That Felt Good: Sixers Grab Second Win of Road Trip in Los Angeles

That Felt Good: Sixers Grab Second Win of Road Trip in Los Angeles

Though probably the best win so far of their season, it was hard to feel
totally satisfied by the Sixers' upset of the Memphis Grizzlies in
Memphis the other day—the game was too weird, too fluky to really be
taken seriously, and felt way more like a Shit Happens loss for the
Grizz than a substantial victory for Philly. Well, not tonight—tonight,
the Philadelphia 76ers just outplayed the Los Angeles Lakers, with their
best players stepping up in a big way and taking their second game in
five tries on this road trip, a better start than we had
feared/anticipated when the team was losing everything in sight.

Jrue
Holiday and Evan Turner were simply magnificent tonight. Jrue was one
of the few Sixers that played well in their Saturday loss at Portland,
with 29 points and nine assists, but he turned the ball over seven times
and came up short several times down the stretch. Against LA, though,
his performance was just about flawless, picking the Laker defense apart
for 26 points and ten assists, this time with just a single turnover to
go with it. Every pass he made was on the money, every shot
well-intentioned, every move creative and considered. I also thought he
played good aggressive defense on Steve Nash, though Nash still ended up
with a double-double (12 and 10) because he's Steve Nash.

Evan
had a lot further to bounce back from tonight, coming off easily the
worst three-game stretch of his season, averaging just five points and
five rebounds over the three contests, and occasionally looking lost and
downright lethargic on offense. He looked much sharper tonight, though
it's easy to look sharper when you're hitting your jumper, as the
Extraterrestrial was all game, finishing with 22 points on 8-14
shooting, his best scoring night in weeks. Evan was also
near-kamikaze-like in his assault on the boards, grabbing 12 rebounds
against the significantly oversized Laker frontlines, and also poured in
five assists (with just one TO) and sporadically inspired defense on
the likes of Metta World Peace and Kobe Bryant (who, of course, still
poured in 36).

But incredibly, the best player for the Sixers
tonight just might have been Spencer Hawes. Spence's resurgent 2012
season took a bit of a stumble in the team's last two losses, including
the Warriors game where he played less than ten minutes and averaged
over a foul per two minutes, but he was the man tonight, scoring 13 on
5-9 shooting (including some huge shots down the stretch) and
getting the offense flowing with his season-high five assists, including
a couple gorgeous looks to Evan open and on give-and-go dives to the
basket. More impressively, Hawes held his own down low with Dwight
Howard, who struggled to just seven points on the night, and ended up
registering four blocks, just a week after swatting five in Memphis.
Maybe the mullet had to go after all.

Very good win tonight,
minus some inexcusable gaffes (J-Rich and Evan's respective 0-fers at
the free throw line with a chance to ice the game on separate occasions
was pretty awful) and some luck with L.A.'s three-point performance
(just 3-22 for the night, not a rate likely to be repeated at Staples
anytime soon). At this point with the Sixers, you'd way rather see the
team win a tough road game because their best players played awesome
basketball, not because Dorell Wright got insanely hot from behind the
arc. It's some promising shit for sure.

The Sixers get a chance
to keep on feeling good, feeling great tomorrow night, visiting Steve
Nash's old team, the Phoenix Suns. Can the Ballers stay undefeated in
2013? Does Evan Turner love the movie Pitch Perfect? Go Sixers.

NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins are heading back to the Stanley Cup Final.

Chris Kunitz beat Craig Anderson 5:09 into the second overtime to give the defending champions a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final Thursday night.

Kunitz scored twice, his first two of the playoffs. Justin Schultz added the other in his return from an upper-body injury, and Matt Murray stopped 28 shots on his 23rd birthday.

The Penguins are trying to become the first team since the Detroit Red Wings in 1998 to win back-to-back titles. They will host Western Conference champion Nashville in Game 1 on Monday night.

Mark Stone and Ryan Dzingel scored for Ottawa. The Senators rallied twice to tie it, with Dzingel making it 2-2 with 5:19 left in regulation.

Craig Anderson made 39 saves, but couldn't get a handle on Kunitz's shot from just outside the left circle. The Senators are 0-6 in Game 7s in franchise history.

The Senators forced a return trip to Pittsburgh -- where they lost 7-0 loss in Game 5 on Sunday -- by leaning heavily on Anderson in a 2-1 Game 6 victory, putting both teams at odds with history.

Ottawa came in 0-for-25 years in winner-take-all games, while the Penguins were 0-7 in Game 7s at home in series in which they also dropped Game 6.

Ottawa coach Guy Boucher told his resilient team to not get caught up in the big picture but instead focus on the small ones, a recipe that carried the Senators throughout a bumpy transition under their first-year head coach to the brink of the franchise's second Cup appearance.

The Penguins, trying to become the first defending champion to return to the finals since Detroit in 2009, came in confident they would advance if they could replicate their dominant Game 6, when they were undone only by Anderson's brilliance.

Pittsburgh has been nearly unflappable in the face of adversity under Mike Sullivan, going 12-2 in playoff games following a loss over the last two springs. He encouraged his team to "just play," code for fighting through Ottawa's neutral zone-clogging style and the bumping, grabbing and pulling that comes along with it.

A chance to play for their sport's ultimate prize on the line, the sheets of open ice the Penguins found so easily in Games 4-6 closed up. For most of the first 30 minutes, loose pucks hopped over sticks to spoil some scoring opportunities while Anderson and Murray gobbled up the rest.

Kunitz, relegated to the fourth line since returning from injury in the second round, picked up his first postseason goal in a calendar year when he completed a two-on-one with Conor Sheary -- a healthy scratch in Games 5 and 6 -- by slipping the puck by Anderson 9:55 into the second period.

The momentum lasted all of 20 seconds. Ottawa responded immediately with Stone -- who stretched his left skate to stay onside -- fired a wrist shot that handcuffed Murray.

Pittsburgh kept coming. Schultz, returning after missing four games with an upper-body injury, zipped a shot from the point through Kunitz's screen and into the net with 8:16 left in the third.

Once again, the Penguins could not hold the lead. Dzingel set up at the right post and banged home a rebound off Erik Karlsson's shot that hit the left post and caromed off Murray's back right to Dzingel's stick.

Notes
The home team is 21-20 in overtime Game 7s in NHL playoff history. ... Pittsburgh F Patric Hornqvist skated during warmups, but was held out of the lineup for a sixth straight game with an upper-body injury. ... Karlsson had 16 assists in the playoffs to set a team record. ... The Penguins are 10-7 in Game 7s. ... It was the fifth one-goal game of the series.

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick experienced a painful rehab start on Thursday night.

Rehabbing with Triple A Lehigh Valley, Kendrick was hit by a pitch twice before being removed after the sixth inning of the IronPigs' 8-4 loss to Indianapolis at Coca-Cola Park.

Both times Kendrick was plunked in the upper left arm, according to Tom Housenick of the Morning Call.

There was no update on if Kendrick was injured or taken out for precautionary reasons. Thursday marked Kendrick's second rehab start as he recovers from an oblique strain that has sidelined him since April 15.

The Phillies' leftfielder started at third base Thursday. At the beginning of his rehab assignment, Kendrick was expected to play four games and see time at third and first base, as well as in left field.

Kendrick made a throwing error at third on Thursday and finished 0 for 1 with a run scored. In his two games, he's 0 for 3 with two strikeouts.

Kendrick hit .333 with four doubles, a triple and five RBIs in 10 games with the Phillies prior to landing on the DL.

When he returns, he could see time at third base instead of left field if Maikel Franco continues to struggle (see story).