Weird But We'll Take It: Sixers Win Ugly Season Opener Against Nuggets

Weird But We'll Take It: Sixers Win Ugly Season Opener Against Nuggets

How many times are you gonna win a game when every non-frontcourt player
you have shoots a combined 17-57? Well, the answer is at least "once,"
as that's exactly what the Philadelphia 76ers did tonight in their
season opener hosting the Denver Nuggets. The Sixers shot a teamwide
35%, but forced 22 turnovers, blocked 11 shots, and held the much-hyped
Nuggets to a resounding 37.5% from the field themselves, leading for the
great majority of the game and fending off a fourth-quarter surge to
ruin Andre Iguodala's already-mixed homecoming at the WFC. No Big Macs,
but Sixers fans will have to do with an 84-75 victory.

The game
MVP—and the league MVP, if you believe the chants reigning down from the
Wells Fargo Center—was Spencer Hawes. The Big GOPper put up 16 and 12,
with two dimes, two steals and two threes (!!), eliciting cheers like
you wouldn't believe from the Sixer faithful. The most impressive stat
on the night for Spence, though, has to be his five blocks—legit blocks,
too, and in big spots—tying his all-time high for the Sixers. Hawes'
post defense tonight was certainly as good as I've ever seen
it—admittedly not saying much, but still. It appears that if last
season's early dominance was a fluke for Spencer, then it's going to be a
yearly fluke, since he was great all pre-season and looked like a
friggin' all-star out there tonight. (And by my count, this is his second-straight home opener where he's gotten his name chanted—one more and he must have the all-time Sixer record.)

The
second star for the Sixers tonight—relatively speaking, anyway—was Jrue
Holiday. Jrue had a rough night from the field, starting off with a
couple three-point plays but then drying up for the majority of the
second and third quarters. But even if he took his time rising to the
moment, he certainly did in the end, as a third three-point play, a dish
to Spencer and another timely hoop in consecutive possessions helped
ice the game for the Sixers as the Nuggets cut Philly's lead down to
one. Holiday also distributed excellently as a drive-and-kick offense
intiator, ending with 11 dimes and just three turnovers. (Coach Collins
suggested Holiday might finish the season top five in the league in
assists, and...well, it's not impossible. We'll see after more than one
game.)

Aside from those two, it was a lot of Yes, But and No,
But with our guys. Jason Richardson and Dorell Wright drained some
threes early but went Kanye West-cold for the game's remainder, ending a
combined 4-15 from deep. Nick Young was typically sloppy early but
redeemed himself with some timely fourth-quarter hoops. Evan Turner
was...Evan Turner, ending with five points, six rebounds, two assists,
three turnovers and four fouls. It wasn't exactly a championship
performance from our guys tonight.

Still, the defense was there,
and even if the offense didn't always work, at least it appears to be
coherent. Jrue Holiday has the keys to the offense, and makes most of
his plays penetrating and kicking to his bigs spotting up on the wings
and elbows, or kicking out to his shooters behind the arc, with the
pick-and-pop with Spencer and Lavoy as a back-up plan and Turner and
Nick Young as last-resort options if the play breaks down. You'd like to
see it run a little smoother than it was tonight—like it was in the
pre-season for instance—but as Collins himself said, credit is due to
the Denver defense, and even though they were without offensive dynamo
Danilo Gallinari, this is a good team the Sixers beat tonight. Let's not
ask for too much out of Game One.

Anyway, obviously a lot to
work on, but a win is a win, and it's the first one they've had on
opening night since 2006, when they beat the Hawks 88-75 behind 32
points from Allen Iverson. Next up is a home-and-home with the New York
Knicks over Sunday and Monday, with hopefully more of a chance (against a
division rival) to see exactly what's going on from this team. I
wouldn't read a ton into anything that happened tonight—minus that
Spence might really be due for another early-season kick—but again, 1-0
is pretty damn nice.

Oh, and about Andre Iguodala—I hope it
wasn't any of you at the game booing him. I'm not gonna launch into a
defense of his eight years spent with the Philadelphia 76ers—if you
don't get it by now, you probably never will—but he served this team
ably through eight years, a lot of then more thin than thick, and I
don't understand how right-thinking Sixer fans could have anything but
love for the guy. There were at least two nice moments for Dre amidst
the booing: Video played of his Game Six heroics versus the Bulls, which
got even some of the haters clapping, and a post-game embrace with Jrue
Holiday, later revealed by Holiday to be 'Dre saying the two were
"family for life." Damn straight.)

Photo From Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

Instant Replay: Phillies 4, Marlins 0

Instant Replay: Phillies 4, Marlins 0

BOX SCORE

MIAMI — Jeremy Hellickson continued to enhance his trade value and Tommy Joseph had the big hit in the Phillies’ 4-0 win over the Miami Marlins on Monday night.

Hellickson shut down the Marlins for the second time in a week. The next time he pitches, it could be for them. The Marlins are one of the teams interested in the veteran right-hander. Scouts from several other contending teams were in attendance for Hellickson’s strong outing.

Joseph’s two-out double in the top of the eighth broke a scoreless tie.

Phillies pitching held the Marlins to two hits. The Phils have 11 shutouts this season.

Starting pitching report
Hellickson pitched six scoreless innings and gave up just a hit and a walk while striking out one. He exited for a pinch-hitter after just 70 pitches. The right-hander has pitched 14 innings and allowed just one run in his last two starts, both against the Marlins. He has lowered his season ERA to 3.65.

Miami’s Jarred Cosart came up from Triple A and pitched five scoreless innings. However, he threw 92 pitches. He allowed three hits, a walk and struck out one.

Bullpen report 
Trade candidate David Hernandez pitched a strong seventh inning for the Phils, picking up the win. Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez closed it out.

Miami right-hander Kyle Barraclough came up big in the top of the seventh inning. He struck out Cody Asche, Peter Bourjos and pinch-hitter Ryan Howard with runners on second and third to preserve a 0-0 tie.

Marlins right-hander Fernando Rodney struck out the first two batters in the eighth then gave up a four-pitch walk to Maikel Franco before Joseph’s two-out double delivered the game’s first run.

Rodney took the loss.

A.J. Ramos was charged with three runs in the ninth, two unearned.

At the plate
The Phillies survived 13 strikeouts, a 1-for-9 performance with runners in scoring position and 11 men left on base to score the win.

The Phils had just six hits. Joseph had a pair of them and now has 25 RBIs in 54 games.

Cesar Hernandez gave the Phils some cushion with an RBI single in the top of the ninth. Miami’s defense fell apart after that and the Phils scored two more runs to put the game away.

Asche had a hit to break an 0-for-26 skid. Bourjos is 0 for his last 17.

Trade talk
Andres Blanco is out for six weeks so he’s no longer a trade candidate, but others are (see story).

Up next
Jerad Eickhoff (6-11, 3.98) pitches against Miami right-hander Tom Koehler (7-8, 4.42) on Tuesday night. Koehler pitched eight innings of two-run ball in beating the Phillies last week at Citizens Bank Park.

NBA Notes: Dion Waiters signs 1-year deal with Heat

NBA Notes: Dion Waiters signs 1-year deal with Heat

Two people with knowledge of the situation tell The Associated Press that the Miami Heat have agreed to terms on a one-year deal with free agent guard Dion Waiters.

The two sides came to agreement on Monday. Waiters will make $2.9 million. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the team has not announced the deal.

Waiters averaged 9.8 points for the Oklahoma City Thunder last year, but had several big games in the playoffs. He played particularly well against Dallas and San Antonio in the playoffs before his role was reduced in the seven-game loss to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals.

Waiters will give the Heat another scorer off the bench (see full story).

Blazers: C.J. McCullom inked to four-year extension
PORTLAND, Ore. -- A person familiar with the deal confirms that guard CJ McCollum has agreed to a four-year, $106 million contract extension with the Portland Trail Blazers.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity on Monday because the deal hadn't been formally announced by the team. It was first reported by Yahoo Sports.

McCollum, who was named the NBA's Most Improved Player, averaged 20.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists for the Blazers during the regular season. He raised his scoring average by more than 14 points over the previous season.

As the 10th overall pick for the Blazers in the 2013 draft, McCollum bided his time on the bench for his first two seasons. He became a starter in the backcourt with Damian Lillard last season after four of the team's starters departed in the offseason (see full story).

Michael Jordan donates $2 million to ease racial tensions
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Michael Jordan is trying to help ease tension between African-Americans and law enforcement.

The NBA great and Charlotte Hornets owner said Monday he's giving $1 million to the Institute for Community-Police Relations and $1 million to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The aim is to help build trust following several shootings around the country.

Jordan says in a statement to The Associated Press on Monday that "as a proud American, a father who lost his own dad in a senseless act of violence, and a black man, I have been deeply troubled by the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement and angered by the cowardly and hateful targeting and killing of police officers," (see full story).

Phillies Phodder: On injuries, trade possibilities, more roster moves

Phillies Phodder: On injuries, trade possibilities, more roster moves

MIAMI — The Phillies will be without their best utility man and bat off the bench for at least six weeks.

Andres Blanco needs surgery to repair his broken left index finger. He suffered the injury making a tag play at third base during Sunday’s game in Pittsburgh. According to manager Pete Mackanin, Blanco will have a pin inserted in the finger during surgery on Wednesday.

“That’s a shame,” said Mackanin, who has called Blanco the best utility man he’s seen in his 47 years in pro baseball. “He was one of our best players. Maybe in six weeks he can come back. But it’s going to be a while.”

With the trade deadline a week away, Blanco would have been a nice fit on some contending teams. Now, he will stay put. 

Pitcher Jeremy Hellickson and outfielder Peter Bourjos remain strong trade possibilities. Hellickson started Monday night against the Marlins, who are interested in his services. A source confirmed a FOX Sports report that the Phillies have been scouting the low levels of the Marlins farm system in preparation for a potential deal (see story). The Marlins are considering other pitchers, as well. Some industry insiders view Hellickson and Bourjos as backup targets for teams looking for pitching and outfield help. Translation, the fate of bigger names on the trade market might have to shake out before the Phillies know if they can strike a deal. The trade deadline is next Monday.

The Phillies recalled infielder Taylor Featherston from Triple A to take Blanco’s roster spot (see story).

Mackanin gave a succinct answer when asked whether the team considered bringing up top prospect J.P. Crawford.

“None,” he said “No talk about him.”

Crawford could still see time in the majors later this season.

The Phillies are expected to make another roster move later this week when Aaron Altherr’s minor-league rehab assignment expires after Wednesday’s game. Altherr, who suffered a wrist injury that required surgery in March, is playing at Triple A. The Phillies could bring him up Thursday. To clear a roster spot for Altherr, the Phils could trade Bourjos or subtract a player such as seldom-used Jimmy Paredes.

Altherr was on target to be a starter in the Phillies outfield before he went down in spring training. He will play a corner outfield spot when he arrives.

“I'm sure he'll be here sooner rather than later,” Mackanin said. “I'm anxious to see him. He's important for us to get a good look at. I'd like to see two months' worth if I could.”