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.

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.

Find great deals on Philadelphia Phillies tickets with TicketIQ. Buy cheap Phillies tickets with no hidden fees for all games on their 2016 schedule. 

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).