The Best, If Not The Best, Win of the Year: Sixers Thump Bulls at WFC

The Best, If Not The Best, Win of the Year: Sixers Thump Bulls at WFC

Two very convincing cases were made tonight at the Wells Fargo Center. They were as follows:

1. The Sixers deserve to be taken seriously as a threat in the Eastern Conference.
2. Andre Iguodala deserves to be selected for the 2011-12 NBA All-Star Game.

We'll get to #2 in a bit, but obviously, let's concentrate first and
foremost on the more important #1. Simply put, the Sixers were awesome
tonight in their 98-82 win over the Bulls. They did everything you'd
want your basketball team to do, minus another fourth-quarter stretch
where things got a little tighter than need be. They hustled. They
executed. They took care of the ball. They shared the ball beautifully.
They hit from the outside. They scored easy baskets in the paint. They
got out on the break. They finished on the break. They got to the free-throw line. They converted at the free-throw line. No one player dominated, but they got contributions from everyone.

And they defended. Oh, lord, how they defended. Watching the game with
my roommate, we wondered why the Bulls weren't just dumping the ball
into the post, where front line Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah should've
been able to manhandle the undersized Sixers until we realized that
maybe the Sixers defense on the perimeter was just so stifling that they
were never even able to get the ball that far in. It took a world-class
penetrator (chortle) like Derrick Rose to break through, and though
Rose did do that on occasion—oh me oh my, is he a marvelous basketball
player—he didn't take over (18 points on 8-17 FG), he didn't get to the
line (1-3 FT, though he and the rest of the Bulls got jobbed on a couple
calls), and he didn't get any help from his teammates (no other starter
scored in the double digits). The Sixers racked up ten steals, and
seemed to spend the entire third quarter on the fast break.

Heroes for the Sixers were everywhere. Credit must first be given to
Lavoy Allen, turning into perhaps the most pleasantly surprising of all
the Sixers' many pleasant surprises this season. Not only did Lavoy
Allen rack up a career-high 15 points on 7-10 shooting, finishing plays
in the paint for the Sixers where there's been a seven-foot-sized
absence for the Sixers since Spencer went down, even scoring on a couple
Basketball Moves of his own, and not only did grab six boards and swipe
two steals to go with it, but he also distributed an impressive three
assists—tying a career high set Monday against Orlando. Needless to say,
big man got skills.

Jrue Holiday was another leading light for the Ballers tonight, bouncing
back from his rough game against the Magic with 17 points (8-15
shooting), five assists and just one turnover, converting some huge
layups and a game-breaking three to put the Sixers up 20 in the third
quarter. Lou Williams took some terrible shots (duh) but got himself to
the line, scoring 14 and keeping the Sixers afloat in that rocky fourth.
Thaddeus Young added 19 points and eight rebounds in what didn't even
feel like a particularly impressive game for the super-sub. And Evan
Turner, despite a rough 1-6 night shooting, still put up six rebounds,
four assists and two steals, and shut down sharpshooter (and ex-Sixer)
Kyle Korver on the perimeter after it looked like KK might have been on
the way to an Andre Miller/Willie Green-style Revenge Night game against
his old team.

But you guys know who this game was really about. The All-Star candidacy of Andre Iguodala has been a debate
among Sixers fans (and a discussion topic in the Sixers locker room)
for a few weeks now, and after tonight, I believe he's finally gonna get
there. In the Sixers' biggest game of the season, it was Andre Iguodala
and not Derrick Rose who was the most dominant player on the court—'Dre
was absolutely everywhere tonight, keying the Sixers' defensive effort
on the wings, getting two steals, grabbing nine boards, handing out four
assists and pouring in 19 points on 8-13 shooting, including 2-3 from
deep. In one stretch in the third quarter, 'Dre slammed home a
fast-break dunk, hit a step-back three and then slammed home another,
much louder fast-break dunk, whipping the WFC into a frenzy we haven't
seen since Game Four of the playoffs last year.

Look, it wasn't a perfect game from 'Dre—it never is, never has been,
never will be. He still coughed up the ball three times, split his only
two free throws, took a handful of ridiculously ill-advised shots
(though at least he hit a couple of them tonight). But if you ever
needed a demonstration of his value to the 76ers, of what he can and
does do for this team, you saw it on the floor against Chicago. There
aren't five players in the whole league that could've done all of what
'Dre did tonight, and on a team with one of the best records in the East
but no immediately obvious All-Star candidate, it will almost certainly
fall to 'Dre to get his first nomination in his eight seasons of being
one of the league's most underappreciated players. (By the way, look
back on that 2004 draft sometime. Besides Dwight Howard and maybe Josh Smith–another likely first-time AllStar this year—is there anyone you'd rather have on your team than Andre Iguodala?)

So, a hell of a win for the Sixers—"The best, if not the best, win of
the year," Zumoff adroitly put it as the Sixers pulled away in the
third. Sure, you could say that it's not a 100% on-the-level win—the
Bulls were, after all, missing two starters in Luol Deng and Rip
Hamilton—but eventually, you have to ask yourself: Who are the really
good, totally healthy teams in the East this year? Not the Bulls. Not
the Hawks. Not the Pacers. Not the Heat, until very recently. Nobody,
including the Sixers, have had all their key parts available for all (or
even most) of this season, yet it's the Sixers who are now 5-1 against
playoff-bound East teams. In the words of Mike McDermott from Rounders, if you look at your schedule and can't spot the real Eastern Conference contenders, then you are one of those Eastern Conference contenders. 

Next up, then: The Miami Heat, dispensers of the only decisive Sixers
loss this season, on Friday at the Wells Fargo Center. Despite the good
feeling from this win, I still can't feel too great about facing
Miami—mostly because with the players on their team, I'm not really sure
why they should ever lose to anyone, ever—but they've already made
their point in the first two games of this tough seven-game swing. We've
still got a long way to go, but the 16-6 Sixers—just one game behind
the pace of their finals-bound 2001 season—are for real. Time to get
with this, people.

Phillies' offense sinks even lower in 9th straight loss to Nationals

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USA Today Images

Phillies' offense sinks even lower in 9th straight loss to Nationals

BOX SCORE

Four … three … two …
 
Good thing the Phillies aren’t scheduled to play Thursday night or they might get one hit.
 
The Phils capped off three pathetic offensive performances in as many nights by being two-hit in a 2-1 loss to the Washington Nationals on Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park (see Instant Replay).
 
The Phils were swept in the three-game series and they wasted three solid starts from Jake Thompson, Jerad Eickhoff and Adam Morgan as they were held to four, three and two hits, respectively, in the three games.

Stay tuned Friday night to see if the Phils get one-hit by the Braves.
 
The National League East-leading Nationals have beaten the Phillies nine straight games since May.
 
The Phillies’ woeful showing at the plate in the series dropped their team batting average to .238, second-worst in the majors. Their on-base percentage is .296, worst in the majors.
 
“Nine hits in a three-game series just isn’t going to cut it,” manager Pete Mackanin said after Wednesday night’s loss, the Phillies’ seventh in the last nine games. "We’re not hitting the ball. We need more offense.”
 
It’s going to be interesting to see how general manager Matt Klentak addresses that in the offseason. The Phils have the money to add free agents, but the team is committed to building from within and using the free-agent market to find a finishing piece or two. The way things are right now, the Phils aren’t close enough to being good where a finishing piece would make a huge difference. They need some of the players that are here now – at least the ones that are staying – to make improvements and some of the talent that is in the minors to get to the majors and start making a difference before they’re ready for that put-them-over-the-top free agent.
 
The Phils were within striking distance to turn Wednesday’s game around. Cesar Hernandez walked in a one-run game to lead off the bottom of the ninth. That brought Odubel Herrera, the Phillies’ only All-Star in July, to the plate.
 
Would Mackanin ask Herrera to move Hernandez into scoring position with a bunt, or give him a shot to shoot one in the gap and possibly score Hernandez from first?
 
“I thought about bunting Herrera,” Mackanin said. “The fact that we’re not hitting and he’s one of our top average hitters, I decided not to bunt him, took a chance.”
 
Herrera, who has struggled since the All-Star Game, bounced into a double play on the first pitch he saw from lefty Marc Rzepczynski. Maikel Franco then grounded out to end the game. And the series.
 
Herrera, who has been doubled-up just twice this season, said he would have bunted if asked. But he was happy to swing away.
 
“I was ready to hit and do some damage,” he said.
 
The Phils didn’t do much damage in the series. But the Nationals did. And they did it early. They scored five first-inning runs in the series. Jayson Werth hit first-inning home runs in the first and third games.
 
Werth’s first-inning bomb Wednesday night was just that – a 453-foot shot into the camera well high above the wall in dead center against Morgan.
 
Even Werth was impressed with how far he hit the ball.
 
“I’ve been in some pretty cool places in this ballpark but never there,” he said.
 
Freddy Galvis tied the game with a homer against Gio Gonzalez in the fifth, but the Nats went ahead in the seventh when they rallied for a two-out run against Morgan. The lefty allowed a two-out double to Anthony Rendon to extend the inning and an RBI single to Wilson Ramos on a full-count pitch.
 
“I’ve got to be able to finish,” Morgan said.
 
Morgan did have the best of his 16 starts in the majors this season, giving up just the two runs and three hits. He enjoyed working with new catcher A.J. Ellis and Mackanin said he liked the way Ellis called the game.
 
Morgan pitched well enough that he could have had a different fate. The same could be said for Thompson and Eickhoff the previous two nights.
 
Four hits. Three hits. Two hits.
 
As Mackanin said, “Nine hits in a three-game series just isn’t going to cut it.”

Jon Dorenbos advances to America's Got Talent finals

Jon Dorenbos advances to America's Got Talent finals

Jon Dorenbos' magic run continues.

The Eagles' long snapper on Wednesday was voted into the finals of NBC's America's Got Talent.

Dorenbos performed this incredible trick Tuesday night to advance.

Shortly after receiving the results, Dorenbos expressed his gratitude.

Dorenbos will play in the Eagles' preseason finale on Thursday night. He'll get some time off from the show, as he was part of the first semifinals. The second semis round starts next week.

This is all super cool. Dorenbos' magic has lots of meaning. If you don't know about his story, read it here.

Instant Replay: Nationals 2, Phillies 1

Instant Replay: Nationals 2, Phillies 1

BOX SCORE

The Phillies’ losing streak against the Washington Nationals this season rose to nine games in a 2-1 loss Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park.
 
The Phils gave up five first-inning runs and had just nine hits in being swept in the three-game series. They had four hits Monday night, three on Tuesday and two on Wednesday.
 
The Phils entered the game hitting .239 as a team. Only San Diego was worse in the majors.
 
The Phillies have lost three in a row and seven of their last nine.
 
Starting pitching report
Adam Morgan absorbed his ninth loss but had the best of his 16 starts in the majors this season. The lefty gave up a first-inning home run to Jayson Werth then did not allow another run until there were two outs in the seventh. He was one strike away from getting out of the frame with a 1-1 tie when he gave up a full-count RBI single to Wilson Ramos.
 
In all, Morgan gave up just three hits in 6 2/3 innings. He walked none and struck out five. He had entered the game with a 6.50 ERA and lowered it to 6.21.
 
Washington lefty Gio Gonzalez (10-9) held the Phillies to two hits and a run over six innings.
 
Bullpen report
Blake Treinen, Marc Rzepczynski and Shawn Kelley closed it out for the Nats. Manager Pete Mackanin pinch-hit Ryan Howard against the lefty Rzepczynski with two outs in the eighth. Howard, hitting .138 against lefties, struck out. Rzepczynski stayed on for the ninth. He walked Cesar Hernandez to lead off the frame then got Odubel Herrera to bounce into a double play before handing off to the righty Kelly. Herrera has two sacrifice bunts this season, but was not asked to get one down on this occasion.
 
At the plate
Freddy Galvis clubbed his 15th homer, a solo shot in the fifth, for the Phillies’ only run.
 
Werth’s homer in the first inning was his 20th of the season. It was a bomb to dead center. It came off the bat at 107 mph and traveled 453 feet. Werth also homered in the first inning of Monday night’s game. He has reached base safely in 55 of his last 57 games.
 
Ramos’ tie-breaking hit against Morgan came one batter after Anthony Rendon extended the seventh inning with a two-out double.
 
Ramos leads major-league catchers with 71 RBIs.
 
Reinforcements coming
The Phillies will add three players from the minors on Friday (see story).
 
Up next
The Phillies are off on Thursday. They open a three-game series with the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park on Friday night. Here are the pitching matchups:
 
Friday night — RHP Jeremy Hellickson (10-8, 3.80) vs. RHP Joel De La Cruz (0-7, 4.66)
 
Saturday night — RHP Vince Velasquez (8-6, 4.21) vs. TBA
 
Sunday afternoon — RHP Jake Thompson (1-4, 7.86) vs. RHP Julio Teheran (4-9, 3.12).