They Had a Chance: Sixers Come Close, But Fall to Derrick Rose and Bulls

They Had a Chance: Sixers Come Close, But Fall to Derrick Rose and Bulls

I probably should be mad, but I'm not, really. This game was over three
times—three times!—before it was actually over for good. Once, when a
trio of Bulls threes and a Luol Deng layup pushed the Chicago lead to 13
early in the fourth. Then, when the Sixers cut the lead to four, only
to see the Bulls expand it to nine immediately out of a time-out on a
Joakim Noah tip and C.J. Watson three with four and a half to go. And
finally, when Derrick Rose laid in a floater with 20 seconds to go to
put the Bulls up four, followed by an Elton Brand offensive foul to give
Chicago the ball right back.

All three times the game should have been over. But the Sixers
battled back—well, the third time it was more the Bulls coughing it back
up by missing three of four free throws—and actually kept the game
close and the crowd emotionally invested, ensuring that we didn't lose
the game FOR REAL for real until Andre Iguodala bombed an air ball on a
potentially game-tying three with five seconds left. Final score,
Chicago 96, Philadelphia 91. All I could do was laugh, and be glad that
the fourth quarter was a hell of a lot more entertaining than I had
expected it to be.

Coach Collins was a little less understanding
after the game. "It just seems like it's been the same old script here
at home against good teams," he lamented. "We just did not come up with
that timely basket." It's true—as many times as it looked like the
Sixers had blown it, they still had a couple chances to tie or take the
lead in this one late. Down two with a little over a minute left, Andre
Iguodala launched an ill-advised three that came nowhere near landing
and bounced out of bounds. Still down two on the next possession, we had
a nice change of pace with Thaddeus Young instead squaring for a
baseline jumper, looking good but sailing it a little long. It was
almost refreshing to see someone besides 'Dre and Lou Williams miss the
biggest shot of the night, but needless to say, the result was about the

Yet as much as we can hate on those two guys for missing their big
shots, we'd be nowhere near even contending in this one without the
Marvelous play of 'Dre in the first half and Thad in the second. 'Dre
was an absolute marvel for much of this one, distributing brilliantly
and coming up with two of his best finishes of the season, a
behind-the-back move that led to a layup in the first and a
posterization put-back dunk over Joakim Noah in the third. Meanwhile,
Thad brought this team back to life in the fourth, scoring 13 of his 17
points in the final seven minutes, including nine straight for Philly in
a 90-second span, several baskets on gorgeous feeds from Jrue Holiday.
As always, good enough to get the team close, but not enough to put them
over the top.

The tough stuff for the Sixers tonight came with the shooting guards.
Lou Williams had a nice night distributing the ball, ending up with
seven assists and zero turnovers, but went 0-7 from the field, providing
further evidence that he is not really a "closer" for this team,
despite the fact that he played well against the Lakers and hit one huge
shot in the playoffs. Evan Turner had some nice moments but more
scattered ones, including an airballed floater that was one of his most
perplexing shots of the season. And the only two memorable plays that
Jodie Meeks had tonight were managing to miss three-pointers from both
short corners ON THE SAME POSSESSION, and slipping and falling on the
team's final play. (Jodie is 8-37 from three over the team's last eight
games, officially in his worst shooting slump since season's
beginning—we could really, really use him back.)

Oh yeah, and also that Derrick Rose guy. As Deron Williams did for the
Nets on their win here, Rose pretty much won this one for the Bulls,
scoring 35 points on 12-23 shooting with eight assists and just three
turnovers. The Sixers played him fairly well, especially once they
switched Andre Iguodala on him and started shading him with a big man,
but he was hitting his jumper when the Sixers were forcing him to take
it, and getting into the lane for layups and drawn fouls at all other
times. No shame in getting beaten by the best, but the point guard's
play again illustrates how other teams have guys like Derrick Rose, and
we do not.

Sixers back tomorrow against the 14-23 Bucks in Milwaukee. Not an easy
game but not a particularly challenging one either, and at the very
least, the Bucks have no one on their team named Rose or Westbrook or
Love or Nowitzki. We'll take our chances in that one, and continue to
wonder what it's going to take for the Sixers to win a close game
against a good team like this—if they're in fact capable of it at all.

In the meantime, enjoy 'Dre's dynamite hand-switching layup. Fun game, you gotta give 'em that.

No. 24 Penn State at Purdue: Nittany Lions seek 1st road win

No. 24 Penn State at Purdue: Nittany Lions seek 1st road win

Penn State (5-2, 3-1) vs. Purdue (3-4, 1-3)
Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, Ind.
Saturday, noon, ABC/ESPN2

Scouting Penn State
The Lions upended the Buckeyes, 24-21, when safety Marcus Allen blocked a field goal and cornerback Grant Haley returned it 60 yards for a touchdown with 4:27 left in the game. The Lions, who rallied from a 21-7 deficit after three quarters, earned their third straight victory.

Allen and Haley were named Big Ten co-Special Teams Players of the Week, and linebacker Brandon Bell, who had a career-high 19 tackles in the game, earned the conference’s Defensive Player of the Week honor.

Running back Saquon Barkley has rushed for 681 yards, fifth most in the Big Ten, and is tied for the conference lead in touchdowns with nine.

Scouting Purdue
Purdue fell to Nebraska last week in the debut of Boilermakers interim coach Gerad Parker, who replaced the fired Darrell Hazell on Oct. 16. Quarterback David Blough leads the Big Ten in passing yardage (2,065) and total offense (300.7 yards per game), and has thrown 14 touchdown passes (albeit with 11 interceptions).

The Boilermakers are, however, last in the Big Ten in rushing offense (120.3), total defense (441.0), turnover margin (minus-8) and red-zone offense (15 for 23, 11 touchdowns) and next to last in rushing defense (249.0) and passing efficiency.

The Lions lead 13-3-1 and have won the last seven meetings, the most recent a 45-21 victory in 2013.

Storyline to watch
This is the ultimate trap game for PSU, and the Lions’ approach to it will say a lot about their leadership and maturity. They have also dropped their last four road games dating back to last season, including both this fall. Their last victory away from home came last Oct. 24, against Maryland in Baltimore.

What’s at stake
The Lions can become bowl-eligible with a victory.

Penn State 35, Purdue 21

Embiid and Okafor want to play together, but not just yet, says Brown

Embiid and Okafor want to play together, but not just yet, says Brown

CAMDEN, N.J. — If all goes as planned, a time will come when the Sixers can roll out a dominating frontcourt duo with Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor sharing the court in lengthy stretches.

That moment has to wait, though, as both Embiid and Okafor are on minute restrictions. As he returns from a knee injury, Okafor currently is coming off the bench and backing up Embiid.

“This conversation with Jahlil and Joel is more intelligent and applicable at a later date,” Brett Brown said at practice Friday. “When Jahlil’s minutes start going up and Joel can, then it’s a real conversation. I do think you may see them sooner than even I thought together. But as far as making it a real constant part of a strategy or rotation, it’s beyond too early days.”

In an ideal world, Brown could pair the two bigs now and use all of their allotted minutes (Embiid 20, Okafor 14) at once. That would leave an extensive workload on second-year bench player Richaun Holmes.

“This is a hot topic,” Brown said. “I will say it one more time: If I play Jahlil and Jo together, I hope Richaun can play 35 minutes.”

It’s an unrealistic expectation for Holmes, who averaged 13.8 minutes in 51 games last season. Brown caps the majority of the Sixers at six-minute segments to keep them competing at a high energy level.

“Right now, he’s a backup,” Brown said of Holmes. “I think he’s going to be an NBA player for a very long time. I just feel like in the role, he’s a second-year player that didn’t really have much of a role last year. He’s shown everybody that he’s for real. He really can play a role. At this early stage, that is the key word.”

Embiid and Okafor have been envisioning competing together since Okafor was drafted two years ago. They became friends long before they were NBA players and have an easy chemistry on the court as a result.

“I think it’s going to be exciting,” Embiid said. “We played a little bit together today in practice. We’re figuring out how to play with each other. It’s a process and we’ve got trust it.”

Yes, the players know they have to wait, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for them to resist an opportunity to play with one another.  

“I think once we figure it out, we can really dominate together,” Okafor said. “We were able to flirt with it again today. We accidentally keep ending up on the same team even though Coach keeps telling us to make sure we alternate. But we’re having fun. We’re trying to put some pressure on it because we want to play together.”

Is that accidentally with air quotes?

“Yeah, exactly,” Okafor said with a laugh.