Still Got a Season to Play: Sixers Host Cavs Amidst Bynum Weirdness

Still Got a Season to Play: Sixers Host Cavs Amidst Bynum Weirdness

Perhaps you've heard by now that as discouraging as the reports were
about Andrew Bynum being held out of basketball activity until at least
early December, the situation has already gotten way worse. On Friday it
was reported that Bynum had suffered a setback in his recovery, and now
his left knee now had a similar bruise to his right one. What happened?
Well, we're not sure exactly, but ESPN first reported that the injury occurred
while Bynum was bowling. Yes, bowling—like the sport with the pins and
the gutters and the disco nights and such. Hoooee. (Update: Bynum confirmed the bowling story to reporters before tonight's game.)

For now, the
Sixers are still holding to their original timetable with Bynum's
recovery, but we've already seen this movie once with the Sixers this
year, and it wouldn't be hugely surprising if the team continued to keep
Bynum's recovery process hush-hush as his expected return date came and
went without anything actually happening. Not to be fatalistic, but it
seems like a good time to start considering the possibility that Drew
never actually suits up for the SIxers this year—not yet a probability,
but one I don't think any Sixer fan would feel comfortable betting
against at this point.

Rather than just hold the fort until
Bynum's return, the Sixers probably now need to start thinking about
what their real goals are for this season if Andrew doesn't play this
year. Does the team shoot for a low playoff spot and an
all-but-guaranteed first-round playoff exit? Do they slip out of
contention, trade veterans for young players and draft picks, and maybe
try to strike gold in the lottery as they retool for next year? Do they
just do whatever possible to try to convince Bynum to re-sign with the
team after he becomes a free agent, regardless of his injury history?

I
don't have the answer to any of those, and I'd be surprised if the
Sixers do either. But in the meantime, the regular season marches on,
and tonight the Sixers face the Cleveland Cavaliers at the WFC. The Cavs
are far from a great team, and their bench is very likely the worst in
the entire league, but they're on their way to rebuilding, and they have
two players the Sixers should be seeing in their sleep after the game
tonight—sophomore sensation point guard Kyrie Irving, and the NBA's most
productive and prolific energy guy, big man Anderson Varejao.
Considering how badly the Sixers were beaten on the boards by the
Pistons a few games ago, Varejao (currently averaging nearly 13 boards a
game and five offensive) seems likely to be particularly problematic
for the undersized Ballers.

To win, the Sixers are gonna need
another huge game from Jrue Holiday, both checking Irving on defense and
making plays on offense. The Damaja was again masterful on Friday,
posting a 26-6-7 in 41 minutes of game action, including some huge
fourth-quarter buckets that helped quell a late Jazz rally and showed
his maturation as a go-to-guy down the stretch for the Sixers. It'd also
be quite nice to see Lavoy Allen continuing his hot play of late—after a
couple consecutive scoreless games, Allen has now hit double digits in
two straight, and seems to be getting his confidence back at the basket
and on the glass. We'll need him against Varejao and fellow Cavs
seven-footer Tyler Zeller tonight, certainly.

Early 6:00 tip
from the WFC. The Sixers franchise is in a really weird place right now,
but it's not crisis time just yet. Until the worst is confirmed, all
the team can do is win the games they can, continue to push for a
playoff spot, and hope to get Bynum back and acclimated in time to try
to make some actual noise in the post-season. And we really, really really hope that the worst doesn't get confirmed.

Flyers' loss changes complexion after questionable penalty on Gudas

Flyers' loss changes complexion after questionable penalty on Gudas

There are good penalties. And bad penalties. And penalties which aren’t even penalties.

The last one would perfectly describe Radko Gudas’ hip check on Miles Wood that was whistled as clipping by referee Dan O’Halloran in the second period.

Even Wood was laughing as Gudas went to the box, realizing what a break he had gotten – a power play for nothing.

“He’s a pretty quick D-man,” Wood said. “I don’t think it should have been a call, but it was a good hit by him.”

That gave the Devils a power play. Then, when Wayne Simmond argued the call with O'Halloran, Simmonds drew two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct. The resulting 5-on-3 New Jersey power play saw the Devils score to break a 1-1 tie.

Minutes later, the Flyers had a bad line change and it was 3-1. Game over. The Devils would go on to win, 4-1 (see game story).

Bottom line? The Gudas call changed everything.

“I was really surprised,” Gudas said. “I didn’t think it was a penalty at all.”

Is this oversimplifying the game to say everything changed with that one call?

“Are we really simplifying it?” Gudas asked. “I think that after those calls we have to get together as a group and make sure we kill these off. Unfortunately, we let them score on that power play. It was just unlucky.”

Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol called it “an excellent hit” by Gudas. He wouldn’t go deeper than that.

The six muffed power plays gave him enough reason to believe the Flyers could have gotten back in it. His Flyers are 3-9-3 since winning 10 games.

You can’t underestimate how those two calls turned the tables on the Flyers in this game.

“Everyone has their own opinion on the hit and we were obviously frustrated on the hit,” Travis Konecny said. “We thought it was a clean hit and we reacted to it. We have everyone’s backs.

“We have all had the one’s where we are angry with the ref and the one who made a hit like that. There is a time for that moment there.”

Goalie Michal Neuvirth thought it was a difference maker.

“Oh, absolutely, we were playing better in the second period,” he said. “I thought we had a momentum. You know stuff like that 5-on-3 for two minutes, it’s tough to defend.

“I think it’s taking way too many penalties lately and you got to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Best of NHL: Lee scores 2 power-play goals, Islanders beat Kings

Best of NHL: Lee scores 2 power-play goals, Islanders beat Kings

NEW YORK -- The New York Islanders are on quite a nice roll.

Anders Lee scored two power-play goals to lead the Islanders to a 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night, giving New York its third straight win and fourth in the last five games.

"We've been keeping it simple of late," said Lee, who has four goals in two games against the Kings this season. "We've been getting shots on net and being more effective. I'll do my thing down low."

John Tavares had a goal and an assist, Jason Chimera also scored and Jean-Francois Berube stopped 34 shots to earn his first win in his third start of the season (see full recap).

Hartnell snaps tie as Blue Jackets beat Carolina 3-2
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Blue Jackets would just as soon forget the second period of Saturday's game, when the Carolina Hurricanes rallied from a 2-0 deficit to tie it.

Columbus didn't play much better in the third but withstood 15 shots and killed three penalties. Midway through, Scott Hartnell scored his second goal of the game , and the Blue Jackets beat Carolina 3-2.

Columbus got the win despite being outshot 37-20.

Hartnell scored in the first period and then netted the tiebreaker, helping the Blue Jackets overcome a horrendous second period - in which they managed only two shots on goal - to beat Carolina for the second time this week (see full recap).

Beagle scores in overtime, Capitals beat Stars 4-3
DALLAS -- Jay Beagle scored 19 seconds into overtime and the Washington Capitals rallied to beat the Dallas Stars 4-3 on Saturday night.

Evgeny Kuznetsov skated behind the net and put the puck in front to Beagle. His wrist shot beat goalie Kari Lehtonen, who got tangled with a defender and lost his footing.

The Stars led 3-1 and didn't allow Washington a power play until the third period, but then Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie scored with the man advantage in the first 5:26 of the period.

Adam Cracknell and Jamie Benn scored for Dallas on plays that originally were ruled no goal. Patrick Eaves had a goal and an assist for the Stars (see full recap).

Bogosian scores in overtime, Sabres edge Canadiens 3-2
MONTREAL -- The Sabres couldn't score from in close on All-Star goalie Carey Price late in regulation Saturday night.

So Zach Bogosian teed it up from a ways out in overtime to lift Buffalo.

Bogosian scored his first goal of the season in overtime and the Sabres beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 in the second game of a back-to-back for both teams.

Buffalo nearly broke through against Price near the end of the third period. Price made a pad save on Matt Moulson on a breakaway at 19:40, and then with six seconds remaining, he robbed Rasmus Ristolainen with a windmill glove save (see full recap).