Things That Happened Tonight: The Sixers Won a Playoff Series

Things That Happened Tonight: The Sixers Won a Playoff Series

Now that I've had to settle down and finally stopped cracking up—just
kidding, I'll be spending the rest of my life laughing about the last 30
seconds of this game—it's time to talk a little bit more about what
just happened. For those of you that didn't watch the game, here's the
30-second version: The Sixers led for most of the game, went bone-dry
late, relied on Andre Iguodala and Lou Williams to bail them out (they
didn't), went down three with a half-minute left, looked for all the
world like they would lose, made a bucket, fouled the right guy (he
missed two), and then.

And then.

OK, credit really must go to Andre Iguodala for taking the rebound and
running with it. Remember that overtime game in Denver where the Sixers
had a chance to win it in OT, and Jrue Holiday got the ball off a missed
free throw (or something) and thought Coach Collins would call a
timeout, except he didn't and he got confused and ended up turning the
ball over and the team lost? No confusion this time. 'Dre broke out and
went straight for the basket, forcing the Bulls to foul.

Great. Two at the line with a chance to tie it and send it to overtime.
Well, yeah, technically they could also win the game if 'Dre made
both—they were only down one and there were just 2.2 seconds left in the
game with no timeouts for the Bulls, so it would be hard for them to
score to take the lead back. But yeah, no, that wasn't gonna happen. You
could probably count the number of times on one hand that Andre
Iguodala (who shot 62% for the year) had made two of two from the line,
and absolutely zero of them were in anything resembling clutch
situations. (NBA statmaster John Schumann had his clutch FT shooting at a
stunning 7-18 for the season.)

Rather than debate whether or not 'Dre would be able to make both FTs,
my roommate and I debated which of the two he would miss. (We decided on
the first one.) When he hit that one, I did have a holy hell, what if he actually made the second one?
flight of fancy, but I dismissed it pretty quickly. I'd seen this movie
before, in that same previously mentioned Nuggets game, when Iguodala
missed one of two with the team down one to force OT. Still, in that
one, I'm pretty sure it was the first one he missed. What if he...?

And then, it happened. Swish. The Bulls were stunned, unsure of how to
even inbound the ball, as if they too had spent the entire regular
season wondering how a guy we once thought could grow into an elite wing
scorer could post a free throw percentage that would have been a
failing Phys Ed grade. CJ Watson jacked up a prayer that very nearly
went in—really, it was almost Devin Harris 2.0—and he came a couple
inches away from getting fouled in the process. But he missed. The
Sixers win. The Sixers are going to the second round of the playoffs.
The Sixers won a fucking playoff series. The 2012 Sixers. How about that?

It might sound like I'm excited about this—and I guess I am, at least a
little bit—but moreso I'm really just amused. Because let's be
honest—there's not a whole lot of pride to take in how the Sixers
performed this series. They beat a team that, even without its two best
players, might have still been a little bit better than they were, and
while that does register as an upset of some size and upsets are usually
pretty cool, they did so in such unconvincing fashion (minus the
still-awesome punch-in-the-mouth Game Two, which I might re-watch four
times instead of watching Philly's second-round series) that I can't
even feel all that happy about it.

After games two and three, which the Sixers won thanks to strong, gutsy
performances from their hopeful back-court pillars of the future, Jrue
Holiday and Evan Turner, it looked like Philly might actually be
building to something with this series. Nope—minus a couple nice moments
for Jrue in the second half of Game Four and the first half of Game
Six, the two were basically neutralized from there, and the Sixers won
Game Four on some lucky calls and a career scoring effort from Spencer
Hawes, and they won Game Six on...well, I'm still not really sure how
they won Game Six, but it wasn't because of anything even remotely
inspirational. In the end, it was 'Dre and Lou's team again. Same as it
ever was. 

If there's one reason to be ecstatic that the Sixers won tonight, it's
that it means that there doesn't have to be a Game Seven. Not only would
the chances be miniscule that the Sixers would win, the chances are
phenomenal that the game would have been unwatchable and soul-crushing
and momentum-destroying. Whatever happens to the Sixers from here, at
least they didn't blow this series in quasi-historical fashion–which
isn't something to build on either, but it's not a huge setback, which
is probably good. And nobody wants to watch another game of this series.
Maybe this was even subconsciously in the mind of John Lucas as he
passed to Omer Asik under the basket with less than ten seconds to go
for the Celtics.

So yeah, about that play. One of the incredible things about this
outcome is that, as Bill Simmons pointed out on Twitter, the entire
series basically hinged on a no-call on CJ Watson when Jrue Holiday
tried to foul him at half-court. If the zebras call that—and it looked
like a foul to me—81% free-throw shooter Watson goes to the line,
probably hits two and almost certainly hits one, and the Bulls likely
ice the series. Instead, Watson spotted Omer Asik under the basket,
concluded (inaccurately) that he had a look at a gimme bucket, and
passed him the ball, at which point Spencer Hawes executed a textbook
wrap-up foul, and instead of Watson and his 81% going to the line, it was
Asik and his 45%. He missed both, and suddenly the Sixers had life. And
they won. Because Andre Iguodala hit clutch free throws. (In case you
had forgotten and/or stopped laughing.)

Long as we're talking about it, though, there are two other things that I
think needed to fall into place for the Sixers to win this series.
First, the Bulls ran out of timeouts. If they had had even one more
timeout, to advance the ball to half-court with 2.2 seconds to play, you
have to think that they at least get a decent look, and given the
Sixers' record this season at closing out final possessions—anyone
remember that game in Minnesota?—I wouldn't have bet that they'd have
come up with a stop.

But secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the Sixers ran out of
timeouts. This shouldn't have been a good thing, but I firmly believe
that it was. If the Sixers had another timeout, they surely call it
after 'Dre boards the second Asik miss. Then, Collins draws up a play
that probably ends (as it always does) with someone taking and missing a
contested 25-foot three, and the Sixers lose. Instead, the shock of the
two Asik free throw misses and the Sixers' lack of timeouts created a
chaos that Andre Iguodala was smart enough to take advantage of, and the
Sixers were able to take the lead and win. A butterfly flaps its wings
in China and Lou Williams bricks a long two to send the Sixers to Game
Seven. Crazy stuff.

More on evaluating the Sixers' performances and predicting where they go
from here later, probably. But we're done with analysis for now.
Rather, I want you to go out and celebrate tonight. Not that the Sixers
won, not that we're heading for the second round, not because any of
this means anything for or about the team that we root for. Instead, you
should be celebrating that now, beyond a shadow of a doubt, there must
be some kind of sports god out there. And he has a fuckin' wicked sense of humor.

Flyers Notes: Promising performances from young defensemen

Flyers Notes: Promising performances from young defensemen

The most impressive thing about the Flyers' 4-0 preseason win over the Islanders on Tuesday night was the play of the their young defense and the outstanding work by the penalty kill.

Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim and Philippe Myers each gave a strong accounting of themselves while veteran Andrew MacDonald proved why experience helps with some terrific PK work during an extended five-on-three Islanders power play in the third period.

“Overall, they did a good job,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “I look at some of the opportunities we gave up, especially in the second period, we gave up three or four Grade A opportunities that Mase (goalie Steve Mason) was great on, but I put those on our forwards.

“We’re still not into regular-season form on our play without the puck. I thought as a whole, the group of defensemen did a good job and the young guys in there were good tonight.”

Sanheim had strong plays the entire game from the point and picked up two assists (see highlights). He gets the puck quickly on net and joins the play up front.

“It took me a little bit, even in this game,” Sanheim said. “As I play more, I started to jump up more and you start to see my game more. It’s something I want to bring to this next level.”

Provorov logged 21:43 of ice time following nearly 29 minutes at New Jersey. He had 5:17 on the PK. Some of his clears weren’t deep or hard enough, at times, possibly because of fatigue.

He also took a bad boarding hit on Joshua Ho-Sang in the third period that set up an Isles five-on-three power play. It became extended because of a trip call to Myers but MacDonald did yeoman’s work on the extended PK.

Provorov quarterbacks the first-unit man advantage for now until Shayne Gostisbehere joins the crowd. He had some very skillful passes. The Russian can find the seam up the ice on the breakout quickly and had a no-look, hard pass to Nick Cousins in the second period for a quality one-timer on net.

Expect Provorov to handle the second-unit power play during the season, should he make the roster.

The goals
Although the Flyers, using a better NHL lineup, were lacking for offensive chances early against the Isles' "B" squad, they found their way in the final four minutes of the opening period.

First, Dale Weise had one of those pinball goals as a bouncing puck hit a couple of players in the slot, including goalie Chris Gibson, to make it 1-0 during four-on-four play.

That was the Flyers' first goal of preseason in three games. A little more than a minute later, Wayne Simmonds scored off a rebound just as a Flyers power play ended. Simmonds had two goals in the game, including a wrister from the left circle to open the final period.

Smallish (5-foot-7) — but bullish — centerman Andy Miele, a former Hobey Baker Award winner as college hockey’s top player (Miami-Ohio), made it 3-0, out-battling Thomas Hickey for the rebound of Michael Raffl’s shot.

The shield
Simmonds is wearing a visor for the first time. It’s an experiment for now.

“Everyone is all over me about it,” he said. “We’ll see what happens. It wasn’t too bad tonight. The only thing is trying to track pucks in the sky when you are getting the glare from the lights. A little bit of an adjustment."

He said neither his mother nor girlfriend had pushed him as hard to wear the shield as someone else: “Ron Hextall,” he said flatly. “He gave me a call.”

Because of his tenacious play in the slot where sticks are high and pucks are deflected, a shield makes sense.

“Yeah, I think so, being that front guy and doing work on the PK,” he said. “Getting sticks in lanes like that, the game is really fast and pucks get deflected.

“Sometime you don’t know where they’re going and can’t react to that. Obviously, the shield is good for that."

He added he would wear the shield in a fight, too.

“Every time I fight and someone has a shield on, I’m at a disadvantage so I guess this evens it up,” he said.

Loose pucks
Weise did a nice job sticking up for teammates late during a melee after a Ben Holmstrom crosscheck to linemate Nick Cousins. “It was a bad crosscheck and you’re defending your teammates,” he said. “The ref was in the way and I kind of went overtop him. That’s what I’m about. Guys take liberties on my linemates, I’ll stand up for them.” … Matt Read had just 6:54 ice time through two periods. Fourth-liner Boyd Gordon had more ice time there — 9:39 — but Read finished with 13:55 to Gordon’s 13:41. More than half of Gordon’s ice time was on the penalty kill. … Goalie Steve Mason faced some point-blank chances among the first 17 shots he faced and finished with 23-save shutout.  

Carson Wentz named NFC Offensive Player of the Week

Carson Wentz named NFC Offensive Player of the Week

Another week, another award for Carson Wentz.

This time the Eagles' electrifying rookie has been named the NFC's Offensive Player of the Week for his performance against the Steelers.

In the 34-3 win over Pittsburgh, Wentz completed 23 of 31 passes for 301 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 125.9. It was the first 300-yard game of his very young career.

Wentz is the first rookie QB in Eagles history to win an Offensive Player of the Week award, and the first Eagle to win the award since Jeremy Maclin in Week 9 of the 2014 season.

Through three games, the 23-year-old has completed 64.7 percent of his passes for 769 yards and five touchdowns. He's the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to achieve those stats in the first three games of a career. He still hasn't thrown an interception in 102 passing attempts, which is a record for rookies.

It looks like Wentz will have plenty more opportunities for awards this season.