Thus Endeth the Winning Streak: Sixers Come Up Short Against Bucks

Thus Endeth the Winning Streak: Sixers Come Up Short Against Bucks

After playing six straight games where one team basically controlled the
game the entire way, the Sixers finally caught themselves in a
back-and-forth tonight against the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks started
the game on absolute fire—so much so that even our old friend Samuel
Dalembert hit a fadeaway jumper from the wing that I swear he didn't hit
once in his time as a Sixer—and from there, the pendulum swung back and
forth the entire game, with the Bucks getting out to formidable leads
(as back as 16 just after halftime) and the Sixers battling back. The
Sixers had it at even midway through the fourth, but came up one run
short as the Bucks were able to hold on for a 103-96 win.

The
best and the worst tonight came from our breakout point guard, Jrue
Holiday. At a glance, you'd have to say Jrue had a good game, ending
with 25 points on 10-18 shooting as the Sixers' leading scorer. But the
turnovers, a (mostly forgivable) problem for Jrue all season, were
especially costly tonight, as a couple prospective Sixers runs (the
final one especially) were cut off by Jrue giving the ball up trying to
make a cross-court pass in the lane. The Damaja turned the ball over
seven times in all, and his unusually harried play in the fourth
ultimately did the Sixers in.

Of course, Holiday doesn't
shoulder all the blame in this one. Our top two centers, perhaps
unnerved by the news that they weren't going to be spelled by Andrew
Bynum anytime soon, gave us virtually no production tonight, scoring a
combined six points and grabbing a combined seven rebounds. For the
second straight night, Lavoy Allen didn't register a single point,
looking overmatched and short of confidence. Meanwhile, neither Allen
nor Spencer Hawes gave Jrue any help switching on the pick-and-roll,
allowing dynamic Buck scoring guards Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis to
fire away from range (and fire they did, combining for 54 points, 33
from Jennings).

There were positives for the Sixers. Namely, we
got a big boost from the returned Jason Richardson, who prevented the
Bucks from running away with the game early, scoring ten in the first
quarter and ending with 20 on the game. Richardson and Dorell Wright
combined for seven threes on the night, giving the Sixers that added
offensive dimension they'd largely been lacking while he was recovering
from his ankle sprain. For what it's worth, J-Rich was also the team's
emotional leader on the evening, urging the crowd to get into the game
as the Sixers embarked upon a big third-quarter run to cut the Bucks'
halftime lead to ribbons. You like to see that from the team's elder
statesman, especially when he's helping out on the court as much as he
did tonight.

Worth noting that Coach Collins was evidently so
enamored with Richardson and Wright and what they gave the offense
throughout the game that Evan Turner—who had a solid-but-unspectacular
game with eight points, four rebounds and five assists in just 25
minutes—sat on the bench for most of the fourth quarter. The thinking is
understandable, but the Sixers could've really used Turner's rebounding
in the fourth—a couple of second-chance buckets killed the Sixers
late—and having a second ball-handler on the court as Jrue started to
lose control of the game might not have been the worst thing either.
Tough call for Collins, and one he'll have to make a whole bunch more
times before season's end, so it'll be interesting to see where he goes
down the stretch in future games.

Anyway, I don't want to get on
Jrue too much for his fourth-quarter play, so I'll end talking about
part of his game tonight that really impressed me. Twice at the end of
quarters—the second and the third—Holiday was given the ball on the
team's final possession. Both times he dribbled the clock nearly to its
end, but rather than simply hoist a contested across-his-body three—like
say oh I dunno Lou Williams might have done in the past—at the end of
it, Jrue patiently probed the defense, waited until he got some clear
space, and hoisted a high-percentage look, hitting both times. It was so
calm, cool and collected that you'd never believe either was done in an
end-of-quarter situation.

In other words, they were the exact
opposite of the rushed, sloppy, almost panicked way he ended the game.
But Jrue's young still—not only is he just 22, he's only really been
running this team's offense for seven games now. You'd rather see all
the hits and misses with Jrue at this stage than see no spark at all,
and nothing I saw tonight makes me at all worried about Jrue in the long
term. Without Andrew Bynum, Jrue's being asked to do just about
everything for this team offensively, and so far, he's succeeding a
whole lot more than he's failing. A learning opportunity late in this
one for sure, though.

The loss drops the Sixers to 4-3 on the
season, but they'll have a chance to make up for it with four more
winnable games at the WFC, of which the middling Utah Jazz probably
presents the toughest opponent. Wednesday night they get to go against
the hapless Pistons, losers of each of their first eight, with as good
an opportunity for an easy win as they'll get early this season. Whether
or not the Sixers will pick it up will likely be telling about where
our young team is at right now. I have faith.

Brian Carroll's goal in 92nd minute gives Union draw with Rapids

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Brian Carroll's goal in 92nd minute gives Union draw with Rapids

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. -- Brian Carroll tied it in 92nd minute and the Union escaped with a 1-1 draw with the Colorado Rapids in a showdown of the Western and Eastern conference leaders.

Carroll ran underneath Fabian Herbers' high-arching header and slotted the finish under goalkeeper Zac MacMath from close range.

The Union (5-3-5) responded only 5 minutes after the Rapids (8-2-4) opened the scoring on Sam Cronin's header in the 87th minute. Cronin made a deep run to connect with Marlon Hairston's cross from the right flank, redirecting it into the far corner of the goal.

Both Dillon Powers and Luis Solignac had shots crash off the crossbar for the Rapids after the 70th minute.

The Union extended their unbeaten streak to seven while the Rapids stayed unbeaten in their nine home games this season.

Chase Utley haunts Mets in Dodgers' rout at Citi Field

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Chase Utley haunts Mets in Dodgers' rout at Citi Field

NEW YORK -- Chase Utley hit a grand slam and a solo homer after Noah Syndergaard threw a 99 mph fastball behind his back, and the Los Angeles Dodgers went deep a season-high five times in routing the New York Mets 9-1 on Saturday night.

In a scene that seemed inevitable since October, Syndergaard was immediately ejected following the third-inning pitch -- almost certainly his shot at retaliation against Utley for the late takeout slide that broke the right leg of then-Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada in last year's playoffs.

Plate umpire Adam Hamari tossed Syndergaard, sending Mets manager Terry Collins into a rage, but no trouble ensued between the teams. A longtime New York nemesis, Utley raised one hand slightly in the direction of the Dodgers' bench to keep teammates calm -- and later answered by doing all sorts of damage with his bat.

Kenta Maeda (4-3) shook off an early line drive that appeared to hit him in the pitching hand and threw five shutout innings for the win. The right-hander yielded two hits, both in the first, and snapped his three-game losing streak.

Adrian Gonzalez homered and had four hits for the Dodgers, who spoiled the Mets' 30th anniversary celebration of their 1986 World Series championship. Corey Seager and Howie Kendrick also connected, all after Syndergaard was gone.

Pinch-hitter Juan Lagares homered in the eighth for New York, long after the outcome was decided.

The stoic Utley is playing at Citi Field this weekend for the first time since Tejada was injured. The Mets -- and their fans -- were incensed by the aggressive slide, which led to a change in baseball rules this season designed to protect infielders in what some call the Utley Rule.

But the Mets had not tried to retaliate until Saturday night.

With one out and nobody on in the third inning of a scoreless game, Syndergaard's first pitch to Utley sailed behind the second baseman's back by a considerable margin.

Hamari immediately ejected Syndergaard, prompting Collins to come storming out of the dugout. Collins also was ejected after screaming at Hamari and pointing in his face during an animated argument. The manager was finally escorted back toward the New York dugout by another umpire.

After waiting near the mound with teammates for some time, Syndergaard walked calmly to the Mets' dugout without showing any emotion as the crowd cheered him.

Logan Verrett (3-2) entered for the Mets and, with a vocal contingent in the sellout crowd of 42,227 urging him to hit Utley with a pitch, eventually threw a called third strike past him. But then Utley homered on Verrett's first pitch of the sixth to give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead.

Booed all night, Utley added his sixth career slam off Hansel Robles in the seventh, giving Los Angeles a 6-0 cushion with his 38th career homer against the Mets.

In the series opener Friday night, Utley was greeted with loud jeers and derisive chants. He had four RBIs in a 6-5 loss, including a three-run double that tied the score with two outs in the ninth.

Where are you now?
Tejada was released by the Mets during spring training and signed by the St. Louis Cardinals, who designated him for assignment Saturday.

Trainer's room
Dodgers: RF Trayce Thompson exited in the fifth with lower back soreness. He was replaced by Yasiel Puig, who hit an RBI single off Verrett in the sixth.

Mets: INF Wilmer Flores (hamstring) went 1 for 2 with a sacrifice fly in his fifth rehab game for Double-A Binghamton. Before the game, Collins said it was reasonable to think Flores could come off the disabled list Sunday.

Up next
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw (7-1, 1.48 ERA) starts the series finale Sunday night against 43-year-old Bartolo Colon (4-3, 3.44). Kershaw, coming off a two-hit shutout against Cincinnati, is 7-0 with a 1.17 ERA in 10 starts against the Mets. He is 5-0 with a 0.64 ERA in May -- including a three-hit shutout of New York on May 12 at Dodger Stadium. The three-time Cy Young Award winner has struck out 55 and walked two this month.

Soul drop 1st road game of season to Gladiators

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USA Today Images

Soul drop 1st road game of season to Gladiators

The Soul fell on the road to the Cleveland Gladiators, 63-49, at Quicken Loans Arena on Saturday night.

The loss was just the second of the season and the first away from the Wells Fargo Center for the Soul. Quarterback Dan Raudabaugh completed 25 of 44 passes for 342 yards and seven touchdownsi in a losing effort.

The Gladiators were led by receiver Quentin Sims, who finished with 10 receptions for 114 yards and three touchdowns, and signal caller Arvell Nelson who completed 22 of 36 passes for 307 yards and seven touchdowns.

Next week, the Soul travel to Jacksonville to take on the Sharks on Saturday, June 4. The game will be broadcast on CBS Sports and 97.5 The Fanatic.  Kick-off is set for 7 p.m.