The Center Can Not Hold: Under-Bigged Sixers Take on Wizards at Home

The Center Can Not Hold: Under-Bigged Sixers Take on Wizards at Home

Ugh. After getting blown out in Miami by a Heat team that couldn't miss a
shot if they wanted to (the night before laying just 82 on the Bucks—I
repeat, ugh), the Sixers should have been in for a nice little ego boost
at home tonight against the Wizards, who the Sixers have handily
dispatched twice already this season (and four times total if you count
pre-season). But not so fast, Rodriguez—the Ballers, already undersized
as is, will be desperately lacking in the big man department, with top
two centers Spencer Hawes and Nikola Vucevic out with injuries. OK, so
they'll just go small with Elton Brand at the center for most of the
game, right? Maybe not, since our starting power forward is suffering
from gastroenteritis and missed practice this morning, though he's at
the arena and it does look like he'll at least try to play.

I repeat: UGH.

Anyway, it could be worse—the Sixers are entering their easiest stretch
of the season coming up, with home games against the Wiz, the Bobcats,
the Pistons and the Nets (the four worst teams record-wise and
otherwise-wise in the East right now), and even an undermanned Sixers
squad should be able to take care of business in most of those games.
But with an absolutely brutal stretch coming up aftewards—I won't go
into the teams just yet, but trust me, it's not pretty—we need to be
stockpiling all our easy Ws for the winter, while we can. If we lose one
or more of these games because JaVale McGee, Boris Diaw and Greg Monroe
prove unstoppable inside, it may really come back to bite us down the
line when we're fighting for seeding (and possibly—gasp!—home court
advantage) in the post-season.

What's more, the Wizards have actually been playing half-decently of
late. They pulled the upset win of the year when they beat Oklahoma City
at home for their second win, and stayed in games against the
far-superior Nuggets and the should-be-far-superior Celtics until the
very end. The main reason for the improved play is the
better-late-than-never surge from sophomore player John Wall, who's
averaging 25.8 points, 8.3 assists and 8.0 rebounds over his last four
games. (Shooting numbers aren't great, but he's getting to the line like
a beast, with over 11 FTs attempted a game over that span.) But of
course, as much a concern as a hot Wall for the Sixers is previously the
mentioned center McGee, who torched Philly for 23 and 18 last time out,
and should be smacking his lips at the opportunity to go against a
Thad/Elton/Tony front line tonight.

7:00 tip from the WFC. By the way, the loss in Miami wasn't entirely
without positives. Evan Turner was looking sharp again, and played maybe
his best all-around quarter of basketball of the year in the second,
scoring double-digits before the half and ending with 16 points, six
boards and four assists. The team hung tough for three quarters, with
Vucevic in particular providing an unexpected spark with his 13 and 9,
until the big man went down with his strained knee and left us reliant
on the Battie/Brand/Lavoy Allen combo in the middle. The Heat pulled
away in the fourth, and proved once again that when LeBron is passing
and their other guys are making shots, they are not in the slightest way
beatable. Let's pray that if we have to face them again in the
playoffs, it's not until as late a round as humanly possible.

Flyers' power play rediscovers swagger in win over Canucks

Flyers' power play rediscovers swagger in win over Canucks

BOX SCORE

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – The Flyers got some swagger back Sunday night.

But especially so on the power play, which entered Sunday's clash just 2 for 19 over the last six games.

Two markers on the man advantage helped the Flyers edge the Canucks, 3-2, at Rogers Arena in Vanvoucer (see Instant Replay).

“It all comes back to finding a way to produce – and they did that tonight,” said Flyers coach Dave Hakstol, who had called for his power-play participants to rediscover that swagger.

Hakstol’s club won for the first time in its last nine games in Western Canada. More importantly, the Flyers (28-24-7) moved within a point of the eighth and final playoff spot, currently shared by Florida and Boston, in the Eastern Conference.

Thanks to the power-play success, the Flyers built a 3-0 lead in the game’s first 23 minutes and then hung on, atoning for a sub-par effort in a one-sided loss to the Oilers in Edmonton on Thursday night.

The Flyers converted two of three power plays while blanking the Canucks on all four of their man advantages. The loss prevented the Canucks (26-28-6) from getting closer to a Western Conference playoff berth.

“I thought we were playing some pretty good hockey of late, but the pucks weren't going in,” said Flyers center Brayden Schenn, who scored the winning goal on the power play at 2:38 of the second period. “Tonight, we tightened up defensively again from Edmonton's game and were able to score a few more goals. It's a huge two points going home."

Wayne Simmonds, also on the power play, and Jakub Voracek scored the Flyers’ other goals.

“We needed a win,” Simmonds said. “Especially after the game in Edmonton, this is good for the morale."

Shayne Gostisbehere assisted on all three goals, recording the first three-point night of his career.

Schenn’s winning goal came only a minute and 27 seconds after Voracek gave the Flyers a 2-0 lead at 1:11 of the second by sending Sean Couturier’s huge rebound into a gaping net behind Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller. Voracek’s goal was his first in 10 games. He had not scored since Jan. 25 against the New York Rangers.

How did long sought-after goal make him feel?

"Like I scored a goal,” deadpanned Voracek. “We won the game. That’s the way I looked at it. It doesn't matter who scored the goals. Special teams were huge tonight. I liked our power play. We were going all 60 minutes. This one kept us in the race."

The Flyers were a well-rested team thanks to a two-day break between games and a three-day break before the start of the road trip. The Canucks, on the other hand, were playing their second of back-to-back home games with only a day’s rest following a grueling six-game United States road trip. But there was still considerable suspense over the final 30 minutes.

Markus Granlund and Jannik Hansen tallied for the Canucks, who are known as comeback artists, at 3:43 and 12:42 of the second, respectively, before the Flyers shut Vancouver down the rest of the way. Voracek indicated the Flyers were not nervous in the final frame.

"I don't think we changed anything to be honest,” he said. We were pretty tight in the neutral zone. We didn't give them much. When we had a couple of breakdowns, [Michal Neuvirth] was on his act.”

Neuvirth stopped 18 of 20 shots as the Flyers outshot the Canucks, 28-20. He enjoyed a much better start Sunday, holding the Canucks scoreless in the opening period after allowing four goals on his first 12 shots on Thursday in Edmonton. One of his better saves came with just over a minute into the game as he got his toe on Markus Granlund’s dangerous chance from in close.

"I felt good,” said Neuvirth. “I have been practicing well and playing with confidence. The last game, it didn't work out. I put that one behind me and restarted my mind and got back to work tonight.”

“I thought he was excellent,” said Hakstol. “He was calm and settled in there. You can go back through that 60 minutes and you can pick out three or four pretty darned good saves.”

Neuvirth excelled while making his fourth consecutive start and sixth in the past seven games overall.

“It feels good,” he said of the heavy workload. “It feels better when we win.”

But he was not about to get too excited. The Flyers have a tough clash at home Wednesday against NHL-best Washington and a road game Saturday at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field against the rival Penguins as part of the NHL’s Stadium Series.

“We have a tough schedule coming and we have to be ready,” Neuvirth said.

Sixers Twitter rejoices in the Kings' pick swap after DeMarcus Cousins deal

Sixers Twitter rejoices in the Kings' pick swap after DeMarcus Cousins deal

All hail the pick swap.

When word got out that the Sacramento Kings traded DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans, Sixers fans on Twitter rejoiced.

On July 10, 2015, the Sixers traded away the rights to Artūras Gudaitis and Luka Mitrović, and, in return, received an unprotected 2019 first round pick, Nik Stauskas, Carl Landry, Jason Thompson and the right to swap first-round selections in the 2016 and 2017 drafts.

The Cousins move appears to significantly weaken the Kings, who are 24-33 and just 2.5 games better than the Sixers, so the pick swap looks healthier than ever.

But, for now, enjoy some samplings of Sixers Twitter from after the trade.

Here are some of the best tweets.