Wanna Call It a Must-Win? Sixers Return Home For Important-Ish Game Against Nets

Wanna Call It a Must-Win? Sixers Return Home For Important-Ish Game Against Nets

It's hard to say the Sixers disappointed on their recent eight-game road
trip—if you asked me ahead of time how well I though they'd do on the
trip, I'd probably have said they'd go 2-6, which is exactly what they
did—but they certainly didn't exceed expectations. As a result, the team
has now gone an astounding 4-12 in their last 16 games, and appear a
couple well-placed losses away from an official Lost Season, though in
this stupid conference, we're still just two-and-a-half games out of the
eighth spot. Still, with Boston playing so much better of late, and the
Bucks having deposed of their unpopular coach, that eight spot's not
gonna be within striking distance for too long if the Sixers keep losing
75% of their games.

However, there is hope. The Sixers play 13
of their next 15 (!!) at the Wells Fargo Center, with only two
back-to-backs and only three opponents (Spurs, Knicks, Clippers) that
would appear to be totally out of Philly's class over that span. It's
not impossible that the Sixers could turn things around over that
stretch, but they need to start soon, and they really should do it
tonight against the rebounding (figuratively, anyway) Brooklyn Nets. The
Nets have won 5 of 6 (and three in a row) since disposing of coach
Avery Johnson, and appear to be turning around what was looking to be
close to a disastrous season. Still, Philly played them tough in their
last meeting (a 95-92 Net win), and games between these two Atlantic
opponents always seem to go down to the wire, regardless of which team
is actually good at the time.

The questions abound for the
Sixers as they enter this next bend in their season. Can Evan Turner
rebound to his late-November, early-December form, where he was looking
like a burgeoning star and legitimate second scoring option, before we
have to figure out if we're gonna pay him in the off-season? Can Spencer
Hawes keep serving as an important offensive cog, and not give so much
back on the defensive end to negate his contributions completely? Can
Arnett Moultrie add anything to this team? And biggest of all:
Can Andrew Bynum stay on the not-exactly-fast track to recovery, and get
back on the court in time to see what, if anything, he can do with this
Sixers squad around him?

As we've stated before, decision time
is coming up for the Sixers. Rumors had it yesterday that the team was
exploring trades for Oklahoma City backup point guard Eric Maynor, but
such a move would be a short-term solution for Philly—Maynor becomes a
free agent in the off-season, and will likely cost more than the Sixers
can afford to pay him—and if the team's not even gonna compete for the
playoffs this season (a very real possibility), going for the quick fix
could be disastrous, especially if it comes at a high price for the
team's future. If the Sixers continue to drop games at an alarming rate,
it should (hopefully) put the kibosh on Tony DiLeo making such deals,
which would probably be for the best anyway. If the team does start
winning games again, though...

Well, we'll cross that incredibly flimsy bridge when we come to it. 7:00 tip from the WFC. I hate losing to the goddamn Nets.

Best of NBA: Dwyane Wade hits dagger 3-pointer in Bulls debut

Best of NBA: Dwyane Wade hits dagger 3-pointer in Bulls debut

CHICAGO -- Dwyane Wade scored 22 points in a triumphant Chicago debut, Jimmy Butler had 24 and the Bulls won their season opener, beating the Boston Celtics 105-99 on Thursday night.

Wade nailed a 3 from the corner in the final minute to make it a five-point game. Taj Gibson added 18 points and 10 rebounds, and the new-look Bulls got off to a winning start after missing the playoffs last season for the first time since 2008.

Isaiah Thomas led Boston with 25 points. Avery Bradley had 16, and Jae Crowder 14 points, but the Celtics came up short after opening with a win over Brooklyn the previous night.

The Bulls remade their roster in the offseason, jettisoning one hometown superstar and welcoming another when they traded Derrick Rose to New York and signed Wade to a two-year deal worth about $47 million in a move that stunned Miami.

The three-time NBA champion and 12-time All-Star is off to a good start with the Bulls after 13 seasons with the Heat.

Wade hit 4 of 6 3-pointers in this game after making just seven all of last season (see full recap).

New-look Hawks roll past Wizards
ATLANTA -- Dwight Howard dominated the boards in his Atlanta debut, Paul Millsap scored 28 points and Tim Hardaway Jr. ignited the new-look Hawks to a 114-99 victory over the Washington Wizards in their season opener Thursday night.

Howard grabbed 19 rebounds to go along with 11 points, just what the Hawks expected from their new center, and it certainly wasn't unusual for three-time All-Star Millsap to lead the way in scoring.

But Hardaway's performance was totally unexpected given the way he struggled in his first season with the Hawks, when he was largely confined to the bench and even forced to spend time in the D-League.

He scored 21 points, matching his high in an Atlanta uniform, and broke open a close game with back-to-back 3-pointers in the fourth. The Hawks, who led only 81-80 heading to the final period, outscored the Wizards 33-19 over the final 12 minutes (see full recap).

Best of NHL: Canadiens rally past Lightning for 6th straight win

Best of NHL: Canadiens rally past Lightning for 6th straight win

MONTREAL -- Max Pacioretty scored the tiebreaking goal in Montreal's three-goal third period as the Canadiens beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1 Thursday night for their sixth straight win.

Alex Galchenyuk and Torrey Mitchell also scored to help Montreal improve to 7-0-1. Carey Price made 29 saves to win for the fourth time in four starts this season.

Alex Killorn scored the lone goal for the Lightning, who lost against an Eastern-Conference opponent for the first time this season. Ben Bishop stopped 23 shots.

With the scored tied 1-1, Pacioretty got the go-ahead goal at 10:23 by beating Bishop glove-side. Blown coverage by the Lightning left the Canadiens' captain all alone on the edge of the face-off circle, and Bishop couldn't see the shot with Andrew Shaw posted firmly in front of goal.

Montreal remains the only NHL team still undefeated in regulation (see full recap).

Crosby's late goal gives Penguins win over Islanders
PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby scored the tiebreaking goal late in the third period to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 4-2 victory over the New York Islanders on Thursday night.

Patric Hornqvist, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel also scored -- each getting his third of the season -- to help the Penguins win for the third time in four games and improve to 5-0-1 at home.

Crosby, playing for the second straight game after missing the first six with a concussion, scored with 2:25 left as he caught a pass from Scott Wilson at the top of the crease and quickly turned to his forehand to put the puck behind Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak.

Kessel added a power-play goal to cap the scoring 32 seconds later.

Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 35 shots while starting for the eighth straight game.

Travis Hamonic and Shane Prince scored for the Islanders, and Halak finished with 31 saves (see full recap).

Streaking Red Wings win marathon shootout vs. Blues
ST. LOUIS -- Henrik Zetterberg scored in the eighth round of a shootout to give the Detroit Red Wings a 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.

Zetterberg's goal gave the Red Wings a six-game winning streak.

In the shootout, St. Louis' first shooter, Alexander Steen, scored but then Vladimir Tarasenko, Kevin Shattenkirk, David Perron, Nail Yakupoc, Robby Fabbri, Patrick Burgland and Dmitrjij Jaskin all came up short.

Gustav Nyquist scored on Detroit's second attempt but Frans Nielsen, Dylan Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheehan and Darren Helm all missed.

St. Louis had the better chances in overtime. Center Jaden Schwartz missed a wide-open net early in the extra session. Jori Lehtera was stopped on a breakaway midway through the period by Detroit goalie Petr Mrazek (see full recap).