Burrrrn: Sixers Get Absolutely Scorched By Heat In Game 2

Burrrrn: Sixers Get Absolutely Scorched By Heat In Game 2

29 points. That's what LeBron James managed in the Heat's victory last night over the Sixers, a much better performance than his Game One effort on Saturday. But much more concerningly, that's also what the Sixers' entire starting lineup for the Sixers managed combined, with Jrue Holiday being the only of the five to reach double digits. They also shot 11-35 and had as many turnovers as assists (10 each). Now, one of the Sixers' strengths all year has been our bench, but if our starting lineup is that awful, it doesn't matter if we have Julius Erving and Charles Barkley coming off the pine. Meanwhile, the Heat's big three went for 64 points—nearly pacing the Sixers' entire team—as the Heat cruised to an easy 94-73 victory.

After the Sixers missed so many shots at the rim and from close range on Saturday, I thought for sure things would be different this time around. It was different, all right—it was a whole lot worse, actually, as just about everyone on the team took turn missing layups and open jumpers in the first few quarters. (The team somehow went 0-11 for the game on shots from between three and nine feet, which is just....wow.) Thaddeus Young, so deadly in Game One, was the worst culprit this time around, leaving nearly everything that left his hands just a half-inch short. His performance in the box score looks all right—8-20 for 18, with six boards—but most of that 18 came in garbage time, and before that, he was missing hooks, finger-rolls and jumpers left and right, killing the Sixers' momentum (whatever momentum they had) and neutralizing the one legitimate threat that the team had against the Heat.

Defensively, the Sixers' performance was actually not terrible. Dwyane Wade, already suffering from a migraine, was more or less taken out of the game, shooting just 4-11 for 14 points and turning the ball over five times, and the Sixers did a good job of making the supporting cast take shots, where they only went 11-29 (and 2-12 from three). But LeBron was making crazy shots, and Bosh remained dangerously close to unstoppable, draining or banking nearly ever jumper he took, going 9-13 for 21 points. The parade to the free throw line the Heat took in game one was slowed this time out, but they still took 29 free throws, nine more than the Sixers, and converted relatively consistently, making 23 of them.

The one positive to take from this game (and believe me, there's only the one) is that for maybe the first time all year, Evan Turner looked like a legitimate threat at shooting guard. Not to say that this was his best game of the year—he's had better, certainly—but in terms of just playing the two-guard position, I can't remember a game where Evan looked better-suited to the role. It was simple, really—he caught, he shot, he made. Evan was 6-10 from the field, and all six makes were from 16 feet out or further, including three from behind the three-point line. Each time he had an open shot, he made it—a feat which would hardly land him in the MVP discussion, since that's sort of what two-guards are supposed to do, but it's something that Turner has struggled with doing consistently all season, as everyone claimed he was still learning to play without the ball. For him to convert like that, in a big game where absolutely no one else on the team was hitting anything—it's a good sign, no doubt.

So what now? Well, it's hard to point out obvious adjustments that the Sixers should make to counter this Heat team, since as no less an authority than Coach Collins himself pointed out, if they're not screwing themselves up, they're just way better than we are. "If they’re playing great, they’re a better team," Dougie admitted. "OK? If they’re playing on top of their game, they’re a better team. I mean, they won 58, we won 41. That doesn’t mean that we aren’t  going to play and compete and fight. But when they come out tonight and defend  the way they did … it’s going to be very difficult for us to beat them." Honest, but not terribly encouraging. The one adjustment I would maybe like to see the Sixers make for next game is to get more PT for Jodie Meeks, whose minutes were justifiably purloined by Evan Turner last night, but who could have done more good things for this team than Lou Williams, who has now shot a combined 4-18 in the series to date. What about a lineup of Evan, Jodie and 'Dre, with Evan playing the point? It's worth a shot, I think.

Of course, the Sixers might not have any choice but to get a little experimental for the two games in Philadelphia, as it's now fairly clear that this team is going to have a lot of trouble beating the Heat straight up. I'd appreciate it if there weren't any more games as embarrassing as this, but it's hard to act too surprised by last night's result—when the Heat are playing to the maximum of their potential, really, there's no reason why they shouldn't win every game against non-elite competition by at least 20 points. As Collins says, that doesn't mean we're supposed to close up shop games in advance, but it does continue to demonstrate just how far away the Sixers are from being on the Heat's level—and how, in all likelihood, they'll continue to be this far away, as long as management believes that building around expensive, miscast supporting players like Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala is the surest recipe for team success.

Game three from Philadelphia at 8:00 on Thursday. Hopefully we can still salvage a little dignity out of this mess, even if an actual W is looking like a little bit of a stretch at this point.

Mackanin benches Maikel Franco and Michael Saunders as Howie Kendrick ramps up rehab

Mackanin benches Maikel Franco and Michael Saunders as Howie Kendrick ramps up rehab

Having seen his team's offense produce just six hits and one run in the previous two games, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin benched Maikel Franco and Michael Saunders on Tuesday night.

The benchings could last more than one game.

"I'm not going to tip my hand because I don't know what my hand is yet," Mackanin said. "I feel like I have to do something to get some offense in the lineup and there comes a point in time where I’m trying different things.

“At this level you’ve got to produce. You want to play, you’ve got to hit and they have to understand that. Nobody is here on scholarship."

Franco and Saunders opened the season hitting fourth and fifth, respectively, in the Phillies' batting order.

Entering play Tuesday, Franco was hitting just .221 with a .281 on-base percentage and a .377 slugging percentage.

Saunders was hitting .227 with a .273 on-base percentage and a .383 slugging percentage.

Franco was leading the team with 28 RBIs and tied for second with six homers, but his inconsistency and inability to harness his free-swinging approach was wearing on Mackanin. Franco swung wildly at breaking balls on Monday night and struck out twice. The 24-year-old third baseman has worked hard on developing a more disciplined approach with hitting coach Matt Stairs, but has been unable to consistently incorporate those adjustments into his game.

Mackanin said he was surprised by Franco's consistent struggles. He hoped the benching would take some pressure off the player.

"Befuddled is a good word," Mackanin said. "As much as he works in the cage and on the field in batting practice and does it right, when he gets in the game his head is still flying and his bat is coming out of the zone.

"You’ve heard me say this many times: Hitting is like riding a bike. I can’t teach you to keep your head in there. I can tell you to do it, but you have to do it on your own and he’s got to figure it out. Guys have to figure it out. They have to figure out how to get the job done. Whether it’s cut down on your swing, choke up, use a different bat, use a different stance, do something different. If you make outs the same way over and over, it’s not going to change."

Andres Blanco started at third base in place of Franco and Ty Kelly was in the lineup in left field with Aaron Altherr moving into Saunders' spot in right.

Quite notable was that on the same day that Franco and Saunders went to the bench, Howie Kendrick ramped up his rehab from an abdominal strain. He took batting practice outdoors for the first time since the April 15 injury. He could be ready for a minor-league rehab assignment later this week and be ready to play in the majors next week. Kendrick can play both corner outfield spots and both corner infield spots, so he could push Franco and Saunders for work if he hits and they continue to struggle.

Lifeless Phillies should call up red-hot Roman Quinn ... why not?

Lifeless Phillies should call up red-hot Roman Quinn ... why not?

The Phillies are a lifeless team right now.

For a while the starting pitching was the biggest issue, then it was the bullpen, now it's the offense. The Phils have hit .224 since May 12, which was when their 2-7 road trip began. 

Their .268 on-base percentage over that span is worst in the majors and their .613 OPS is better than only the Mariners.

Players up and down the lineup are slumping. Odubel Herrera has hit .207 with a .246 OBP since the ninth game of the season. Michael Saunders hasn't given them much at any point. Maikel Franco had an eight-game hit streak snapped Monday, but even still is hitting .221 with a .281 on-base percentage. 

At this point, why not bring up Roman Quinn and play him every day? It makes too much sense right now.

Daniel Nava went on the 10-day DL Monday with a hamstring strain suffered Friday in Pittsburgh. It doesn't seem to be a serious injury, but why not use the open space as an excuse to bring Quinn up for at least a few days and see what he's got?

Quinn could infuse some energy and life to the top of a sputtering lineup. Bat him second, play him in the corner outfield and see what happens. At the very least, he'd be a defensive upgrade over Saunders. At the most, Quinn's hunger to stick in the majors could result in a hot streak that sparks the top of the order the way Herrera does when he's hot.

Quinn is hitting lately at Triple A, batting .333 with a .424 OBP over his last 15 games. He showed last September that he can be an offensive catalyst with his ability to beat out infield singles, bunt for hits and spray the ball. Yes, he strikes out too much for a leadoff-type hitter, but it's just hard to see the downside of a call-up right now.

The argument against bringing Quinn up now is that it's too early to sour on Saunders, a player the Phillies signed in hopes of trading at some point. But think about how much Saunders would have to do to have worthwhile trade value. Yeah, you could flip him somewhere for a negligible return or some salary relief, but he'd have to be extremely productive for at least a month to get a team interested in trading a minor-leaguer of any value for him.

Pete Mackanin has tried many things to spark the Phils' lineup, moving Herrera and Franco down, sitting guys, challenging guys. The best solution, perhaps the only solution right now, might be a move made over his head to promote the Phils' speedy, switch-hitting outfielder who has a future with them so long as he stays on the field, which he has this season.

As for Rhys Hoskins and Jorge Alfaro, who have also hit very well at Triple A, they just happen to play the same positions as Tommy Joseph and Cameron Rupp, who have been the Phillies' most reliable bats the last few weeks.