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.

Wayne Simmonds stars as Flyers top Predators, push win streak to 5 games

Wayne Simmonds stars as Flyers top Predators, push win streak to 5 games

BOX SCORE

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Dave Hakstol likes Wayne Simmonds’ net-front play more than that of any player in the league.

The Flyers' power forward showed on Sunday why his coach thinks that way.

Simmonds’ two power-play goals in front of the crease helped extend the Flyers’ win streak to five, their longest of the season, in a 4-2 win over the Nashville Predators on Sunday night (see Instant Replay).

“If there’s a better guy in the league at net front, whether it’s on power play or 5 on 5, I don’t know who that is,” said Hakstol said after Sunday's victory. “He did a great job there tonight.”

Simmonds’ first goal came when he deflected Jake Voracek’s shot past Juuse Saros, giving the Flyers a 1-0 lead at 18:12 of the first period.

“They had great movement around the top of the box and Jake told me to go back door if he was going to get it for a one-timer,” Simmonds said. “So I stuck my stick out back door and he hit it, and it went in the net.”

Then Simmonds batted a puck through Saros' legs for a 2-1 advantage at 6:47 of the second period for his team-leading 13th goal of the season.

“It was kind of a little bit of a cluster and the puck comes to me, and I’m alone in front of the net so I just put it five-hole and it worked,” Simmonds said.

The right wing’s father was watching in the sellout crowd of 17,113 at Bridgestone Arena during the Flyers' annual father-son trip.

“It was nice, obviously,” Simmonds said. “I just went outside and saw him. He didn’t really say much to me, but I know he’s glowing on the inside.”

Simmonds has now scored 10 career goals in 20 games against Nashville.

“What I really like about Simmer is he’s at net-front, he’s scoring goals, he’s on the power play, but he’s a great, hard-nosed, 200-foot player,” Hakstol said.

Simmonds’ goals gave the Flyers an early spark on Sunday.

“It was huge,” said Flyers left wing Michael Raffl, who scored the winning goal at 16:37 of the second period when made a power move on a rush and tucked the puck past Saros. “That gives us all the momentum.”

The Flyers improved to 7-3-1 in their last 11 games.

“We’re just trying to take care of pucks and maintain the pressure that we have,” Simmonds said. “The next shift up every game is the most important shift and that’s how we’re trying to play it here.”

Predators coach Peter Laviolette, a former Flyers coach, wasn’t surprised by his former team’s power-play success. The Flyers entered the game tied for the third best power play in the league cashed in twice on seven chances on Sunday.

“We knew going in that their power play was really good,” Laviolette said. “Their players have a lot of time together and cohesiveness and they’re pretty set in what they do. They bring pucks to the net and when they do that, things can happen. That was a difference in the game tonight.”

Winning goalie Steve Mason has started 10 of the last 11 games. He made 30 saves Sunday to improve his record to 8-8-3.

“This is the situation I want to be in, so it’s a workload that all summer you prepare for even when I was not getting the work load I wanted,” Mason said. “You prepare for it and now that it’s here I’m making the most of it.”

Sources: Phillies close to signing reliever Joaquin Benoit

Sources: Phillies close to signing reliever Joaquin Benoit

WASHINGTON – It looks as if the Phillies will have some action at the winter meetings.

The team is close to signing veteran reliever Joaquin Benoit, sources tell CSNPhilly.com. The winter meetings officially begin on Monday. The signing is expected to be announced before the meetings end on Thursday.

Benoit, 39, is a veteran of 15 seasons in the majors. He is coming off a strong 2016 season in which he pitched in 51 games for Seattle and Toronto and recorded a 2.81 ERA.

Benoit began the 2016 season with the Mariners and had a 5.18 ERA in 26 games. He was traded to Toronto in July and gave up just one run in 23 2/3 innings over 25 games, but did not pitch in the postseason after suffering a torn calf muscle in late September.

The right-hander has pitched for six teams in his career and has a lifetime 3.79 ERA in 712 games.

Entering the offseason, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said he wanted to improve the bullpen. He opened the offseason by trading for veteran right-hander Pat Neshek and last week claimed lefty David Rollins off waivers from Texas. Now, Klentak is poised to add Benoit.

Benoit has mostly pitched in a setup role in his career, but he does have closer experience. It is unclear what role he’d pitch in for the Phillies. The Phils have Jeanmar Gomez and Hector Neris returning to the back of their bullpen in 2017. Benoit could complement that pair or the Phillies could choose to trade Gomez or Neris.

Neris pitched in 79 games in 2016 and had a 2.58 ERA, so the Phillies would only deal him if they were to get a strong package of talent in return.