The Philadelphia 76ers Won a Professional Basketball Game Last Night

The Philadelphia 76ers Won a Professional Basketball Game Last Night

We needed this one. Not in terms of the standings or the "playoff race"
that doesn't really exist at this point, no matter how you try to
pretend in your post-game interview Molly Sullivan, but just in terms of
the Sixers fanbase needing to watch this Sixers team play 48 minutes of
basketball without wanting to go suck on an exhaust pipe. After seven
straight losses, after a Coach Collins meltdown, after the Funny-Looking
Kid With the Big Hair giving us yet another round of further
discouraging news, we needed a reason to continue to give a shit about
this team, for this season and the ones to follow. Tankfest '13 could
hold for one game—we needed to see some good basketball, dammit.

Well,
last night against the Golden State Warriors, we finally got it. The
Warriors took a 16 point lead in the second quarter, and it looked like
it was gonna be another one of those games where a playoff team just
runs over the 76ers at home. But the Sixers actually managed to fight
back to make it a game at the half—thanks, unexpectedly, to some good
outside shooting, particularly from Dorell Wright and a red hot Royal
Ivey—and then Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday took over in the second half,
outplaying Golden State's own star tandem of young perimeter players,
Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, down the stretch. (Klay and Steph still
finished with a combined 59 points and ten made threes, but no matter.)


It was the type of game we haven't seen from the Sixers in
forever—one where they win because their good young players all play
well. Jrue was extremely sloppy with the ball early, with five TOs in
the first half alone (eight on the game), but his shot was falling all
night, and he made some big buckets (a couple on strong drives to the
basket) in the final minutes to put the game out of reach for Golden
State. The Damaja's shooting in general has just been incredible
lately—over his last five games, he's averaging nearly 22 points on
about 53% shooting, 46% from deep, upping his season averages to 46% and
36%, respectively, excellent numbers for such a high-usage player as
Jrue.

The guy who won this game for us, though, was Evan Turner.
It's been a while since Evan had one of those games that made you go
"As frustrating as he is, we just can't give up on this guy yet,"
but he certainly had one last night, putting up 22 points (on 10-15
shooting!) to go with ten rebounds, nine assists and just two turnovers,
very possibly his best game of the season. He did everything, even
connecting on a pair of threes—his first made bombs since the month of
January, sadly—and coming one rolled-out Thad layup away from posting
the first triple-double of his career. In the third quarter, he
absolutely changed the game with his aggressiveness, and as is sometimes
the case with Evan, you could feel him getting stronger and more
confident with each made jumper, each inspired pass. (His alley-oop to
Arnett Moultrie in the third was a sight for sore eyes for any number of
reasons.)

It's been a while since Jrue and Evan had games this
good simultaneously—the two haven't scored 20 points in the same game
since January 26th against the Knicks, and have only done it four times
total all season. But getting games like this from the two guys that
were supposed to be the foundation of the team's future—plus a very
strong 14-point, 16-rebounds game from Thaddeus Young, even if he did
blow the layup to give Turner the trip-dub—reminds us that amidst all
the tanking, there is still something worth saving within this team,
something vaguely resembling hope for the future. It's enough to keep us
going, at least for a little while.

After the win, Dougie
embraced some of his players with such emotion and relief, you'd think
they just won a grueling seven-game playoff series together. Not quite,
but perhaps they themselves were reminded with the win tonight that
there was something worth fighting for with the Philadelphia 76ers. The
road up ahead is a long one–they play four of their next five on the
road, three against playoff teams—and they're still probably better off
losing more of those games than they win. But without a game like last
night's, they might not have even been able to play out the string in
the City of Brotherly Love without turning on each other, causing
irreparable damage to the team's future.

It still might happen.
But at least last night, they put the bad vibes on hold for one game,
and reminded us that Philadelphia professional basketball isn't totally
beyond redemption, Funny-Looking Kid or no. Thanks for that, dudes.

Eagles Film Review: Carson Wentz's improvisation pays off big

Eagles Film Review: Carson Wentz's improvisation pays off big

Carson Wentz takes pride in not letting plays die easily. 

In Sunday’s 34-3 win over the Steelers, one play he didn’t let die ended up being the back-breaker in the blowout. 

We’re, of course, talking about the 73-yard touchdown pass to Darren Sproles at the 13:08 mark in the third quarter. Coming into the second half, the Eagles had a 10-point lead, but this touchdown pushed it to a 20-3 advantage and the rout was on. This play was a tone-setter (see story)

“That’s something that we talk about a lot,” Wentz said after the game. “We always say that a play is never dead. I like to make plays when we need to and everyone just does a great job of getting open in those situations.”

This was the first big off-schedule play Wentz has hit during his three weeks as the team’s starter, but the signs were there. In the Chicago game, there were several times where he showed his ability to extend plays. We broke them down in a film review last week (see story).

Throughout the week, Wentz had been compared to Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. One of the reasons was their shared ability to extend plays and make something happen. Big Ben showed his ability in the first quarter and almost connected on a huge touchdown pass to Markus Wheaton in the back of the end zone, but the receiver couldn’t pull it in. 

When Wentz got his shot later in the game, Sproles was able to pull it in, then make something happen with his feet. 

“I saw Carson scrambling this way,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “Darren was literally right in front of me and when I saw him wheel, my first reaction was to find the sideline to see if he stepped out to be quite honest.  He hadn’t, and Carson just — it was like in slow motion — floated that ball up the sideline and Darren did the rest from there. It was a tremendous play from those two individuals. I guess the last thing I did is I always look back to make sure there are no flags on the ground on those long plays.”

There were no flags. Touchdown. Game. 

Let’s take a closer look at the play: 

Wentz is in shotgun with Sproles in the backfield with him. The Eagles come out with three-wide on the far side of the field and a lot of space on the near side. 

Stephon Tuitt, who actually had a pretty good game against the Eagles, takes this route to the quarterback. When he gets to left guard Allen Barbre, Barbre either didn’t see him or didn’t react quickly enough. 

While Sproles is still running his short out, Wentz feels the pressure and is able to step up through the hole created by Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks. As soon as he makes it through, Wentz still has his eyes downfield. 

Now Wentz is through the hole and sees Sproles finishing his out-route. This is when Wentz, on the run, motions to Sproles to take off. This is something we’ve seen Wentz do a few times during his three weeks as Eagles quarterback. 

Wentz was left with a tough decision here. He could have run for 10, maybe even 15 yards. It was wide open, but he decided to try to make a play with his arm instead. 

“I always want to be a thrower first,” he said. “Even when a play breaks down, I’m always looking [to throw] because that’s where the big plays are happening. If I scramble I might get 5, 10, 15, 20 yards, but I’m not that fast. I always want to get it to the guys that can make plays. We always want to make plays when they’re there, and that’s what happened.”

With the line of scrimmage at the 27, Wentz has enough awareness to run horizontally to make sure he didn’t cross. And as soon as Pittsburgh safety Mike Mitchell takes that first step toward him, Wentz sees how much room Sproles has to work with. 

Ryan Shazier, who was covering Sproles on the play, froze and then started to step toward Wentz too. He said he thought the quarterback crossed the line of scrimmage, but Wentz was aware enough to stay behind.  

Once Sproles catches the ball in open space, he begins to do Sproles things. Defensive back Sean Davis took a bad angle on him and once he gets close, the veteran turns it inside. Davis said he was trying to buy time for the rest of his defense to get there and stop Sproles. It didn’t work. 

“Man, it’s Sproles!” receiver Nelson Agholor said. “Did you think he was going to get tackled?”

While he’s blocking downfield, Dorial Green-Beckham actually trips himself up and does a somersault. But it didn’t matter — Sproles didn’t need a great block. He pretty much did it himself. 

“Anytime that you can put it in the hands of [Sproles] something special can happen on any play, and he did the rest of it,” Wentz said. 

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Travis Konecny leaves impression with vets in Flyers' preseason win

Travis Konecny leaves impression with vets in Flyers' preseason win

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Michael Raffl had just finished playing alongside Travis Konecny, the 19-year-old kid that has Flyers fans abuzz about the now and future.

Yet for Raffl, he wasn’t thinking forward. Instead, he was looking back.

“Yeah, well, I couldn’t do that when I was 19, that’s for sure,” the 27-year-old said smiling, eyes wide open. “No, it’s impressive, he’s a really, really good hockey player.”

Konecny had that resounding affect Wednesday night at the PPL Center, recording a goal and an assist while leading the Flyers to a 2-0 preseason win over the Devils (see 10 observations).

He dazzled with speed and shiftiness.

He showed off vision and smarts.

When he touched the puck, he had everyone’s attention.

Paired with Raffl and Brayden Schenn in a game featuring mostly prospects, the 2015 first-round pick made the molding of Ron Hextall’s roster that much more difficult. With the general manager looking on, the highly touted winger started fast before making his imprint in a span of just four minutes and 34 seconds.

First, he redirected a blast by Andrew MacDonald to hand the Flyers a 1-0 lead. Not long after, the 2015 first-round pick deceived the defense to find Raffl right in front on a backdoor pass for a 2-0 advantage.

“We had a cycle play going and he had a nice fake up top there and I was just going to the net,” Raffl said. “Somehow I was all by myself and he saw me, put a perfect pass on my tape and I just went around the goalie and put it in.”

Following his first goal, Konecny nearly tacked on another less than a minute later when he appeared to hit the crossbar on a shot. He also flirted with a few more assists.

“I think I just played relaxed,” Konecny said. “I came into the game tonight trying not to do too much and just keep things simple. The main thing for me was getting pucks out of the zone, so I think I did that well tonight and hopefully I can keep building on it.”

Relieving pucks from the zone isn’t a problem when you possess the speed and skill of Konecny, who racked up 101 points last season at the junior level.

At just 19, that’s where he’ll have to return if he doesn’t crack the Flyers’ roster.

With cuts already made and more coming, that sometimes is on Konecny’s mind.

“It weighs on you a little bit. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about it and it’s definitely the time I need to step up and make sure I’m playing good hockey,” Konecny said. “And just earning another day — that’s just the way I’m looking at it. Every day I wake up and just work hard and move forward from there.

“I think everyone comes into camp and tries to give them (management) a reason not to send you back and make it hard on them.”

Wednesday night didn’t hurt his chances.

“He played a good hockey game,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “Had an impact offensively. He did a pretty good job. There’s some youthful mistakes in there, but overall, he had a real good night tonight playing with Raf and Schenner.”

Placing Konecny with two capable NHL forwards offered the Canadian an opportunity to prove what he could do if he was in fact on the big club.

“We played well together,” Konecny said. “I think from the start we just had a lot of communication, we talked in the room, in warmups, we all knew what we were going to do throughout the game and in certain scenarios.”

If anything, Konecny left an impression on Raffl.

“He’s a very smart player,” Raffl said. “Once he has the puck, he makes smart decisions with it. It was very easy to play with him out there. He plays a mature game and I really enjoyed it.”

Time will tell if more is in store come Oct. 14.

Loose pucks
Anthony Stolarz and Alex Lyon combined for the shutout. Stolarz started and made 11 saves over 29:23, while Lyon played 30:37 and stopped seven shots. “I like both of our guys tonight,” Hakstol said. “Stolie did a good job, he made a difference in this game in the first 10 minutes, those two or three really good saves there. Then Alex came in halfway through, which isn’t an easy thing to do and was ready to go and did his job.” … Schenn, MacDonald and defensive prospect Robert Hagg finished with an assist apiece. … With the roster currently standing at 49, the Flyers expect to make 15 cuts on Thursday. … Defenseman Nick Schultz is out four to seven days with a lower-body injury suffered in Tuesday night’s preseason game. ... The Flyers are off Thursday before likely practicing Friday ahead of Saturday's preseason game at 7 p.m. against the Bruins at the Wells Fargo Center.