Slaughterhouse 3: Sixers Destroyed at Home, Fall 2-1 in Series

Slaughterhouse 3: Sixers Destroyed at Home, Fall 2-1 in Series

Sad to say it like this, but this is just what happens in a series when you play a team that's better than you a bunch of times—occasionally, they're really, really gonna show it. There were some semi-fluky things that went wrong for the Sixers, but generally, they were just thoroughly outplayed by a team with better players. Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce ate the Sixers alive tonight, and the result was a dispiriting 107-91 blowout that wasn't nearly as respectable as the final score indicated.

The really crazy thing was that after one, things were actually looking up for the Sixers in their first home game of the series. Jrue Holiday was beastly early, hitting some threes and distributing well, and Lou Williams hit a classic away-from-his-body trey as the buzzer sounded to put the Sixers up 33-28 at the end of the quarter. But the floodgates opened for the C's in the second quarter, as they pounded the Sixers down low and turned the tables on them in transition, and completely shut them down on the other end. The Sixers were outscored 32-16 in the second, and it only got worse from there, with the Celtics pulling away at the end of the third, and by pretty early in the fourth, it was pretty clear this was not going to be the Sixers' fourth straight game decided by one point.

Here's the (biggest) problem with the Sixers: They have no interior defense. Lavoy Allen gave the team some good minutes again early, but he quickly got in foul trouble in the second, and the C's took over from there. Thaddeus Young had by far his best offensive game of the playoffs tonight, scoring 22 points on 10-16 shooting, but he just can't hold off Garnett and he can't bang with any of the Celtics bigs—he had just five boards in the game. That's one more than starting center Spencer Hawes managed to grab, in a game where he was miserable on offense (just four points on 2-8 shooting) and even worse on D, not only getting over-powered by Garnett all over the court, but not even bothering to get out to contest most of his 15-18-foot jumpers.

Hardest to watch among our bigs in this series, though, is Elton Brand. After being our best post defender all year, Elton—who has been playing through injury for as long as he can probably remember—finally seems to be wearing down. Not only is he being over-powered by Garnett in the post, he can't even stay in front of him when he's driving. Throw in the Old School Chevy's running-on-empty offense—just 1-6 tonight, including a couple momentum-killing misses on wide-open eight-footers—and I'm starting to wonder if he can even be starting for this team anymore. Love you like my name was Doug Collins, Elton, but...you're a liability in this series.

The guards were more of a mixed bag tonight. After his previously mentioned big first quarter, Jrue (as he is wont to do) turned passive, and only scored five points the rest of the way—though he did augment that with nine assists and six rebounds, and probably gets absolved from most of the blame tonight. Evan Turner, however, does not get let off the hook, scoring just four points on 1-10 shooting, including missing some jumpers that were nearly as easy as Brand's. He did grab a bunch of rebounds (eight) and played sporadically good defense, but we need scoring from Evan in this series, and if he's scoring single digits and missing gimme jumpers, we're probably not gonna win the game. I keep hoping that we're getting to a point where Evan doesn't have games like this, but... (By contrast, Lou Williams was decent enough in this one.)

But rather than get too deep into the many ways the Sixers came up short on this one, attention should probably be paid to just how good the Celtics were tonight. Paul Pierce's 6-17 line doesn't exactly scream "breakout game," but he also willed his way to the line 14 times (making 11), grabbed 12 boards, and had a couple huge dunks in the first half to get him and the team really into the game. After a bum game two, Rondo was magnificent, playing the scorer early (a role he embraces only with great reluctance) and ending with 23 points, 14 dimes, six rebounds and just one turnover. And Garnett...man, I just don't know what we do with this guy when he's playing like this, scoring 27 with 13 boards and just sucking out the Sixers' will to live. We have no answer.

Game Four this Friday. This still counts as just one game, and as good as they looked tonight, there's certainly no guarantee that this'll be the team that shows up in Game Four, rather than the one that played the first two in Boston. But man, the Sixers are gonna have to figure out a way to prevent KG from getting to own the game like this again—even if it means unchaining Nik Vucevic from the bench (who did play the last three minutes in this one, his first post-season burn, notching one point and one board). Not that I think it'll help, but hey, gotta exhaust all options when you're getting killed by one guy this badly. Let's free Craig Brackins while we're at it. And is Tony Battie still loitering on the bench, somewhere? All hands on deck, people.

Phillies can exhale after bullpen nearly blows 10-0 lead

Phillies can exhale after bullpen nearly blows 10-0 lead

BOX SCORE

The moment when the ball struck first baseman Tommy Joseph’s glove for the final out of the Phillies 10-8 win over the Mets — dealing a major blow to their rival’s wild card hopes in the process — felt more like a collective exhalation than a moment of celebration (see Instant Replay).
 
Two days earlier, the bullpen faltered suddenly. A game-tying two-run homer by Jose Reyes in the ninth was the first body blow. The game-winning three-run homer by Asdrubal Cabrera was the knockout.
 
Saturday, the collapse occurred over the course of five innings as the Phillies let a lead that was once 10-0 slip away, one drawn-out at-bat after another.
 
Missing, of course, was the moment of impact in the proverbial slow-motion car crash, thanks to well-placed sinkers and four-seamers from Michael Mariot.
 
“The bullpen’s been sputtering,” manager Pete Mackanin said in an understatement.
 
Joely Rodriguez entered in the sixth inning with a 10-4 lead to face a string of lefties and it quickly became apparent that he did not have his fastball. A middle-in four-seamer that caught too much of the plate was slapped for a double by Mets shortstop Gavin Cecchini, his first major-league hit and a run. A second run scored when a little dribbler by third baseman T.J. Rivera died on the third base line, leaving Rodriguez with no play.
 
“He just didn’t throw quality strikes,” Mackanin said.
 
Even the normally-reliable Hector Neris struggled on Saturday. In his 77th outing of the season, Neris walked two straight batters and then surrendered an RBI double to Cecchini of his own which narrowed the lead to 10-7 and thrust the uncertainty of a save situation onto Mackanin.
 
Mariot was given first crack at the ninth inning one day after Mackanin said he would give Jeanmar Gomez a break from closing duties.
 
Mariot’s audition got off to a rough start. He gave up a pinch-hit solo home run to Jay Bruce — who had been mired in an 0-15 slump — with one out in the ninth and then walked Eric Campbell and Michael Conforto after a pair of grueling at-bats that lasted a combined 18 pitches.
 
The two hitters fouled off eight of Mariot’s pitches and took several four-seamers that just missed the plate.
 
“I was pretty upset about that,” Mariot said of the four-seamers that missed. “I was hoping to get at least a swing or maybe a call on those. Talking to [catcher] A.J. [Ellis], I think he said that they missed but I was hoping at least one of them to get called a strike.”
 
Gomez was up in the Phillies’ bullpen but Mariot ensured that Mackanin wouldn’t need to throw the recently-struggling closer back into the fire in a high-stress situation.
 
Mariot was able to locate his fastball when he needed to most. He fooled Lucas Duda with a two-seamer that the slugger popped out to Freddy Galvis and got Travis D’Arnaud to ground a four-seamer outside right back to him.
 
“I just told myself: ‘keep throwing strikes and good things will happen,’” Mariot said.
 
He threw just enough strikes to ensure that the Phillies didn’t end up on the wrong end of what would have been the Mets’ biggest comeback in team history.

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College football wrap: Auburn upsets No. 18 LSU with controversial finish

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College football wrap: Auburn upsets No. 18 LSU with controversial finish

AUBURN, Ala. -- Gus Malzahn was ready to try anything to get a win for his Auburn Tigers.

Malzahn relinquished offensive play-calling duties. Following his daughters' advice, he traded his usual game-day visor for a cap. And then, when the clock expired and LSU players were celebrating an apparent last-second win, the Auburn coach put all his faith in a ruling he couldn't control.

Daniel Carlson kicked six field goals and Auburn beat No. 18 LSU 18-13 on Saturday night after officials ruled Danny Etling's apparent last-gasp scoring pass came after time expired.

Malzahn said he knew there were only zeroes on the clock before the snap to Etling.

"I was pretty confident time had expired," Malzahn said. "It was just a matter of going to the booth and confirming it."

Etling rolled to his right and found D.J. Shark in the back of the end zone on a 15-yard pass, setting off a short-lived celebration by LSU players (see full recap).

Hornibrook proves he's ready in Badgers' win over Spartans
EAST LANSING, Mich. -- By the time Alex Hornibrook's first start was over, there wasn't much question about whether he could handle one of the toughest road tests in the Big Ten.

Hornibrook threw for 195 yards and a touchdown, and 11th-ranked Wisconsin turned its early-season showdown with No. 8 Michigan State into a rout, beating the Spartans 30-6 on Saturday.

"You've got to have respect for a guy whose first start is against a Michigan State defense," Wisconsin running back Corey Clement said.

"He's going to come out the next game and do even better. I think he's just getting his feet wet."

The freshman quarterback outplayed fifth-year senior Tyler O'Connor, his Michigan State counterpart. The Badgers (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) were the better team in the first half and then outscored the Spartans 17-0 in the third quarter (see full recap).

No. 23 Rebels find their rhythm, beat No. 12 Georgia 45-14
OXFORD, Miss. -- Mississippi quarterback Chad Kelly faked the handoff and then took off running toward the end zone. A few seconds and 41 yards later, the quarterback had cruised through the middle of the Georgia defense and into the end zone untouched.

It was pretty much that easy for the Rebels all afternoon. Ole Miss finally built a lead it couldn't give away.

No. 23 Ole Miss rolled to a 45-14 victory over No. 12 Georgia on Saturday, building a 31-0 lead by halftime and a 45-0 advantage by midway through the fourth quarter.

Kelly threw for 282 yards and two touchdowns. Ole Miss (2-2, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) broke a 10-game losing streak in the series dating to 1996 (see full recap).

Dobbs rallies No. 14 Vols to 38-28 win over No. 19 Gators
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- This time, Tennessee delivered the comeback.

And in the process, the Volunteers took out 11 years' worth of frustration on Florida.

Joshua Dobbs accounted for five second-half touchdowns Saturday and No. 14 Tennessee erased a 21-point deficit to beat No. 19 Florida 38-28 and end their 11-game losing streak in the annual series.

"I didn't see anybody blink," Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. "Nobody flinched. They just kept playing."

This marks the first time Tennessee (4-0, 1-0 SEC) has beaten Florida (3-1, 1-1) since 2004. The Volunteers had lost to Florida by one point each of the last two years despite leading in the fourth quarter of both games (see full recap).