to go on the penalty kill seven times Saturday, allowing two goals.

On Sunday, the Flyers didn’t allow New York a power play until the final stanza. The Flyers finished 2 for 2 on the PK.

The Islanders stopped all three Flyers power plays.

Hits
Brayden Schenn skated to the bench hunched over after colliding with Josh Bailey in open ice during the second period. Schenn was OK and returned his next shift.

The Islanders outhit the Flyers, 23-12.

Scratches
For the Flyers: Forward Dale Weise, and defensemen Michael Del Zotto and Nick Schultz, all healthy.

Defenseman Brandon Manning returned to the lineup after two straight healthy scratches.

For the Islanders: Forwards Andrew Ladd (upper-body injury) and Stephen Gionta (healthy), and defenseman Scott Mayfield (healthy).

Next up
The Flyers follow their back-to-back with another such set. First up are the Rangers on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden before the Flyers come home Thursday to face the Maple Leafs, who currently trail the Flyers by a point for the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot.

NFL Playoffs: Matt Ryan, Falcons dismantle Packers to reach Super Bowl LI

NFL Playoffs: Matt Ryan, Falcons dismantle Packers to reach Super Bowl LI

The Atlanta Falcons are headed to their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history after routing the Green Bay Packers 44-21 in the NFC championship game.

Matt Ryan threw for four touchdowns, including a 73-yard catch-and-run for a highlight-reel score by star receiver Julio Jones. The defense played just as crucial a role in containing quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' offense.

Rodgers had 287 yards with three touchdown passes and an interception. But the Falcons got to Rodgers with pressure and forced two Green Bay turnovers. Rodgers was outplayed by Ryan, who even ran for a 14-yard touchdown.

Atlanta will play either New England or Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl on Feb. 5 in Houston.

The only other time that Atlanta made the Super Bowl was in the 1998 season. The Falcons lost 34-19 to the Denver Broncos.

The Packers fell in the NFC title game for the second time in three seasons.