The Sixers won a game last night

The Sixers won a game last night

Ohhh, Evan. Our boy ET has been heavy in the thick of the worst stretch of play of his season, averaging just 13 points a contest on 37% shooting over his last six games, dropping his field goal percentage to below 45% and his PER to below league-average--and that's just his offense, as his defense has been even worse, as Derek Bodner of Liberty Ballers did a fine job detailing the other day.

But just as you started thinking it might be well into 2014 before we get even another break-even performance from Evan Turner, the Extraterrestrial gifted Philadelphia 76ers fans at the WFC last night with one of his best performances as a pro, scoring 29 points on 13-22 shooting, to go with ten boards and five assists. And the biggest of those 13 field goals came as time expired in overtime, as he hit the game-winner to give the Sixers their 121-120 vengeance victory against the Brooklyn Nets, who eviscerated them in New York just four days earlier.

You'll notice that it was a very un-Evan Turner-like game-winning attempt for a number of reasons, not the least of all being that it actually went in. The fact that ET actually took the ball to the basket with seconds to go instead of pulling up for one of his patented (and rarely successful) stepback elbow jumpers is a very encouraging sign that perhaps our volatitle fourth-year wing has not totally thrown in the towl on this season, and might still be able to put in the work to get back to the level he was playing at at season's start, despite his relatively lazy play of recent weeks.

Of course, Evan's return to form might have much to do with the return of their starting point guard, Michael Carter-Williams. MCW had a good-not-great stat line for the night--15 points on 5-13 shooting, with ten assists and three steals--but his presence totally changed the energy of the team from the first minutes of the game, as he got the team back into their ball-pushing, easy-scoring ways, also helping to get Turner a couple good looks for buckets at the basket early that set him on his way to an 8-8 start to the game from the field. It's just a different team with Carter-Williams out there, and a much less difficult-to-watch one, I'd proffer.

And it should also be noted that any worries about the trade rumors (and rumored trade requests) surrounding Thaddeus Young of late certainly did not affect his play last night. Thad went off for 25 points on 11-18 shooting--including 3-3 from downtown (now shooting 39% from deep for the season!)--with six points, four assists and three steals, an all-around performance that reminds us just how valuable Thaddeus has been to this team over the past seven-plus seasons, and how we'd be damn foolish to let him go just for the same of doing so. Way to stiff upper lip it, Thad.

Of course, you could hardly say that all that ails the Sixers was remedied tonight. The defense was still...problematic, as the team gave up 108 points in regulation to a Nets team missing Kevin Garnett and recent Sixer-slayer Joe Johnson. And surprise, surprise, the three-pointer proved the primary bug-a-boo, as the Ballers gave up a combined 15 longballs to Paul Pierce, Alan Anderson and Mirza Teletovic, stretching their record total of games of 15+ three-pointers given up in a season to seven. There will be game film to watch for Brett Brown on this one, for sure.

Nonetheless, a win is a win, and as much as the Sixers are better off losing just about whenever possible at this point, I think the guys needed this to keep the team from completely falling apart. We want the team to lose, but we don't want them to quite be depressing, and a win last night goes a long way towards staving off such total misery. Plus, it was the Ballers' last home game before the holidays and the new year, so it was the least they can do for their few faithful home fans remaining.

Sixers go to Milwaukee tonight to begin a six-game roadie, with all five after tonight coming against the much tougher West. In other words, store up the good vibes now, because it's gonna be a real long winter.

FIlm Review: What led to Eagles' poor run defense against Washington?

FIlm Review: What led to Eagles' poor run defense against Washington?

The Eagles have vowed to get better. 

They desperately don't want to have a performance from their run defense like the one against Washington, when they gave up 230 yards on the ground. 

Head coach Doug Pederson said the run defense is "a pride thing" and the guys responsible for the performance, Jim Schwartz included, say things will get better. The defensive coordinator cited bad angles as a reason there were so many missed tackles on Sunday afternoon. 

In all, the Eagles missed 10 tackles and gave up 156 yards after contact — both more than they had given up in the first four games of the season. 

Washington's rushing yards came in some big chunks. Here's a look at some of the key running plays from Sunday as we try to figure out what went wrong: 

This is a key 3rd-and-7 from the Washington 13-yard line. On this drive, Washington ends up scoring a touchdown to go up 14-0, but it doesn't happen without this key third down conversion. 

The Eagles collapse the pocket and force Kirk Cousins to his left. That's exactly what Schwartz said he wants, to force the quarterback to his non-throwing side. Everything at this point is working out perfectly. 

Here's the angle that's really troublesome. At this point, Nigel Bradham (circled in green) has Cousins in his sights, while Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham (farther behind) are in pursuit. Curry and Graham seem to let up in their pursuit when it looks like Cousins will go out of bounds. But he doesn't. 

Schwartz talked about bad angles, and this is the perfect example from Bradham. He overshoots it and when Cousins makes his cut back inside, all of Bradham's momentum is heading toward the sideline. Curry ends up making the tackle but tackles Cousins forward for a big first down. 

This next play was just a little counter draw that ended up going for a huge 45-yard gain. Rob Kelley takes the handoff, which looks to be going right. The entire Eagles' linebacking group bites hard. Still, right end Connor Barwin is free and has a chance to make the play. 

He doesn't. Just a missed tackle. 

Kelley finds some open field. Rodney McLeod is the next guy to beat and Kelley simply turns him around. You'll see Mychal Kendricks enter the frame. Kendricks showed great recovery speed to get back in the play and has a chance to finally bring the running back down. 

Nope. Can't do it. Eventually, McLeod recovers to bring him down. 

This last play ended the game on Sunday. The Eagles punted the ball away with the hope that their defense would stop Washington and give them the ball back. Instead, Matt Jones broke off a 57-yard run on 3rd-and-7. 

Jordan Hicks over pursues, probably thinking the run was going wide. But he loses his gap and Jones is off to the races. 

Once Jones gets past the first down, it doesn't really matter that it was a 57-yard run. It could have been an 8-yarder and the game was over. 

So what did we learn? 

Well, Schwartz was right. Angles absolutely killed the Eagles on Sunday. But when they have a guy wrapped up, they need to bring him down. Sure, that's not Earth-shattering, but they couldn't do it on Sunday and it led to a loss. 

Sixers to ease in Jahlil Okafor off bench, expect more from him on D

Sixers to ease in Jahlil Okafor off bench, expect more from him on D

The Sixers struggled to carve a clear role for Jahlil Okafor last season as he and Nerlens Noel split time out of position in the frontcourt. Brett Brown has a more clear picture of how to utilize Okafor in his second year, highlighted by goals and a shift to the bench. 

Okafor has been sidelined from preseason action because of his right knee. He underwent surgery to repair a meniscus tear in March and aggravated it during the final training camp scrimmage. 

Okafor said he felt “pretty sore” after scrimmaging Monday, his first since camp, and he was better after going through individualized training and work in the water on Tuesday. This setback has forced him to exercise patience. 

“I know I told you guys I wasn’t frustrated a few weeks ago, but at this point it has been frustrating because I’ve been doing all the right stuff and I want to see me back out there sooner,” Okafor said after practice Thursday. “But I can’t rush my body, I can’t rush my health. ... I would love to have the opportunity to be there for opening night and play in front of our fans. Right now it’s looking like that’s probable."

The Sixers plan to use Okafor in a reserve role to start the season. Okafor expects to be on a 12- to 15-minute restriction, similar to Joel Embiid, when he is cleared to play. 

“I think about it all the time, but I talk to him. We’ve talked about this for months,” Brown said of Okafor's coming off the bench. “It’s not anything that is going to surprise anybody. He’s been fantastic. ... I talked with Jahlil about a lot of things and that could be, to start the year it will be, a scenario.”

Okafor, the third overall pick in 2015, started 48 of his 53 games last season. He is approaching this year with realistic expectations given his restrictions and is not concerned about being out of the starting five. 

“I’ll be fine,” Okafor said. “That won’t be a tough adjustment for me. I came off the bench a couple of times last year.”

Brown’s focus is not necessarily on how Okafor starts the game, but how he finishes. He would like Okafor and Embiid to be able to play together at the end of games to give the team a fourth-quarter boost.

“If it ends up you’ve got Jahlil coming off the bench and he’s going against backup five men, you think you probably have an advantage there,” Brown said. “If he does anything, he scores the ball, he scores buckets, he gets points. You can see how that can be a really nice role for him and for us.”

Okafor led the Sixers in scoring last season with 17.5 points per game. Brown, though, is focusing on his defensive improvements. The Sixers are looking to play an uptempo system in which they will need Okafor to hustle on defense each possession. Okafor slimmed down and added muscle this summer to prepare for the season. 

“He has to be elite in two areas to me,” Brown said. “Transition defense first — A-plus-plus-plus, get back. If you’re tired, if you’ve got to conserve energy, it’s not that way. It’s running back on offense. We have to get him back on defense.

“Then he has to be better skilled, better drilled by me, [a] high level of accountability with pick-and-roll defense. ... You can go over to defensive rebounding (as) a close third, but those two things happen the most.”

Okafor expects to be more effective on the defensive end after getting adjusted to it as a rookie. 

“(I want) to be smarter on defense, knowing where to be,” Okafor said. “My first year playing in the NBA, it was just a lot going on. Everybody was so fast.” 

Brown sees a focused 20-year-old who is more disciplined and ready to embrace whatever role he is given this season. 

“I can’t wait to coach him this year," Brown said. "I think he’s going to come back and have a great year. His body tells me that, his attitude tells me that. He’s in a good place personally."