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
same.

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.

Adam Morgan, Phillies allow 4 homers in latest loss to Mets at Citi Field

Adam Morgan, Phillies allow 4 homers in latest loss to Mets at Citi Field

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK – The New York Mets set the tone for this game early on Friday night. Their first two batters stroked Adam Morgan fastballs over the wall and they were off and slugging to a 9-4 win over the Phillies at Citi Field (see Instant Replay).
 
“There’s not much to say,” manager Pete Mackanin said afterward, “other than we have to pitch better.”
 
The Mets, very much in the thick of the NL wild-card race, played inspired ball in powering their way to their fifth win in the last six games. They hit four home runs on the night, including three against Morgan, and got a typically strong start from Bartolo Colon.
 
“It’s never good when you start a game by giving up two home runs,” Morgan said. “If I make better pitches, it’s a different outcome.”
 
The third home run that Morgan gave up was the killer. It was a grand slam by Wilmer Flores with two outs in the bottom of the fifth. That turned a 2-1 Mets’ lead into a 6-1 Mets’ lead.
 
Flores’ grand slam came on a first-pitch slider. Morgan threw nine pitches before walking Neil Walker, the previous batter, to extend the inning. One of those pitches was foul pop down the right-field line that Ryan Howard could not chase down. Had he been able to make the tough play, Morgan would have gotten out of the inning unscathed.
 
Then again, the pitcher could have gotten out of the inning unscathed if he did not give up the two-out walk to Walker.
 
Or make a mistake with the first-pitch slider to Flores.
 
“It was a bad pitch,” Mackanin said. “He tried to backdoor a slider and it ended up in his wheelhouse.”
 
As for the pop-up down the right-field line …
 
“I was hoping somebody could run that down,” Mackanin said. “Nevertheless, you’ve got to pitch around those things and make good pitches. That mistake to Flores put it away for them. Morgan had command issues. Too many pitches out over the plate.”
 
In all, Morgan allowed eight hits, including five for extra bases, in his five innings of work. He dropped to 1-8 and his ERA rose to 6.50.
 
Reliever Frank Herrmann gave up the Mets’ fourth homer, a two-run shot to Asdrubal Cabrera in the sixth. Cabrera homered from both sides of the plate.
 
Meanwhile, Colon, the Mets’ 43-year-old control artist, did what he often does to the Phillies. He gave up just three hits and a run through seven innings before hitting the wall and giving up three runs without getting an out in the eighth. Colon had to settle for seven-plus innings of four-run ball. He is 12-7 with a 3.44 ERA. He is 9-3 with a 2.98 ERA against the Phillies as a member of the Mets.
 
“He seems to own us,” Mackanin said. “We can’t seem to square up the ball against him. He does a tremendous job with control and command.”
 
Peter Bourjos concurred.
 
“He’s different than any pitcher you see these days,” Bourjos said. “You don’t see many guys throwing mostly fastballs at 88 mph and sinking it. You see some guys throwing a majority of sinkers, but it’s 95. This guy changes speeds on his fastball and locates it so well.”
 
The game marked the Phillies’ first without Carlos Ruiz, who was traded to the Dodgers on Thursday. Jorge Alfaro came up from Double A and served as the backup catcher. He is expected to return to the Reading club on Saturday when A.J. Ellis arrives. The Phillies picked up the veteran backup catcher in the trade.
 
Alfaro did not play, but called the experience of coming to the majors “a dream.”
 
That was the only thing that resembled a dream for the Phillies on Friday night.
 
They have lost 20 of 29 games to the Mets over the last two seasons and 12 of their last 16 in Citi Field, hardly encouraging with two more games to play in the series.

Soul fight off Rattlers' comeback bid, win ArenaBowl XXIX

Soul fight off Rattlers' comeback bid, win ArenaBowl XXIX

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Prior to ArenaBowl XXIX, the consensus among players and coaches was the team which makes fewer mistakes had a reasonable chance to win.

When the Arizona Rattlers committed two critical turnovers in the initial minutes Friday night, the Soul jumped out to an early lead and then capitalized on big plays from the defense to earn a 56-42 win and their second ArenaBowl title in franchise history.

The championship is the first for a professional team in Philadelphia since the Soul and Phillies each took individual titles in 2008. Villanova captured the men’s NCAA basketball championship this past April.

Coming into the title game at Gila River Arena, Arizona averaged 83.0 points per game in postseason play, and the Soul defense, which averaged 45.5 points allowed in playoff competition, did not deviate from its norm.

“We trust in our defense,” said defensive back Dwayne Hollis, who scored on an early fumble recovery and had a key interception late. “The fumble was great work from the line. A few guys got in there and the ball came loose. I was able pick it up and I only saw the end zone.”

This one started in a way all too familiar to the Soul defense.

Following a 16-yard touchdown reception from Darius Reynolds, and an early 7-0 Soul lead, Hollis scored just over three minutes later. That’s when he picked up the fumble from Rattlers running back Mykel Benson and ran 48 yards for the score.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Rattlers’ Anthony Amos could not handle the rebound off the netting in the end zone and Tracy Belton, the AFL Defensive Player of the Year, scooped up the loose ball for a touchdown. That brought the Soul out to a 21-0 lead less than seven minutes into the game, and created a relatively secure comfort level.

“We go against those guys every day in practice, and know how good our defense really is,” said quarterback Dan Raudabaugh, who finished with a 20-for-36 night, 278 yards and six touchdowns. “This is such a great defense, and they proved it when it counted.”

Despite an early lead, the Rattlers managed to catch the Soul at 42-42 early in the fourth quarter. On the next possession, Raudabaugh engineered a six-play scoring drive that culminated in a 21-yard TD strike to Shaun Kauleinamoku. After the extra point was blocked, that created a six-point lead, and then the key defensive play of the game.

As Arizona quarterback Nick Davila attempted to pass from the Soul 15-yard line, his arm was hit and defensive tackle Jake Metz recovered. From there, Raudabaugh connected with Kauleinamoku on a 30-yard scoring strike, and this one was in the win column for the Soul.

“Our defense is persistent,” said Metz, a native of Souderton, Pennsylvania, who went to Shippensburg University. “This group never gives up, and we did our job.”

In postgame awards, Kauleinamoku was named the Playmaker of the Game, and Belton was honored as the Defensive Player of the Game.

For his key 30-yard TD reception late in the game, Kauleinamoku was given the Catch of the Game, and Hollis’ fumble recovery and touchdown early was noted as the Highlight of the Game.

Instant Replay: Mets 9, Phillies 4

Instant Replay: Mets 9, Phillies 4

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — The New York Mets clubbed four home runs on their way to pounding the Phillies, 9-4, at Citi Field on Friday night.
 
Phillies starter Adam Morgan gave up six runs, all on homers.
 
Meanwhile, the Phillies’ bats did little against 43-year-old Mets starter Bartolo Colon for the first seven innings and by that time they were down by eight runs.
 
The Mets are in the thick of the NL wild-card chase and have won five of their last six. The Phillies have lost six of their last nine.
 
The Mets are 20-9 against the Phillies over the last two seasons.
 
Starting pitching report
Morgan was tagged for three home runs, including a grand slam with two outs in the bottom of the fifth. He gave up back-to-back homers on his first five pitches to open the bottom of the first inning.
 
In all, the lefty allowed eight hits, including five for extra bases, in his five innings of work. He dropped to 1-8 and his ERA rose to 6.50.
 
The grand slam was hit by Wilmer Flores on a first-pitch slider. Morgan threw nine pitches before walking Neil Walker, the previous batter, to extend the inning. One of those pitches was a foul pop down the right-field line that first baseman Ryan Howard could not chase down. Had he been able to make a play, Morgan would have gotten out of the inning unscathed.
 
Colon allowed four runs over seven-plus innings. Three of them came when he failed to retire a batter in the eighth. Colon is 12-7 with a 3.44 ERA. He is 9-3 with a 2.98 ERA against the Phillies as a member of the Mets.
 
Bullpen report
Frank Herrmann gave up three runs in two innings of work.
 
Hansel Robles, Sean Gilmartin and Jeurys Familia closed it out after Colon exited.
 
At the plate
The Phillies did not have a hit until Odubel Herrera’s one-out double in the fifth. He scored on a two-out single by Morgan. The Phils had just three hits through seven innings. Cesar Hernandez and Aaron Altherr teamed to drive in three runs with a pair of doubles off Colon in the eighth.
 
The Mets had 11 hits, four of which were homers. Asdrubal Cabrera homered from both sides of plate for the Mets.
 
Colon helped himself with a double, a single and two runs scored.
 
Jay Bruce was the only Met to struggle. He struck out four times.

Transaction
The Phillies brought up catcher Jorge Alfaro from Double A. The plan is to send him back Saturday when newcomer A.J. Ellis arrives and assumes the second catcher duties. Ellis was acquired from the Dodgers in the Carlos Ruiz trade Thursday. The trade left Howard as the lone member of the 2008 World Series championship still with the club. Howard can deal with it (see story).
 
Up next
Jeremy Hellickson (10-7, 3.60) opposes hard-throwing Mets right-hander Noah Syndergaard (11-7, 2.61) on Saturday night.