To Beat the Predators: Flyers Invite Nashville in for a Little Visit

To Beat the Predators: Flyers Invite Nashville in for a Little Visit

After a week off for the All-Star Game and a mind-numbing shutout in Tampa, the Flyers have returned home for a four-game stand hosting the Predators, Stars, Hurricanes, and Kings. All are pretty solid teams, with the Preds and Stars occupying the fourth and third seeds in the Western Conference and the Hurricanes and Kings knocking on the eighth-seed door. 

Nashville is coming off of three straight losses spanning over the break. Two of those came against the Flames, with the second being a 3-2 shootout L. In those three losses, they've scored only four total goals, which is in keeping with their overall low output for the season (2.5 GPG, 25th in the NHL). But Pekka Rinne has been a stingy bugger in net for them, second to only Tim Thomas in both GAA (2.10) and save percentage (.929). 

Just what the Flyers needed coming off a shutout to Dwayne Roloson, right? A date with Pekka Rinne? Wrong! Rinne will sit tonight... Goaltending matchup and more, including a video on Bobby Clarke's banner night, below.

Anders Lindback will start in net for the Predators, and perhaps coming as a surprise to many Flyers fans, Sergei Bobrovsky will get a chance to wipe away a forgettable three-goal first period against the Lightning. The only thing we've come to expect from Peter Laviolette's goalie carousel is that he'll usually start the guy who's "hottest." After a below-average if also somewhat unlucky 20 minutes for Bob, the Flyers got some solid play from Brian Boucher. 

Maybe Lavvy wants to see how the kid responds to getting the hook. Maybe he wants to see if one of these guys will take over the job now that the second (less than) half has started. Who knows. 

More important than who is in net is whether the Flyers will be able to generate more pressure around Lindback, something they failed to do to Roloson. They are usually very good at camping out, crossing with timely screens, and especially bearing down on the net two at a time, with a pass finding a forward's tape within a foot or two of the crease. Looking through Roloson's big saves in the NHL.com video console, most weren't really anything too special, with little in the way of chaos around his crease. 

Lindback is a 6'6 rookie out of Sweden, but he's currently 10-4-2 with two shutouts, handling his workload fairly well. Like Bob, he'll also be looking to put his last start behind him, having been shelled for six goals in Chicago two weeks ago. 

Before the game, the Flyers will give Bobby Clarke his banner from the Spectrum, which is quite literally in ruins now. If ever anyone deserved the honor of a number hanging in the rafters, it's Clarkie.

 

The Sixers are the perfect distraction from the Sixers

The Sixers are the perfect distraction from the Sixers

There's your Philadelphia 76ers season in a nutshell, huh? Nerlens Noel gets traded for an all-lemon pack of Starbursts, Ben Simmons' right foot is still apparently stuck in a beartrap, Joel Embiid can't get himself dismissed from the nurse's office, and Jahlil Okafor is forced back into +1 status after everyone else passed on going to the concert with Bryan Colangelo -- and the Ballers still go out and beat one of the best teams in the East in their first game back from the All-Star break. Nearly everything about the Sixers is depressing right now, except for the team themselves. They're cool. 

Kudos to Brett Brown, man. The team is playing with such fluency and energy right now that it can withstand some losses in personnel without the drop-off being particularly dramatic -- at least for the moment. Replacing Embiid and Noel with Okafor and Holmes for as long as we'll have to do it will catch up with us in time, but for now, all you can do is marvel at the pace, cohesion and (with some mildly glaring moments of exception) discipline that Brown has the guys playing at the moment. I doubt there are five coaches in the league having a more impressive season than him right now. 

But the players were pretty good in this one, too. Dario Saric had 20-11-4 in his first start in three weeks, continuing his unlikely Rookie of the Year surge with his third-straight double-double and fourth game of 20-plus in his last six games. The All-Star Break hasn't cooled Robert Covington's hot hand, as the shooter went 5-9 from deep last night and is now 17-31 on threes over his last four games, also posting a 20-10 night with his 25 points and 11 boards. (Also three assists and four steals, whatever.) Richaun Holmes dunked over some people and reminded a handful of fans why they've gotten way too excited about him at various points earlier in the year. Good times were had by all. 

Games like last night's also just remind you how marginal the difference between winning and losing is. As they've been wont to do forever, the Sixers blew their considerable lead to the Wizards late in this one, which would've undoubtedly resulted in a tragic loss in years past. But these days, the leads are a little bigger going into the Sixers' fourth-quarter tailspins, and their defense is just a little tighter on critical possessions, and that's the difference between losing on a Bradley Beal buzzer-beater and hitting just enough free throws to squeak out a mildly secure 120-112 victory. 

Anyway, after an impossibly discouraging week of Sixers happenings, it turns out some actual Sixers basketball is just what we needed. Hopefully their level of play will continue to get better as news of their off-court developments invariably keeps getting worse .

Best of NBA: DeRozan scores career-high 43 points in Raptors' win

Best of NBA: DeRozan scores career-high 43 points in Raptors' win

TORONTO -- DeMar DeRozan scored a career-high 43 points and the Toronto Raptors rallied from a 17-point deficit to beat the Boston Celtics 107-97 on Friday night.

DeRozan shot 15 of 28 from the floor as he surpassed his 42-point effort against the Houston Rockets on March 30, 2015, helping the Raptors overcome the absence of fellow All-Star Kyle Lowry. Lowry sat out with a right wrist injury.

Serge Ibaka, acquired by trade from the Orlando Magic last week, scored 15 points in his debut, while fellow newcomer P.J. Tucker, picked up from the Phoenix Suns on Thursday, had a game-high 10 rebounds and nine points in his first game for his new team.

Isaiah Thomas scored 20 points for Boston, which also got 19 points each from Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart (see full recap).

Westbrook triple-double lifts Thunder over Lakers
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Russell Westbrook scored 17 points in his 28th triple-double of the season, and his new teammates fit in seamlessly as the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 110-93 on Friday night.

Westbrook also had 18 rebounds and 17 assists for the 65th triple-double of his career.

It was the first game for new Thunder players Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott, acquired Thursday in a trade with the Chicago Bulls. Gibson scored 12 points and McDermott added eight, even though they arrived Thursday night and weren't even available for shootaround on Friday.

Alex Abrines and Andre Roberson each set a career high with 19 points, and Steven Adams added 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Thunder.

D'Angelo Russell scored 29 for the Lakers (see full recap).

Pacers beat Grizzlies to snap six-game skid
INDIANAPOLIS -- CJ Miles made five 3-pointers and scored 17 points, Paul George had nine points and nine rebounds after remaining with Indiana following the trade deadline, and the Pacers snapped a six-game losing streak with a 102-92 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night.

Monta Ellis finished with 16 points, Myles Turner scored 12, and Lavoy Allen, Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young each added 10 for the Pacers.

The Pacers outscored the Grizzlies 64-42 across the middle two quarters and never relinquished their lead, leading by as many as 27 points in the second half. The Grizzlies finished the game shooting 41 percent from the floor (35 for 84).

Troy Daniels had 13 points for Memphis and Marc Gasol scored 12. Indiana outrebounded Memphis 50-39 and scored 29 points off 17 Grizzlies turnovers (see full recap).