Team USA Rolls Into Second Week of Competition, Face Toughest Opponent Yet Today

Team USA Rolls Into Second Week of Competition, Face Toughest Opponent Yet Today

It's been an up-and-down tournament for Team USA basketball in London
so far, but the unequivocally good news is that the team is still
undefeated going into their last contest of the preliminary round, today
against Argentina. With a victory, the team will finish the first
round with a Group A-best 5-0 record, and a chance to play the
fourth-place team from Group B in the Quarterfinal round on Wednesday,
likely to be Team Australia.

Argentina will be no easy out for Team USA, however. The Argentinian
squad is 3-1 in play thusfar, tied with France for the second-best
record in Group A behind the States, and has a number of pros and
pro-caliber players—most notably Spurs two-time All-Star guard Manu
Ginobili, as well as Suns power forward Luis Scola and our old friend,
small forward Andres Nocioni. (You remember how that guy actually
started a game for the Sixers last year? Whatta season we had.) By most
estimations, this'll be the toughest opponent the U.S. will face in the
first round.

Of course, the team already does have one very legitimate scare
behind them, as the guys just narrowly avoided defeat Saturday morning
in their game against Lithuania. A lax defensive effort on the part of
Team USA, and perhaps an over-reliance on the three-pointer on offense,
saw a Linas Kleiza-led Lithuanian team push the U.S. for all 48 minutes,
until a couple nice plays by LeBron James, and some big shots by Chris
Paul and Deron Williams, bailed them out in the final stretch for a
99-94 victory. For all the Dream Team comparisons, the '92 squad does
now have one real bragging point over this 2012 team: The Dream Team
never won by less than 32 points throughout their run.

Then again, the Dream Team also never scored 156 points in a
40-minute regulation game, as the 2012 Team did on Thursday against
Nigeria in their 82-point victory. The team set Olympic records for most
points scored in a game and largest point differential in a victory,
and Carmelo Anthony set team USA records for most points scored in an
Olympic game with his 37 and most 3's hit in a game with ten—in just 14
minutes of playing time, no less. Even our Andre Iguodala got in on the
scoring, connecting on all three of his attempts from deep—just a
fraction of the unthinkable 29 treys the team hit over the course of the
40-minute game. (The NBA record for a single game is just 23.)

Iguodala hasn't had a ton to do with Team USA's successes or
failures thusfar, getting most of his minutes after the game had already
been decided, and only playing three minutes against Lithuania. His
most consequential playing time probably came in Tuesday's game against
Tunisia, which was probably a little closer than it should have been
through fits first two quarters. Coach Krzyzewski decided that the
starters weren't getting the job done, so he left Iguodala's second unit
in to start the third, and they responded, opening the 13-point lead to
38 by the beginning of the fourth. 'Dre played his typical lockdown
defense, had a nice between-the-legs pass to Kevin Love for a
three-pointer in the fourth, and also contributed this trademark
put-back highlight dunk:

Today's game is at 5:15 EST, and should be a good one. Given that
the team has kinda played in an every-other-game sorta rhythm, hopefully
that means that this'll be a strong effort from Team US. If not,
definitely good to get the dud out of the way before starting the games
that actually matter on Wednesday. Go America.

Wayne Simmonds stars as Flyers top Predators, push win streak to 5 games

Wayne Simmonds stars as Flyers top Predators, push win streak to 5 games

BOX SCORE

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Dave Hakstol likes Wayne Simmonds’ net-front play more than that of any player in the league.

The Flyers' power forward showed on Sunday why his coach thinks that way.

Simmonds’ two power-play goals in front of the crease helped extend the Flyers’ win streak to five, their longest of the season, in a 4-2 win over the Nashville Predators on Sunday night (see Instant Replay).

“If there’s a better guy in the league at net front, whether it’s on power play or 5 on 5, I don’t know who that is,” said Hakstol said after Sunday's victory. “He did a great job there tonight.”

Simmonds’ first goal came when he deflected Jake Voracek’s shot past Juuse Saros, giving the Flyers a 1-0 lead at 18:12 of the first period.

“They had great movement around the top of the box and Jake told me to go back door if he was going to get it for a one-timer,” Simmonds said. “So I stuck my stick out back door and he hit it, and it went in the net.”

Then Simmonds batted a puck through Saros' legs for a 2-1 advantage at 6:47 of the second period for his team-leading 13th goal of the season.

“It was kind of a little bit of a cluster and the puck comes to me, and I’m alone in front of the net so I just put it five-hole and it worked,” Simmonds said.

The right wing’s father was watching in the sellout crowd of 17,113 at Bridgestone Arena during the Flyers' annual father-son trip.

“It was nice, obviously,” Simmonds said. “I just went outside and saw him. He didn’t really say much to me, but I know he’s glowing on the inside.”

Simmonds has now scored 10 career goals in 20 games against Nashville.

“What I really like about Simmer is he’s at net-front, he’s scoring goals, he’s on the power play, but he’s a great, hard-nosed, 200-foot player,” Hakstol said.

Simmonds’ goals gave the Flyers an early spark on Sunday.

“It was huge,” said Flyers left wing Michael Raffl, who scored the winning goal at 16:37 of the second period when made a power move on a rush and tucked the puck past Saros. “That gives us all the momentum.”

The Flyers improved to 7-3-1 in their last 11 games.

“We’re just trying to take care of pucks and maintain the pressure that we have,” Simmonds said. “The next shift up every game is the most important shift and that’s how we’re trying to play it here.”

Predators coach Peter Laviolette, a former Flyers coach, wasn’t surprised by his former team’s power-play success. The Flyers entered the game tied for the third best power play in the league cashed in twice on seven chances on Sunday.

“We knew going in that their power play was really good,” Laviolette said. “Their players have a lot of time together and cohesiveness and they’re pretty set in what they do. They bring pucks to the net and when they do that, things can happen. That was a difference in the game tonight.”

Winning goalie Steve Mason has started 10 of the last 11 games. He made 30 saves Sunday to improve his record to 8-8-3.

“This is the situation I want to be in, so it’s a workload that all summer you prepare for even when I was not getting the work load I wanted,” Mason said. “You prepare for it and now that it’s here I’m making the most of it.”

Sources: Phillies close to signing reliever Joaquin Benoit

Sources: Phillies close to signing reliever Joaquin Benoit

WASHINGTON – It looks as if the Phillies will have some action at the winter meetings.

The team is close to signing veteran reliever Joaquin Benoit, sources tell CSNPhilly.com. The winter meetings officially begin on Monday. The signing is expected to be announced before the meetings end on Thursday.

Benoit, 39, is a veteran of 15 seasons in the majors. He is coming off a strong 2016 season in which he pitched in 51 games for Seattle and Toronto and recorded a 2.81 ERA.

Benoit began the 2016 season with the Mariners and had a 5.18 ERA in 26 games. He was traded to Toronto in July and gave up just one run in 23 2/3 innings over 25 games, but did not pitch in the postseason after suffering a torn calf muscle in late September.

The right-hander has pitched for six teams in his career and has a lifetime 3.79 ERA in 712 games.

Entering the offseason, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said he wanted to improve the bullpen. He opened the offseason by trading for veteran right-hander Pat Neshek and last week claimed lefty David Rollins off waivers from Texas. Now, Klentak is poised to add Benoit.

Benoit has mostly pitched in a setup role in his career, but he does have closer experience. It is unclear what role he’d pitch in for the Phillies. The Phils have Jeanmar Gomez and Hector Neris returning to the back of their bullpen in 2017. Benoit could complement that pair or the Phillies could choose to trade Gomez or Neris.

Neris pitched in 79 games in 2016 and had a 2.58 ERA, so the Phillies would only deal him if they were to get a strong package of talent in return.