Sixers Wrap Pre-Season With Win Against Knicks: What Did We Learn?

Sixers Wrap Pre-Season With Win Against Knicks: What Did We Learn?

Thus endeth the pre-season for the Philadelphia 76ers, with a 98-91 win
against the Knicks on neutral-ish territory in Syracuse. The Sixers
dominated throughout the first two-and-a-half quarters, then almost let
the Knicks erase a 20-plus-point deficit before sealing the deal in the
fourth. Jason Richardson led the way with 23 points, seven rebounds and
six assists, hitting two enormous threes late in the game to help fend
off the surging 'Bockers. Thaddeus Young also pitched in 22 on 10-12
shooting, and despite missing three starters in Jrue Holiday, Evan
Turner and Andrew Bynum, the Sixers were able to end the pre-season with
a win, finishing their exhibition schedule 6-1, with the one loss
coming against Brooklyn in overtime.

So how much do we want to take away from the Liberty Ballers' strong
play these last few weeks? Well, everyone says you can't take too much
(if anything) away from the pre-season, and for the most part, they're
right—after all, the Lakers have gone 0-6 in play so far, for instance,
but I'm guessing most prognosticators would certainly still tab them as a
playoff team at the least. Opponents are often injured, coaches tinker
with lineups or give added time to youngsters, and vets often phone it
in, preferring to save their good stuff for the regular season. Just
because the Sixers were able to mostly make short work of the Atlantic
Division in their pre-season schedule, that doesn't suddenly make them
front-runners to win the division by any means.

Still, I do think there are things to learn from the team's
pre-season performance, and in my opinion, the main takeaway is this:
This Sixers team rolls deep. In any given pre-season game, both sides
will be missing at least one or two (if not far more) regular rotation
guys, but the teams that have strong second units beyond their starters
will continue to thrive even with key players absent. That's why the
top-heavy Lakers have struggled, and why the Sixers' 5-1 record means
that they likely have a pretty strong roster from 1-12. With Bynum out,
Spencer Hawes was able to pick up a lot of the scoring and rebounding
load in the post. Turner's absence has been covered by the likes of
Drrell Wright and Nick Young. Even third-stringer Royal Ivey came to
ball tonight with starting point guard Holiday out, ending with 12
points and five dimes.

Now, the Sixers were deep last year too, and we clearly saw then how
such depth only gets you so far once the teams with star-studded
rotations start to put it all together. But usually, to add a player
like Andrew Bynum to your lineup, your team depth chart has to take a
hit as a result, and for the team to still be so loaded with seemingly
competent rotation guys after putting Bynum on top of it all...it's
definitely a good thing. And especially if Bynum doesn't start the
season healthy, the depth will be a key to keeping the team afloat until
he can be a full-time contributor.

So who this pre-season has really impressed? Well, we're not gonna get too deep into pre-season stats—we know how Ray Allen feels about those—but
Spencer Hawes certainly appears to be in fine form, looking a whole lot
like the Spence who very briefly took the league by storm early last
season. Dorell Wright has certainly made a good first impression,
scoring efficiently, making high IQ passes, and proving a real weapon in
transition. Thad has scrapped his way to big scoring nights in a number
of games, offense the team will certainly need from him. Malik Wayns
might be a legit NBA backup point. And Jrue Holiday has looked every bit
the floor general we need him to become, distributing and scoring and
proving he can lead this team from the perimeter.

Yup, it's been mostly good vibrations from the Sixers this
pre-season—of the expected rotation guys this season, only Evan Turner
really underperformed, which I think we're all used to in a weird way.
Otherwise, our young guys seem to have improved, our new guys seem me to
be good fits, and our team chemistry seems to be in a surprisingly good
place, considering how many new parts need to be integrated. It seems
like things are really looking up for this team going into the season.

Of course, I continue to use the word "seem" here, because this is
still the pre-season, and there's at least a decent chance that it all
turns out to be a house of cards or mirage or some other highly unstable
visual metaphor when the regular season starts. But I like what I see
so far, and I'd much rather see my team clicking meaninglessly than see
them go into crisis meaninglessly. Fun pre-season, can't wait for the
real thing to start a week from tomorrow.

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

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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.