The Flyers have been pretty awful, but least the goaltending isn't the problem

The Flyers have been pretty awful, but least the goaltending isn't the problem

Ed note: Greg Paone is a decent guy and may or may not be writing about some Flyers stuff here moving forward. Greg writes ...

During my near quarter-century as a native Philadelphian, I’ve pretty much nailed these few things down as my birthrights:  the term “yous” is proper English, you’re not doing it right if you’re not jaywalking, the Roxborough Roll/South Philly Slide is a perfectly legal form of stopping at a stop sign, and it’s always the goaltender’s fault when things go south for the Flyers.

While the first three things on that list will always be true -- at least in my book -- the last one hasn't been for the Flyers this season. Not thus far.

The Flyers’ 1-7 start isn’t on the shoulders of goaltender Steve Mason. In fact, the story is actually quite the opposite.

Mason has been superb in the six games he’s started this season. The Oakville, Ontario native is sporting a solid .923 save percentage and an excellent 2.37 goals-against average. He’s given up just 14 goals on 183 shots against in his six starts, yet his record stands at 1-5.

Ilya Bryzgalov is smiling approvingly from somewhere on the Las Vegas Strip.

But think about Mason’s numbers this season for a second.

The guy is basically giving up just two goals a game. In today’s offense-friendly NHL, two goals against per game should mean more than one win.

But that’s how unfathomably bad the Flyers' offense, which has scored a league-low 11 goals so far, has been through eight games.

There’s also the whole defensive-breakdown-in-front-of-the-net thing where the opponent is left wide open in front of the Flyers’ net, but we’ve grown accustomed to that over the past few seasons. That’s nothing new.

It’s a shame because Mason’s return to his 2008-2009 rookie-of-the-year form has been one of the only fun things to watch with the Flyers this season. (It might be the only.) Mason has kept the Flyers in games they’ve had no business being in.

The most recent example was this past Thursday against the visiting Penguins.

At one point late in the second period, the Flyers were being outshot, 29-10, but trailed just 2-0 and were in the game because Mason was standing on his head. With the defense the Flyers were playing, it’s totally plausible the Penguins could have been up 7-0 instead.

Mason should be used to that predicament by now, though.

What do you know? The year the Flyers may finally have a legitimate goalie, they can’t shoot the puck into the ocean.

The hockey gods are so cruel.

The Sixers are the perfect distraction from the Sixers

The Sixers are the perfect distraction from the Sixers

There's your Philadelphia 76ers season in a nutshell, huh? Nerlens Noel gets traded for an all-lemon pack of Starbursts, Ben Simmons' right foot is still apparently stuck in a beartrap, Joel Embiid can't get himself dismissed from the nurse's office, and Jahlil Okafor is forced back into +1 status after everyone else passed on going to the concert with Bryan Colangelo -- and the Ballers still go out and beat one of the best teams in the East in their first game back from the All-Star break. Nearly everything about the Sixers is depressing right now, except for the team themselves. They're cool. 

Kudos to Brett Brown, man. The team is playing with such fluency and energy right now that it can withstand some losses in personnel without the drop-off being particularly dramatic -- at least for the moment. Replacing Embiid and Noel with Okafor and Holmes for as long as we'll have to do it will catch up with us in time, but for now, all you can do is marvel at the pace, cohesion and (with some mildly glaring moments of exception) discipline that Brown has the guys playing at the moment. I doubt there are five coaches in the league having a more impressive season than him right now. 

But the players were pretty good in this one, too. Dario Saric had 20-11-4 in his first start in three weeks, continuing his unlikely Rookie of the Year surge with his third-straight double-double and fourth game of 20-plus in his last six games. The All-Star Break hasn't cooled Robert Covington's hot hand, as the shooter went 5-9 from deep last night and is now 17-31 on threes over his last four games, also posting a 20-10 night with his 25 points and 11 boards. (Also three assists and four steals, whatever.) Richaun Holmes dunked over some people and reminded a handful of fans why they've gotten way too excited about him at various points earlier in the year. Good times were had by all. 

Games like last night's also just remind you how marginal the difference between winning and losing is. As they've been wont to do forever, the Sixers blew their considerable lead to the Wizards late in this one, which would've undoubtedly resulted in a tragic loss in years past. But these days, the leads are a little bigger going into the Sixers' fourth-quarter tailspins, and their defense is just a little tighter on critical possessions, and that's the difference between losing on a Bradley Beal buzzer-beater and hitting just enough free throws to squeak out a mildly secure 120-112 victory. 

Anyway, after an impossibly discouraging week of Sixers happenings, it turns out some actual Sixers basketball is just what we needed. Hopefully their level of play will continue to get better as news of their off-court developments invariably keeps getting worse .

Best of NBA: DeRozan scores career-high 43 points in Raptors' win

Best of NBA: DeRozan scores career-high 43 points in Raptors' win

TORONTO -- DeMar DeRozan scored a career-high 43 points and the Toronto Raptors rallied from a 17-point deficit to beat the Boston Celtics 107-97 on Friday night.

DeRozan shot 15 of 28 from the floor as he surpassed his 42-point effort against the Houston Rockets on March 30, 2015, helping the Raptors overcome the absence of fellow All-Star Kyle Lowry. Lowry sat out with a right wrist injury.

Serge Ibaka, acquired by trade from the Orlando Magic last week, scored 15 points in his debut, while fellow newcomer P.J. Tucker, picked up from the Phoenix Suns on Thursday, had a game-high 10 rebounds and nine points in his first game for his new team.

Isaiah Thomas scored 20 points for Boston, which also got 19 points each from Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart (see full recap).

Westbrook triple-double lifts Thunder over Lakers
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Russell Westbrook scored 17 points in his 28th triple-double of the season, and his new teammates fit in seamlessly as the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 110-93 on Friday night.

Westbrook also had 18 rebounds and 17 assists for the 65th triple-double of his career.

It was the first game for new Thunder players Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott, acquired Thursday in a trade with the Chicago Bulls. Gibson scored 12 points and McDermott added eight, even though they arrived Thursday night and weren't even available for shootaround on Friday.

Alex Abrines and Andre Roberson each set a career high with 19 points, and Steven Adams added 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Thunder.

D'Angelo Russell scored 29 for the Lakers (see full recap).

Pacers beat Grizzlies to snap six-game skid
INDIANAPOLIS -- CJ Miles made five 3-pointers and scored 17 points, Paul George had nine points and nine rebounds after remaining with Indiana following the trade deadline, and the Pacers snapped a six-game losing streak with a 102-92 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night.

Monta Ellis finished with 16 points, Myles Turner scored 12, and Lavoy Allen, Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young each added 10 for the Pacers.

The Pacers outscored the Grizzlies 64-42 across the middle two quarters and never relinquished their lead, leading by as many as 27 points in the second half. The Grizzlies finished the game shooting 41 percent from the floor (35 for 84).

Troy Daniels had 13 points for Memphis and Marc Gasol scored 12. Indiana outrebounded Memphis 50-39 and scored 29 points off 17 Grizzlies turnovers (see full recap).