What the hell has been going on with Sixers garbage time lately?

What the hell has been going on with Sixers garbage time lately?

With their 107-99 loss to the Wizards in Monday's MLK matinee--not really as close as that final score makes it look--the Philadelphai 76ers have lost three straight, and seven of eight. This is, of course, not particularly surprising: Despite winning four straight on the road prior to their recent cold spell, just about everything pointed to a downturn in the Sixers' play at some point, and now with injuries to Tony Wroten and Brandon Davies depleting the team's already shallow bench (and the inevitable regressions to the mean sapping Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young of their productivity), now seems like as good a time as any.

What has been notable to me, however, is the way that Coach Brown has handled garbage time in the three most recent losses. Here's how Brown has handled the end-of-game stretches of the three losses:

Friday against Miami: The fourth quarter starts with all five Sixer starters on the bench and Miami up by 18. Though the Sixers trim the lead to 14 by an official timeout at the 8:45 mark, about when the starters would usually start to trickle back into the lineup, Brown leaves the bench unit out there--even as Heat coach Erik Spoelstra gets his first five back in the game--and none of the starters re-enter the game before Miami pulls away and ends up winning by 15.

Saturday in Chicago: The fourth quarter starts with Michael Carter-Williams still on the floor, and Chicago up by a resounding 27. Though the game remains roundly out of reach for the entire quarter, Brown brings his other four starters back to the floor, and after giving him about a minute's rest, he sends MCW back out as well. The starting five fail to make any real headway, and are all eventually replaced by bench guys with about four minutes to go, as the Sixers lose by 25.

Today in Washington: The fourth quarter starts with Carter-Williams and Thaddeus Young on the floor with three bench guys, as the Sixers trail by 13. Though both Young and Carter-Williams have had strong games--MCW in particular having one of his best of the season, just two off his career high with 31--Young exits the game with eight minutes to go, and Carter-Williams with four minutes left and Philly down 16, as Spencer Hawes returns to finish things out with the bench crew. Though the Sixers quickly (and surprisingly) make legitimate inroads, cutting the Wizards lead to eight with two-and-a-half minutes to go, Brown leaves Thad and MCW on the bench, and Evan Turner doesn't play the entire fourth quarter. The Wizards just barely hold the fort and end up winning by eight.

The pattern here to me is very inconsistent. When Brett Brown left the starters out of the Miami game late, even though the final result was still in question enough to make Spoelstra nervous, I felt like I understood it--the Sixers weren't likely to come back, and the team had a road game the next night that Brown likely didn't want the team to be utterly exhausted for. I didn't love him throwing the towel in so prematurely against the hated Heat at home, but I could live with it, especially if it meant a better effort in Chicago (which it ultimately didn't, but whatever.)

However, if that was the explanation on Friday, it doesn't make so much sense today. Coming back from double-digits against the two-time-champion Heat and the mediocre Wizards isn't the same thing, and with the Sixers not playing again until Wednesday this week, it doesn't seem likely Coach Brown would consider resting his main guys a priority. Down eight points with over two minutes to go, the Sixers had a shot--an outside shot, sure, but not a dismissible one--to steal that game, and it's surprising to me that Brown would leave MCW and his 31 points on 13-22 shooting, as well as Evan Turner and his decent track record of clutch proficiency this season, on the bench for it, in favor of Lorenzo Brown and Elliott Williams.

Maybe, then, Brown wanted to reward his bench units for making their late-game runs, as well as riding the hot hands to see if they could battle back on their own? But then why did he re-introduce the starters in Chicago, when it was clear that they weren't getting the job done, and most of them were struggling through some of their worst outings of the season? Why only bring your best guys back when the game is most out of reach?

Of course, there might be a consistent explanation for all of this, and maybe you've been screaming it at your computer screen since you started reading this article: Perhaps Brett Brown didn't really want to try to win these games. Perhaps he's leaving his starters out there when the game's decided and going with the bench crews when the game's still a little in doubt because he didn't want to chance actually coming out of the game with a win. Perhaps this is the long-awaited beginning of the 76ers actually making proactive steps towards tanking.

It would certainly make sense, at least in theory, though it's hard to believe Brown would willingly do such a thing in his first season as coach, when he's not really given us any indication thusfar that that's something he and/or the rest of the Sixers staff would tolerate or encourage. Maybe there's behind-the-season reasoning that's not immediately apparent, maybe Brown and his staff just wanted to do a little late-game experimenting to see what works for future reference, or maybe Brown just figured What the Hell. He's earned enough of our trust thusfar that I don't feel right questioning his motives at this point, and even if taking is the driving factor...well, this is the NBA world we live in right now, and it might be for the best when all is said and done.

Still, it's worth noting that the Sixers have lost three straight games now, and in two of them they didn't seem to try their hardest to escape with the win. If the team continues to fold from here, we may look back at this three-game stretch as the moment when the Sixers patted themselves on the back for a surprisingly exciting start to the season, figured that was good enough for now, and figured we'd play out the string and try again next year. Hard to disagree with that line of thinking, though it might make the second half of the season a lot more of a chore to watch than the first.

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).

Flyers Hall of Famers return to toast Ed Snider, 50th anniversary

Flyers Hall of Famers return to toast Ed Snider, 50th anniversary

There were times when Rod Brind’Amour didn’t quite feel like a part of the Flyers’ family anymore.

Following eight years rich with memories and victories in a Flyers' jersey, Brind’Amour, a beloved player who changed the franchise on and off the ice, was stunningly traded to the Hurricanes less than a month into the 1999-00 season.

He went on to win two Frank J. Selke trophies (NHL’s best defensive forward) and a Stanley Cup in Carolina before landing an assistant coaching job within the organization.

“You get traded, you automatically think, ‘Well, I’m not what I thought I was,’” Brind’Amour said. “But that wasn’t the case.”

Especially once his phone rang and it was Ed Snider on the other line.

“I got a great phone call before Mr. Snider passed and him telling me what he thought I meant to this team,” Brind’Amour said. “That meant a lot. I really feel connected to the Flyers’ organization again and I’ll take any chance I can to get back and be a part of it.”

A year after being inducted in the Flyers’ Hall of Fame, he was among the orange and black greats on Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center to toast the team’s 50th anniversary with Flyers Heritage Night. Snider, the Flyers’ fearless and compassionate founder who died in April, would have been all smiles on Thursday night as a pregame ceremony at center ice honored the legends that played a role in fulfilling his vision.

Fourteen Flyers Hall of Famers were on hand as Bill Barber, Brind’Amour, Bob Clarke, Ron Hextall, Mark Howe, John LeClair, Reggie Leach, Eric Lindros, Bernie Parent, Brian Propp, Dave Poulin, Dave Schultz, Joe Watson and Jim Watson came out one by one. Family members of Snider, Gene Hart, Barry Ashbee, Rick MacLeish, Keith Allen and Joe Scott were also present.

The evening was all about family, just like Snider.

Poulin, who captained the Flyers for parts of six seasons (1984-90) and two Stanley Cup Final appearances (1985, 1987), said these are can’t-miss events to reminisce and remember.

“There’s a lot of demands on your time, a lot of different things, it’s busy for everybody and everybody’s got different things going on in their life, but when this call comes in from Brad Marsh (former Flyers player, team’s current director of community development), you’re marking it on the calendar and you’re coming,” Poulin said during the first intermission of the Flyers’ 5-4 loss to the Coyotes (see Instant Replay). “This is pretty special to be out there with this group tonight.”

Since retiring, Poulin, a 1986-87 Selke winner with the Flyers and two-time NHL All-Star, has coached, worked in front-office roles and is now an analyst for TSN. He’s always around hockey and talking hockey.

Outsiders frequently mention the Flyers, one reason why Poulin calls the organization “unique.”

“Still to this day, I have conversations with people that played a long time in the NHL that are incredibly envious of the Flyers,” Poulin said. “I had one as recently as Monday night. I was at a book signing for Darryl Sittler, who has a new book out, and we were teammates here. And I had a great conversation with Syl Apps Jr., who was an original Pittsburgh Penguin. And the first thing he wanted to say was, ‘What about those Flyers, what about that Philadelphia, what about that?’ Guys that never experienced it from the inside were always envious of what they saw, and to a man.”

Poulin said that’s a testament to Snider.

“It was Ed Snider, it was the continuity of a leader that through 50 years — which is unheard of in any industry, any business, let alone a professional sports team — kept it like it was,” he said. “And then everybody assimilated into that. Everybody became a part of it, everybody understood the importance of it.”

During the tribute, Brind’Amour gave Lindros a big hug, to the surprise of many.

“I haven’t seen him in forever,” Brind’Amour said. “It was just fun, when we got out there we just said, ‘It’s nice to be back on the ice again.’ It’s been a long time, I haven’t seen him. I saw [LeClair] last year obviously. But it’s just nice to catch up with these guys and relive some stories. We had a lot of great times, it was nice to see [Lindros].”

Brind’Amour was asked how so many former Flyers from different eras, with families and separate agendas, make such reunions possible.

He found his answer before the question even finished.

“It’s Philadelphia,” he said. “This means a lot to me. To be honest with you, I was out of it, I was doing my own thing and last year, when they did that whole ceremony for me, it just kind of brought me into the fold, that this is important and that they really did appreciate what I did here.”

And Snider, never forgetting any, made that clear with a phone call.

“I think there was a time there where I just didn’t really think that was the case, so it’s meant a lot to me to be back here and be in the fold,” Brind’Amour said. “I love the alumni. … Any chance to get to reconnect with these guys, it just means the world to me.”