WHEEEEEEEE Sixers Continue Winning Ways, Beat Sinking Knicks 106-94

WHEEEEEEEE Sixers Continue Winning Ways, Beat Sinking Knicks 106-94

This is fuuuuuuun. After losing eight games out of ten, the Sixers have now won three in a row, all against good (yeah, yeah, decent)
teams, all with You Know Who playing lights-out ball. Even with a short
rotation (only eight guys played minutes, and Jodie Meeks played just
6:57) and with two of those guys being offensively invisible (eight
combined points for Jrue Holiday and Nik Vucevic, with Jrue going just
2-14 from the field), the Sixers still were able to pull away late in
the third and early in the fourth, winning by a 106-94 score that was
out of reach for New York the entire fourth quarter.

Efficient shooting nights from our power forwards (27 points on 12-21 FG
for the Thaddeus Young and Elton Brand combo) was a key, as was Jrue's
defense on waning Knicks sensation Jeremy Lin, but today, three guys on
the Sixers really provided the story. Andre Iguodala had a typical
near-triple-double, posting 19 points (on 7-11 shooting with two big
threes), eight assists and seven rebounds, along with four steals and D
that held ("held") Carmelo Anthony to 22 points on 5-13 shooting. ("I
think he's the best perimeter defender in the NBA," Coach Collins said
after the game. "That's cool," said 'Dre in response.) And Sour Patch
Lou Williams was way more sweet than sour today, going off for 12 points
in the final three-and-a-half minutes of the third quarter, busting the
game wide open for the Ballers.

But you know the guy's name that I want to be talking about. Evan Marcel
Turner (and no I didn't even have to Wikipedia that, yikes) was a beast
once more today, proving that it's not just within the friendly
confines of the Wells Fargo Center where he can dominate from the
two-guard position. Turner was absolutely everywhere in the first
quarter, pacing the Sixers through Jrue's tough shooting start, and
delivering two absolutely gorgeous dimes to Andre Iguodala in the open
court (only one of which he was given an assist for, damn MSG scorer).
He nearly had a double-double at halftime and got scorching hot again in
the third, scoring 13 points in the quarter and ending with an awesome
24 points and 15 rebounds, in addition to playing solid D on a rotating
cast of Knick guards (and also power forward Steve Novak, for some
reason). Five TOs is a couple too many, perhaps, but we're certainly not
gonna press it.

That's three games in a row now of incredible play from Turner—three
more than he'd had in nearly two months leading up to the Boston game.
You want more numbers? Here are more numbers: In four games since being
moved to the starting lineup against Milwaukee (where he scored two
points on 1-12 shooting, dragging down a lot of these numbers) Evan is
now averaging 17 points and 12 rebounds on 49% shooting—fine numbers for
a power forward, incredible for a shooting guard. His 66 points
combined in the last three games are more than he had in the 14 leading
up to them, and his 11 free throws (!!) made in the last three are as
many as he had in the 21 games (!!!!) before that. To do it today on the
road, against a division rival, in a team win...you can't say enough
about it.

[VIDEO: watch Turner's sweet over-the-shoulder dish to set up Dre's huge slam]

Of course, you don't want to get too used to this level of production
from ET, given just how much the Knicks' own breakout star has fallen of
late. Jeremy Lin's stat line today wasn't quite unseemly—14 points and
seven assists, though on only 5-18 shooting and with six turnovers—but
clearly, the honeymoon is over with Linsanity. The Knicks have lost five
straight now, with Lin averaging 16.4 points and 7.2 assists over the
losing streak—not bad numbers, but along with four turnovers a game and
on just 39% shooting, while the Knicks' offense has stagnated and their
defense has gone the way of the slap bracelet. Hearty boos rained down
on the 'Bockers from the MSG faithful today—directed largely at Carmelo
Anthony, whose return has more or less coincided with the team's return
to losing ways (though a suddenly much-tougher schedule didn't help
either). Even as a Sixer fan, it's kind of sad to see, and it's a
sobering reminder that as good as the Extraterrestrial and his Sixers
are playing right now, all may be due for a tiny regression at some
point.

One other note about today's game: The Sixers' quest for a thirty-point
scorer—dating back to when Elton Brand scored 33 against the Knicks in
February of 2011—looked like it may finally have been coming to an end,
with Lou's 28 and Evan's 24 midway through the fourth both threatening
to break the seal. Naturally, both players dried up immediately, with
Lou ending the fourth on an 0-6 stretch, and Evan only taking (and
missing) one shot in the quarter. I still have no idea what to make of
this team's inability to find a 30-point scorer, though Turner summarily
shrugged off my question about the streak after the game, and given the
team's 43-32 overall regular season record since that EB performance,
maybe he's right to do so.

A couple days off now for the Liberty Ballers, before they face the
Pacers in Indiana on Wednesday—hopefully with their starting center,
Spencer Hawes, back in the lineup for the first time since February 6th.
With their win this afternoon, the Sixers are now tied for fourth in
the standings with Indiana, though Philly of course gets the edge as a
division leader, and they're just 1.5 games behind Orlando—who,
incidentally, play the Pacers this evening. A week ago, I was thinking
that as long as the Sixers made the playoffs and didn't have to face the
Heat in the first round, I'd be fine with it. Now I'm looking at
standings and projecting potential first-round (and second-round!!)
matchups again. I repeat: This is fuuuuuuuuuuuuun.

Ryan Howard's miserable May continues as Tigers out-power Phillies

may2316-howard2-slide.jpg

Ryan Howard's miserable May continues as Tigers out-power Phillies

DETROIT — Back when they were racking up National League East titles and filling Citizens Bank Park night after night, the Phillies could slug with anyone.
 
Those days are gone.
 
So even on a night when they got some power from two young up-and-comers in their lineup, the Phillies still couldn’t get enough to match up with the Detroit Tigers on Monday night.
 
“We don’t have enough pop to go blow for blow with them,” manager Pete Mackanin said.
 
The Tigers belted four home runs, three against starting pitcher Vince Velasquez, in beating the Phillies, 5-4, at Comerica Park (see Instant Replay).
 
Maikel Franco and Tommy Joseph both homered for the Phillies, but Ryan Howard, no longer even close to the player he was during those aforementioned title years, slipped deeper into the May quicksand. He went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts to fall to .156 on the season. He is 4 for 48 (.083) in the month of May.
 
“Man, it’s been brutal,” Howard said after the game. “I’m not going to lie. I need some breaks, man. It’s been tough. I’ve hit some balls hard, but they’re not finding any real estate out there.
 
“I have to keep grinding and swinging. Luckily, it’s still early to get it turned around.”
 
Yes, it’s early for some guys.
 
But it might not be that early for Howard. He’s 36 and in the final year of his contract. His slump has coincided with Joseph’s ascension from the minors. Joseph played first base Monday night and looked good at the position. In addition to hitting a game-tying homer in the sixth, he had a double. Half of his six hits in his first seven games in the majors have been for extra bases.
 
Joseph will continue to play first base while Howard serves as the designated hitter in the final two games of the interleague series in Detroit. After that, Joseph is expected to start against lefty Jon Lester in Chicago on Friday. If he keeps hitting — and Howard keeps struggling — the situation could be ripe for Mackanin to continue to play Joseph, even against the right-handers Howard usually sees.
 
“I'm going to look at it a week at a time,” Mackanin said. “We'll see. At some point it might come to that, but I can't say it's imminent.”
 
If Howard starts spending more time on the bench, it will be part of a downhill progression that started in the second half of last season when he became a platoon player. Will a progression to the bench ultimately lead to his being released in the coming weeks? Well, if Joseph keeps hitting and continues to earn playing time, management may have to seriously ponder the move.
 
Even with Franco and Joseph hitting home runs, the Phillies didn’t have enough to match the Tigers’ thunder.
 
Miguel Cabrera belted two home runs and in the seventh inning clubbed his 500th career double. He then came around to score the go-ahead run on a single by Victor Martinez.
 
Entering the game, the Tigers were among the top teams in the American League in batting average (.265), runs per game (4.60), homers (56) and OPS (.758).
 
Meanwhile, the Phillies couldn’t get much lower in offense. They ranked near the bottom in the National League in batting average (.233), runs per game (3.23), homers (32) and OPS (.651).
 
“You look up and down their lineup on the scoreboard and it looks like everybody is hitting .300 with eight or 10 home runs,” Mackanin said. “It can be daunting.
 
“The middle of their lineup hurt us with the long ball. We knew they were swinging the bats well lately. They weren’t earlier. Now they’re swinging well and we couldn’t contain them.
 
“We got 12 hits of our own. But they’ve got a lot of power on that team.”
 
The Phillies are at the start of a challenging trip — three in Detroit followed by three against the Cubs in Wrigley Field. The Cubs have the majors’ best record. The Phillies, a surprising four games over .500, will be tested on this trip.
 
They did not pass the first test. Velasquez had trouble commanding his pitches and for the second straight start ran a high pitch count. He took a 3-1 lead to the mound in the fifth, but it evaporated quickly under the weight of homers by J.D. Martinez and Cabrera. Reliever Colton Murray also gave up a homer in the inning. He also allowed the go-ahead run in the seventh as Mackanin held David Hernandez back in case the Phils got a lead.
 
“Velasquez didn’t have any command of his secondary pitches, pretty basic stuff, and he left some fastballs over the plate,” Mackanin said. “You have to throw quality pitches to a lineup like this. If you make mistakes against them, they don’t miss. If you don’t command your secondary pitches against good hitters, they become like sharks and smell blood and hit the fastball.”
 
Velasquez said he should have gotten the loss, not Murray.
 
“You can’t shy away from hitters and I did that,” he said. “You’ve got to pitch inside. I pitched around them.
 
“I’ve got to do something about this. I’ve got to challenge hitters.”

With game on the line, Pete Mackanin benches his best player for lack of hustle

052316_greene_on_herrara_webrefframe_1.jpg

With game on the line, Pete Mackanin benches his best player for lack of hustle

BOX SCORE

DETROIT — Phillies manager Pete Mackanin made a strong statement Monday night when he benched his best hitter in the seventh inning of a tie game.
 
With Odubel Herrera on the bench for the final innings, the Phillies went on to lose, 5-4, to the Detroit Tigers (see Instant Replay).
 
Mackanin did not regret his decision to yank Herrera and his team-high .335 batting average from the game.
 
“It’s important to me to set that tone,” Mackanin said. “When you don’t hustle, I’ve got a problem.”
 
Herrera had singled in each of his first three at-bats. He drove in the Phillies’ first run with a hit in the third inning.
 
But when he bounced back to the pitcher and took his time getting to first base in the seventh, Mackanin abruptly pulled him. Even Ryan Howard said something to Herrera in the dugout.
 
“He didn’t run,” Mackanin said. “One of the ingredients to our success to this point is the fact that guys play with energy and they play hard. We’re training them to play the game the right way and not running is not the right way.”
 
Herrera said he did not run because he was “frustrated” and “angry” with the at-bat. He said Tigers reliever Justin Wilson “got in his head” by varying his delivery times. Herrera even mentioned that Wilson quick-pitched him.
 
“The pitcher was playing with me,” he said. “I have to learn from it. I didn’t think [Mackanin] was going to bench me, but I understand why. I can’t argue. I was frustrated. I respect the decision. I know that I did wrong. I have to learn from my mistakes and it won’t happen again.”
 
Mackanin is a huge fan of Herrera. He has predicted the 24-year-old Venezuelan will someday win a batting title.
 
But Mackanin indicated after Monday night’s game that Herrera might be developing some bad habits — at least when it comes to the hustle that Mackanin values. The front office values it, too. Playing with “energy” is something the front office frequently says it wants to see, and the ability to get his players to play with energy is one of Mackanin’s strengths.
 
“I’ve seen it in the past and it’s been trickling in,” Mackanin said of Herrera’s occasional lapses in hustle. “I didn’t like it and I made the decision. He knows he should have run.”
 
Jonathan Papelbon put a chokehold on Bryce Harper’s neck last year in Washington for a similar transgression.
 
In the Phillies’ dugout Monday night, Herrera got a little talking-to from Howard.
 
“That was great to see,” Mackanin said.
 
Said Howard: “Doobie's got a lot of promise. He’s going to be around this game for a long time. He makes things happen. He brings energy to the game.
 
“The pitcher lost the grip and had to double-pump. If you’re running hard, maybe he makes a bad throw and you’re on base.
 
“I just told him, ‘You’ve got to keep going. I know it’s not the at-bat you wanted, but look at me, bro, I’m still out there grinding.’ If he’s running there, the pitcher could throw it away and he could be on second and we could squeeze a run out.”
 
Howard went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts to fall to .156 on the season. He is 4 for 48 (.083) in the month of May (see story).
 
Mackanin said his message to Herrera was complete. Herrera will be back in the starting lineup on Tuesday night.

NBA Playoffs: Raptors hold off Cavs to even East Finals 2-2

052316_colangelo_sot_webbestvideo3_1920x1080_691483715839.jpg

NBA Playoffs: Raptors hold off Cavs to even East Finals 2-2

BOX SCORE

TORONTO -- A series that once looked lopsided is now even.

Kyle Lowry scored 35 points, including a driving layup in the final minute, and DeMar DeRozan had 32 as the Toronto Raptors evened the Eastern Conference Finals by beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 105-99 in Game 4 on Monday night.

DeMarre Carroll scored 11 points and Bismack Biyombo had 14 rebounds as Toronto improved to 8-2 at home this postseason and got back on level terms after big losses in Games 1 and 2.

"We've been counted out, and we like that challenge," DeRozan said.

The next challenge for Toronto? Game 5 on Wednesday night in Cleveland, where the Raptors are 0-3 this season, losing by a combined 72 points.

"We have to continue to make sure that when they punch, we punch back," Lowry said. "And if they punch three times, we punch four times."

The Raptors are 2-6 on the road in the playoffs.

After a 10-0 start to these playoffs, the Cavaliers are counting on home court advantage to help them reach their second straight Finals.

"Going back home we have to play a lot better and I think we will," LeBron James said.

Cleveland lost consecutive playoff games to an Eastern Conference opponent for the first time since dropping the final three games of the conference semifinals to Boston in 2010.

"We had a few defensive breakdowns that you can't have down the stretch of a game, especially in the playoffs," Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. "They executed every time we made a mistake."

James scored 29 points and Kyrie Irving had 26 for the Cavaliers, who trailed by as many as 18 points. Channing Frye scored nine of his 12 points in the fourth quarter.

Lowry scored nine in the fourth and DeRozan had 12, connecting on five of six shots.

"It's a cakewalk for me when (Lowry) gets going," DeRozan said. "It opens up everything."

The Raptors led 78-69 to begin the fourth but Frye made consecutive 3-pointers as Cleveland opened the final quarter with an 8-0 run, cutting it to 78-77. The Cavaliers made their first 11 shots of the fourth quarter.

"It wasn't enough because we got off to a horrible first half once again in this building and you're playing catch up the whole game," James said.

Frye's errant 3-point attempt at 4:12 was Cleveland's first miss of the fourth. DeRozan made two free throws at the other end and, after another miss by Frye, Carroll made one of two to put Toronto up 99-96 with 3:23 to go.

A long 3 by Irving made it 101-99 with 2:00 left, but DeRozan answered with a driving bank shot at 1:33. Toronto got the ball back after Biyombo blocked J.R. Smith's 3, and Biyombo kept the offensive possession alive by rebounding Lowry's missed shot. After a timeout, Lowry let the shot clock wind down before driving for the decisive layup, making it 105-99 with 22 seconds to go.

Toronto jumped out to a 13-5 lead as Cleveland missed eight of its first 10 shots. Following a timeout, the Cavs made five of their next six to cut the deficit but the Raptors led 27-24 after one quarter.

Lowry scored 15 points in the second, making three of Toronto's four 3-pointers, as the Raptors opened a 57-41 halftime lead despite not shooting a single free throw in the first two quarters. It marked the first time a team led by 15 or more at halftime in a conference finals game without shooting a free throw since Game 2 of the 2001 East Finals between Milwaukee and Philadelphia. The Bucks made two of six from the line, the fewest ever made in an NBA playoff game at the time.

DeRozan shot Toronto's first free throws at 6:13 of the third after being tackled by Smith on a drive. The foul drought came after Raptors coach Dwane Casey was fined $25,000 for criticizing the officials following Toronto's Game 3 win.

Fans cheered derisively when Matthew Dellavedova was called for Cleveland's first foul of the game at 8:56 of the second.

Not much to Love
After shooting 3 for 19 in Game 3, Kevin Love shot 4 for 14 in Game 4. He finished with 10 points. Love did not play in the fourth after appearing to injure his left ankle when he stepped on referee David Guthrie late in the third. "It didn't feel too great," Love said. Lue said Love's health was "no concern."

Fair and foul
Cleveland didn't shoot any free throws in the third quarter and had just two in the fourth. Twelve of Toronto's 19 free throws came in the fourth.

Tip-ins
Cavaliers: James and Irving each had six assists. ... Cleveland shot 3 for 23 from 3-point range in the first half. The finished 13 for 41. . Cleveland's Dahntay Jones served a one-game suspension for hitting Biyombo in the groin in Game 3.

Raptors: Raptors C Jonas Valanciunas was active but did not play. He's been out since spraining his right ankle in the third quarter of Game 3 against Miami on May 7. ... Toronto is 10-1 in the playoffs when holding opponents below 100 points.