Coulda Gone Better: Sixers Thumped By Knicks for Second Time in Two Games

Coulda Gone Better: Sixers Thumped By Knicks for Second Time in Two Games

Well, home-court advantage didn't make much of a difference in this
one—probably partly because half the fans in attendance were NY
boosters, with Philly fans evidently too enthralled with the prospect of
watching Michael Vick throwing pick-sixes on TV to come out in force
for the Atlantic division battle. Regardless, a couple extra Philly fans
in the seats would likely have helped little, as the Sixers again
proved out-manned and out-played by the New York Knicks, who moved to
3-0 with their dissection of the 76ers tonight.

The
much-heralded (by me anyway, sorta) insertion of Kwame Brown into the
team's starting lineup proved unsurprisingly inconsequential, as Kwame
mustered four points, three rebounds, and largely indifferent defense in
ten minutes of game action, before apparently re-aggravating his calf
strain and leaving the game. In his stead, we got a resounding six
points and ten rebounds from the pivot combo of Lavoy Allen and Spencer
Hawes, with Knicks center Tyson Chandler basically stomping over both of
them, and backup Rasheed "Human Victory Blunt" Wallace hitting them for 10 points in the second half, somehow.

The
Sixers didn't fare much better anywhere else on the court. Dorell
Wright, Nick Young and Evan Turner, the three wings that I said would
have to step up to help Jrue Holiday out (especially in starting SG
Jason Richardson's absence) combined to shoot 11-38, while Jrue himself
struggled from the floor with 4-12 shooting, though he hit threes and
got to the line enough that his over all line (17 points, eight assists)
wasn't all that bad. Jrue's real issues came on defense, where he was
torched repeatedly by Knicks point Raymond Felton—a teamwide struggle,
as the Knicks again shot the lights out from behind the arc, hitting 13
of 32.

Not a whole lot of positive to take from this one, though
first-round pick Arnett Moultrie did get his first bucket as a Sixer,
slamming home a putback in garbage time. (Hopefully Moultrie eventually
sees consequential rotation minutes, unlike the last late-first-rounder
we traded for, Craig Brackins.) Also, I continue to be unduly fascinated
by Evan Turner's suddenly immaculate free-throw shooting—the guy shot
under 68% from the line last year and seemed to split just about every
time up, but he's 12-12 from the stripe so far this season. Hey, when
you get blown out by a division rival twice in two days, you take solace
in the little things. The really, really little things.

After
the game, Collins gave all credit to the Knicks, said that his team was
still trying to figure each other out, and adamantly refused to
overreact to a bad two-game stretch against a really good team. It's
fair enough, and I do think the Knicks made us look worse than we are,
but it's still pretty discouraging to see your team get outplayed this
badly in two consecutive contests.

The Sixers next face the
Hornets this Wednesday, a similarly young team, but one that's proven to
be a very professional outfit, going 2-1 (against strong competition)
largely without the help from their two injured young stars, Eric Gordon
and Anthony Davis. If they make it three no-shows in a row for the
Sixers, we might be in for a long season, putting undue pressure on
Andrew Bynum to save the team with his return, still scheduled for
who-knows-when. Trying times for Philadelphia sports fans, for sure.

In 1st game post-Ersan Ilyasova, Dario Saric shines as Sixers' starting PF

In 1st game post-Ersan Ilyasova, Dario Saric shines as Sixers' starting PF

When Ersan Ilyasova was traded to the Hawks on Wednesday, it became Dario Saric's time to shine.

And shine he did in the Sixers' 120-112 win over the Wizards Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center. In the first game coming off the All-Star break, Saric got the starting nod at power forward. He certainly looked the part, posting 20 points (10 of 19 from the field), 11 rebounds and four assists.

Saric, now the only true four on the roster, was proud of his team's performance against one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

"We have a lot of veterans who can share the ball and that's how you're supposed to play," Saric said. "For me I'm not surprised if we [beat the third-best team] in the East, but I believe these guys can play very good basketball."

Saric was excellent in the starting role, but his exceptional play dates back before the All-Star break. Including Friday, he's averaged 20.5 points, eight rebounds and 2.5 assists over his last six games. The Sixers are 4-2 in that span.

Head coach Brett Brown is seeing what he expected to see from the Croatian rookie.

"He's a professional basketball player," Brown said. "He has been that for a while. His love of the game, his passion for the game is contagious. It's a thing that we loved maybe more than anything about him when we did the deal with Orlando, knowing however many years ago with the trade with Elfrid Payton and Saric. That was a calculated move."

Saric played almost 33 minutes Friday night. So what did Brown do to give Saric a breather? He sent out Robert Covington.

Covington has played the position most of his life but has spent his entire Sixers career on the wing. In a time of need, he stepped up for a team still adjusting to roster changes.

The 6-foot-8 Covington held his own against the likes of Philly native Markieff Morris. It didn't seem to faze his offensive game, either. Covington scored 25 points on 9 of 14 from the field (5 of 9 from three). He also added 11 rebounds and three assists.

Covington has also been a catalyst for the Sixers during their recent success. He's averaging 17.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 steals in his last six. He's also shot a ridiculous 46 percent from three (19 of 41) in that span.

"We can only control what we're able to control on the court," Covington said. "Everything outside of what they do in management doesn't include us. We can only focus on what we can control on the court, and that's what our main focus was on these last few days."

Saric continues to show that he was worth wait while Covington continues to prove that he's a keeper.

They've certainly had different paths. Saric was a lottery pick and regarded as one the top young players in Europe. Covington went undrafted out of Tennessee State and spent the 2013-14 primarily with the Rockets' D-League affiliate.

Bryan Colangelo has identified Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons as the team's "transformational players." That's likely true, but every NBA team needs guys like Saric and Covington to complement their stars.

Covington is impressed with the progress of Saric in his rookie season.

"Dario's a very special player," Covington said. "He's able to do so much on the court. Tonight, you saw every aspect of his game. He'll guard, defending, rebounding and making plays on the offensive game. That's what Dario does. Now that he's going to play more in the starting lineup, it's really going to help him."

Saric may be the frontrunner to take home the Rookie of the Month for February. He's second only to Joel Embiid in double-doubles (seven) and 20-point games (six) among rookies. Whether it's Saric or Embiid, it appears the Rookie of the Year will be a Sixer.

His promotion to the starting lineup and wins against teams like the Wizards should only help Saric's cause.

"Maybe you see [me start consistently], maybe not," Saric said. "The game first time here I try to find myself. I got a couple rebounds, but still I try to find myself with the new role. I've tried to move around, catch the rhythm of the game, that's the most important thing in basketball."

He appeared to find himself just fine Friday night.

For Shayne Gostisbehere, Dave Hakstol, Stadium Series brings back cherished memories

For Shayne Gostisbehere, Dave Hakstol, Stadium Series brings back cherished memories

PITTSBURGH -- For Flyers coach Dave Hakstol and defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, tonight’s Stadium Series game between the Flyers and Penguins brings back memories.
 
Hakstol coached North Dakota in an outdoor hockey in college, while Gostisbehere participated in one as a freshman at Union College.
 
For Hakstol, however, this whole idea of outdoor hockey began when he was growing up in central Alberta in the small town of Drayton Valley.
 
“I think everybody’s got great memories of growing up outdoors,” Hakstol said. “We had a back creek that we could shovel off. I’m sure everybody could sit back and tell you stories of playing on the outdoor rinks.
 
“For me, most recently, I’ve got two kids growing up playing on outdoor rinks, backyard rinks. It’s pretty cool. It takes you right back to the heart of the game.”
 
Hakstol’s outdoor coaching experience came during a game between Nebraska-Omaha and his North Dakota squad in 2013 at the “Mutual of Omaha Battles on Ice.”
 
“I don’t know how to describe it,” Hakstol said of the event. “It’s just a different feel. It’s an ideal scenario.”
 
He said while tonight's game is special, it’s still about the points, first and foremost.
 
“You are cognizant of everything that surrounds the event and the game,” Hakstol said. “Yet for us, it’s two points. We’re fighting for every point here. That is going to paramount.”

Gostisbehere played at Fenway Park in 2012 for Union in a game against Harvard. That night, Union won, 2-0, to become the first ECAC club to ever win outdoors.
 
“I played at Fenway Park against Harvard and it was fun,” Gostisbehere said. “That was my freshman year and the only one I ever played in.
 
“Good crowd. It wasn’t packed obviously, but it was a night game. The ice was really good. It was really cold, too. It was pretty cool.”
 
As warm as it was Friday here -- a historic 78 degrees -- temperatures will begin in the 40s tonight at Heinz Field and then drop. It rained this morning but has since ceased.
 
“The biggest thing for me was to take a second, look around,” Gostisbehere said, admitting he failed to do that in college and won’t make that mistake again.
 
“Just cherish it a little bit. You are so focused on the game, it’s tough. That was biggest thing for me. It was such a blur. Just being in college and having the opportunity to play at Fenway Park was pretty awesome.”

This will the Flyers first-ever outdoor affair in Pittsburgh.
 
“It’s pretty exciting and I’m glad to be part of it,” Gostisbehere said.