Commence the Ownage: Sixers Rout Suns in Phoenix

Commence the Ownage: Sixers Rout Suns in Phoenix

You know what's fun? Winning by a lot against a bad team. Good of the
Sixers to remember this in advance of their game tonight against the
Phoenix Suns, who left little doubt that they are, in fact, one of the
league's bad teams now. After playing the Suns tight for about a
quarter, our second unit started to pull away in the beginning of the
second, and by halftime the game was already a laugher. The benches were
pretty much emptied by the fourth (Craig Brackins! Still no Marreese
Speights though, sadface) and the Sixers cruised to an easy 103-83
victory, bringing them to 1-1 for the season.

Watching the away broadcast on League Pass, the Suns' announcers spent a
long time harping on the Sixers' balanced offensive attack, and tonight
the fixation really was deserved. Despite breaking the century mark in
scoring, no one on the Liberty Ballers scored more than 15—Andre
Iguodala, Thaddeus Young and Jrue Holiday tied for the lead with that
tally—while three other players also broke double-digits, including Lou
Williams (13), Jodie Meeks and Evan Turner (12 each). It was the kind of
team ball we grew accustomed to seeing from the boys last year, and the
kind that should bode well for the Sixers' consistently over this crazy
strike-shortened season.

As predicted, Thad and Evan were big factors off the bench. The former
was distressingly off on his jumper—the part of his game he needs to add
to become a true offensive force in this league—but displayed his
typical wizardry around the basket, absolutely shredding Philly native
Hakim Warrick on one particularly shaming dunk. Meanwhile, Evan showed
that his mid-range game has become a fairly reliable weapon in his
second year, with that little ten-foot floater he's been showing off
recently starting to look something like a trademark move. He went 6-9
with seven rebounds, no assists but no turnovers either, picking up his
Phoenix-plaguing ways from where he left off last season.

And while Spencer Hawes didn't have quite the game he had on Monday—only
three assists this time, with four turnovers—he continued to show an
improved scoring touch (nine points on 4-7 shooting) and was again a
force on the glass, notching 11 boards in just 26 minutes of game
action. With Hawes' improved play and Nikola Vucevic looking decent off
the bench in his first NBA action (6 points on 3-6 shooting, a couple
boneheaded turnovers but some nice extra passes and good instincts in
the pick-and-roll), perhaps the center position won't be as much of a
black hole for the Sixers this year as we had feared. (Perhaps.)

Now, as we rejoice in celebration of the fine evening for the Sixers, we
should also take a moment to observe the sad state of affairs for the
Phoenix Suns in 2011-'12. After spending the better part of the decade
as the league's most innovative, entertaining team, it appears that this
is the end of the line for the Seven Seconds or Less Suns. All the key
players of yesteryear have been replaced with mediocre role players like
Channing Frye, Josh Childress and Ronnie Price, and the last remaining
holdout from the glory years, the inimitable Steve Nash, may finally be
seeing the downslope of his career. Tonight was the worst night of
basketball I've ever seen the Hall of Fame point guard have—four points
on 2-11 shooting, with one assist (!!!) and six turnovers, and not a
single memorable play the entire night. It's hard to say if Nash is just
going through the motions in a rebuilding year or if the guys around
him just suck that much, but it's a depressing sight for any NBA fan to
see the two-time MVP languishing like this.

But still, this is a Philly sports blog, and from a Philly standpoint,
tonight was a rip-roaring success. The Ballers head to Utah next for a
Friday night game, against another franchise in a state of flux. With
tonight's win bringing Coach Collins' record in Philadelphia back to a
42-42 state of stasis, it'd be nice to pick up the W in Salt Lake and
officially make Dougie's tenure in the City of Brother Love a winning
one. At the very least, it's nice to not have to wait until Game Five to
see the Sixers get a win this year.

Best of NHL: Patrick Kane hat trick lifts Blackhawks over Coyotes

Best of NHL: Patrick Kane hat trick lifts Blackhawks over Coyotes

CHICAGO -- Patrick Kane scored three goals for his third career hat trick to lead the surging Chicago Blackhawks past the Arizona Coyotes 6-3 on Thursday night for their third straight win and eighth in nine games.

Kane has 23 goals to lead Chicago, which closed within three points behind first-place Minnesota in the Central Division and Western Conference.

Rookies Nick Schmaltz and Ryan Hartman each had a goal and assist. Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival scored his first goal of the season in his first game since Jan. 15.

Chicago captain Jonathan Toews added two assists to extend his points scoring streak to five games and increase his output to 22 points in his past 13.

Jakob Chychrun, Ryan White and Radim Vrbata scored for the Coyotes. Chychrun and Vrbata each scored for the second straight game (see full recap).

Rangers outlast Maple Leafs in shootout
TORONTO -- Mika Zibanejad scored the shootout winner and the New York Rangers continued a strong February with a 2-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Henrik Lundqvist made 32 saves and J.T. Miller scored the game-tying goal in the third period for the Rangers, who improved to 8-1-1 this month.

New York moved into third place in the Metropolitan Division with 80 points.

Connor Brown scored for Toronto, which fell to 1-7 in shootouts this season. Frederik Andersen had a stellar performance in defeat with 37 saves.

The Leafs hold the third playoff spot in the Atlantic Division (68 points), two points back of Ottawa (70) and four back of Montreal (see full recap).

Islanders shut out Canadiens
MONTREAL -- Rookie Anthony Beauvillier scored in the first period, Thomas Greiss made 24 saves, and the New York Islanders beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-0 Thursday night.

Anders Lee scored in the second period and John Tavares added an empty-netter in the final minute to seal the Islanders' third straight win. New York has won the first two games on a crucial nine-game road swing and improved to 12-4-2 since interim coach Doug Weight replaced the fired Jack Capuano.

Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson each had two assists, and Greiss got his third shutout of the season.

Carey Price finished with 21 saves as the Canadiens lost coach Claude Julien's 1,000th NHL game. Montreal is 1-2-0 since Julien replaced Michel Therrien last week and has totaled just 14 goals while going 2-7-1 in the last 10 games, including four shutouts (see full recap).

Best of NBA: Rockets crush Pelicans to spoil Cousins' debut

Best of NBA: Rockets crush Pelicans to spoil Cousins' debut

NEW ORLEANS -- The Boogie-and-Brow era in New Orleans is off to a highly inauspicious start.

The Pelicans' tandem of newly acquired All-Star DeMarcus Cousins and All-Star Game MVP Anthony Davis was no match for the surging Houston Rockets on Thursday night.

Reserve Lou Williams hit seven 3-pointers and scored 27 points in his Rockets debut, and Houston crushed New Orleans, 129-99.

Davis had 29 points, and Cousins finished with 27 points and 14 rebounds. But New Orleans turned the ball over 20 times couldn't keep pace with the firepower of the Rockets, who hit 20 3-pointers.

Eric Gordon scored 19 points and Ryan Anderson added 17 in both players' first game in New Orleans since leaving the Pelicans. James Harden had 13 points and 14 assists (see full recap).

LeBron triple-double powers Cavs past Knicks
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James recorded his 48th career triple-double and Kyrie Irving scored 23 points, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 119-104 victory over the New York Knicks, who hung on to superstar Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose at Thursday's trade deadline.

James scored 18 points and had 13 rebounds with 15 assists for his sixth triple-double of the season.

Anthony, the subject of trade rumors because of a strained relationship with Knicks President of Basketball Operations Phil Jackson, scored 20 points, going 9 of 25 from the field.

Kyle Korver scored 20 points for Cleveland, which is 8-1 in February and has beaten New York 10 straight times.

Courtney Lee had 25 points for New York, which has lost six of seven and is 12th in the Eastern Conference playoff race (see full recap).

Pistons rally from 18 down to beat Hornets in OT
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 33 points, including three 3-pointers late in the fourth quarter during a pulsating Detroit rally, and the Pistons outlasted the Charlotte Hornets 114-108 in overtime Thursday night.

Caldwell-Pope scored Detroit's last 11 points of regulation, and his 3-pointer with 18.2 seconds to play tied the game at 100. Kemba Walker scored Charlotte's final nine points of the fourth, but the Pistons forced him to give up the ball on the last possession, and Marco Belinelli missed a 3-pointer that could have won it.

Detroit, which was behind by 18 in the third quarter, never trailed in the overtime. Caldwell-Pope's 3-pointer with 55 seconds remaining put the Pistons up 110-102.

Charlotte led 85-70 at the start of the fourth but missed 14 of its first 15 shots in the period, enabling Detroit to cut into the lead.

Walker scored 34 points. Tobias Harris had 25 for the Pistons (see full recap).