Sixers-Heat, Game Five: Taking Miami to Lunch (Or Something)

Sixers-Heat, Game Five: Taking Miami to Lunch (Or Something)

It's hardly surprising to see that LeBron James sees his team's first-round match up with the Sixers as something he and his cronies should be able to take care of while sipping their morning coffee and reading their local paper—this Heat squad has already set all kinds of records for unsubstantiated arrogance, and it's like Philly was getting much more respect elsewhere anyway. But if his casual reference to the Sixers' perceived status as pushovers—not even done for intimidation, but just like he was stating a matter of fact—doesn't get them juiced for Game Five, then the phrase "Bulletin-Board Material" might as well not even exist. Personally, I'm chomping at the bit for our guys to get another crack at these losers, and see if they can't continue what they started in Game Four.

OK, before we go any further, reality check time. The Sixers were lucky—I mean, really lucky—to hit those final three shots and get those three big stops that put them ahead of the Heat in the final 90 seconds of game four at the Wells Fargo Center, a run not too likely to be replicated. Moreso, I'm worried that having slightly jogged the Heat out of their morning slumber will encourage them to not take the entire first quarter off for this game, and they'll get off to a 15-point lead by the start of the second and never look back. The Heat are still the much better team in the series, and as great a takeaway as the Game Four victory will be when all is said and done, it's probable that those will be our final fond memories of this particular series.

That said, the boys have showed what kind of heart and pride they have throughout those first four games, and if it was good enough to steal one game, with that boost in confidence, it could be good enough to steal a second. And if it did...man, how much fun would it be to get the Heat coming back to Wells Fargo for game six, with the entire country on our side, and with what is sure to be the absolute craziest crowd for Sixers basketball since Iverson was sent to the Rockies in 2007 in attendence? It's not impossible, but the Sixers have to play something of a perfect game to make it happen—which means no stretches like that second-quarter run on Sunday where they turned the ball over on something like three or four straight posessions, each leading to easy Heat fast breaks.

7:00 tip from the American Airlines Arena. With that win in Game Four, the Sixers don't owe us anything anymore, but at the very least, they owe it to themselves to give those damn Heatles every single thing they've got, and make them earn the right to graduate to lunch. And for what it's worth, it appears that the Sixers haven't been taking LeBron's insult lying down:


Joel Embiid 'shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry'

Joel Embiid 'shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry'

NEW ORLEANS -- Of all the players Joel Embiid could be compared to, a similarity between a 7-foot-2, 270-something-pound center and a 6-foot-3, 190-pound point guard wouldn’t seem like a match.

That’s exactly what Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry sees, however, when looking at Embiid and reigning MVP Steph Curry.

“He’s different than anybody that’s been in this league in a long, long time,” Gentry said Thursday before the Sixers win over the Pelicans. “He’s a tremendous talent, he really is. I’ve never seen a guy that size, and with that kind of strength, that’s got such a soft touch. He shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry. It’s so soft when it leaves his hand.”

Curry is shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 40.1 percent from three. Embiid is 45.8 percent from the floor is 44.2 percent from long range.

Embiid flashed a big smile and paused to react when hearing of Gentry’s praise. He had been feeling hard on himself after going 0 for 5 beyond the arc against the Pelicans (see story).

“Steph is probably one of the best shooters in the league right now," Embiid said. "So that compliment means a lot."

This time, Steve Mason bailed out by Flyers' teammates

This time, Steve Mason bailed out by Flyers' teammates

Steve Mason was not his sharpest Thursday night and he's the first to admit it.

"There's nights where you're not feeling as sharp as you'd like to," Mason said. "This is a situation the guys in front never quit. They earned the two points for sure."

Mason yielded five goals for the third time this season, but made enough saves to secure the Flyers' seventh straight win, a 6-5 victory over the Oilers at the Wells Fargo Center.

The win streak is the longest the Flyers have had since Dec. 2-15, 2011, when "Mr. Universe" Ilya Bryzgalov was their goaltender. Mason finished with 28 saves.

"The guys bailed me out," Mason said, "When your goalie is not making the saves that you need, but the guys keep battling in front, from a personal standpoint, it's huge to see."

Making his 16th start in the Flyers' last 17 games, Mason appeared to show signs of fatigue against Edmonton. He's started the last six games, winning all six.

His current six-game win streak is a career-high, and the five goals allowed Thursday is the first time he's allowed more than two goals during this current streak. 

Entering Thursday, Mason was 5-0 with a 1.74 goals-against average and .947 save percentage in his previous five starts, and 8-3-1 with a 2.11 GAA and .930 save percentage since Nov. 12. So Thursday is just a small blemish on Mason's impressive résumé of late.

"I didn't think he looked tired," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. "This win's a little bit indicative of the type of team we have. A couple nights ago, Mason was the best player. He picked up a lot of guys around him and tonight maybe wasn't his best.

"But it was pretty good. The guys battled hard. They picked up some of the slack. That's what it takes. Every guy's not going to be at their best every night.

"You'd like them to be, and I know the guys want to be at that level, but when one piece isn't working, the other part has to pick it up."

The Flyers' offensive outburst came two days after Mason stole two points against the Florida Panthers, and nine days after the goalie stole another two points against Boston.

Twice on Thursday the Flyers faced two-goal deficits, and both times they found a way to erase them. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it's the first time in Flyers' history they were able to win a game in which they were down two goals twice.

"Once we got it to 5-4," Mason said, "I tried to lock it down as best I could. There's nights where you're not feeling as sharp as you'd like to.  … Coming back in a couple of days, from a personal standpoint, I got to be more sharp."

After going falling behind 2-0, the Flyers tied it, 2-2, with three goals in 72 seconds in the second period, the quickest three-goal burst since Feb. 14, 2009, vs. the Islanders. 

Then, the Flyers fell behind 5-3 before Voracek sparked a three-goal third period with his 10th of the year at 6:31. Claude Giroux tallied his second of the game, and Michael Raffl pushed the Flyers to victory with his sixth of the season at 18:31 of the final stanza.

"It's a great feeling to come back from behind," Flyers rookie defenseman Ivan Provorov said. "You never want to be in that position, but that's the way it sometimes go. We stuck with it and came from behind and won the game. It's a great effort."

Of the five goals allowed Thursday, the first goal Mason allowed was the only one that can be pinned on the netminder. It was not a great goal to give up, on the second shot of the game, too. Afterward, he said the read was the backdoor play, but Leon Draisaitl slipped it through Mason's five-hole for his fifth goal in as many games.

"Some nights you can be better than the other nights," Provorov said. "And that's what the team's all about. We play for each other. If someone has a mistake, we all help him out and play for each other. That's why we win games."

"That's how you become a great team," Voracek, who tied a career-high with four points, said. "Mase playing the last six games the way he did, it wasn't his night.

"We came big for him. It's how you get into the playoffs, and it's how you have success in the playoffs. It's a good thing we won the game and get rolling now."