The Ten Worst Philly Sports Losses of 2011

The Ten Worst Philly Sports Losses of 2011

Hate to say it, but it's pretty undeniable—2011 was way more about the crushing losses than the inspiring wins. Disappointing regular-season performances, heartbreaking playoff no-shows, sweeps and shutouts and all that bad stuff, adding up to making '11 way more "Rolling in the Deep" than "Party Rock Anthem" for Philly pro sports fan. Still, as any native of the City of Brotherly Love will tell you, the losing is just as much a part of the true culture here than the winning, and probably more so, so it never hurts (well, of course it hurts, but yeah) to get back to our roots every so often. Here were the ten losses of 2011 that most reminded us what it really feels like to be a Philly sports fan.

[see our 25 Best Wins of 2011 post here]

Blurbs written by various members of the Level staff...

10. Temple Loses to SDSU in the Second Round of the NCAAs, Mar. 19

All things considered, this wasn't a "bad loss" as much as it just stung like all hell. Temple, without two key starters in Scootie Randall and Michael Eric (the same two guys they're missing right now, by the way), had advanced from the first (now second) round for the first time in their last four attempts and was looking to push Fran Dunphy into weekend number two of the tournament for the first time in his coaching career. Taking a two-seed like San Diego State to double-overtime with a depleted roster felt in some ways like a moral victory, but as guard Khalif Wyatt so often reminds his Temple teammates and their supporters, "There are no moral victories."

9. Union Lose 1-0 to Dynamo in First-Ever Playoff Game, Nov. 3

It was impressive to even be in the MLS postseason in their second year, but their showing left a lot to be desired. The most frustrating part of the game was the curious lineup Peter Nowak put out there—down a goal heading into the second leg, Nowak partnered Danny Mwanga and Jack McInereny, the first time they were ever paired in a starting role. We still can't wait for March, but in that game we saw that more improvements would be necessary for this to become an elite team. Losing in the playoffs is a Philly tradition we'd like to avoid with this club if possible.

8. Eagles' Come-From-Ahead Loss Against the 49ers, Oct. 2

When the Eagles needed a win most after an unexpected 1-2 start, the Niners appeared to be just what the doctor ordered. Philadelphia had jumped out to a 23-3 lead by the third quarter, even despite Ronnie Brown's season-defining backward pass on the goal line, but the defense began to cave in the second half. Suddenly San Francisco was moving the football up and down the field, while rookie kicker Alex Henery missed a pair of makeable field goals that would have put the game out of reach. The final kick in the teeth came on the Eagles' last chance, when a hustling Justin Smith chased down Jeremy Maclin from behind and punched the ball free to secure a 24-23 victory. The Birds didn't get back on track until it was far too late, while the surprising 49ers went on to clinch a postseason bye.

7. Sixers Lose to Pistons to Clinch .500 Season, Apr. 13

After this game, the Sixers went on to lose four of five games to the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs—but none of those losses hurt as bad as this. The 41-40 Sixers faced the roster-depleted 30-51 Pistons at home in their last chance to clinch a winning record for the season (their first in over a half-decade), giving us some concrete evidence (however minimal) that this Sixers squad was different than the one-and-done wonders of '07 and '08. But Rodney Stuckey carved them up (29 points on 9-15), and despite stellar offensive performances from Jrue Holiday (21 and 7) and Evan Turner (18-7-6), it came down to a Jason Kapono three in the corner for the game, and like every single other big shot he ever took for the Sixers, he missed. Same old 41-41 Sixers.

6. Penn State Loses to Nebraska After Sandusky Scandal, Nov. 12

If we're being honest, the Nittany Lions' loss to Nebraska was not, in and of itself, the issue. The team was expected to struggle down the stretch—with their last three games as their three toughest tests—so their loss to a talented Nebraska opponent wasn't altogether shocking. What was shocking was the events of the week leading up to the game, which, frankly, are still too fresh for us to feel the need revisit here in any detail. But from the allegations to the student rioting to ultimate dismissal coach Joe Paterno, the Saturday afternoon loss on Penn State's Senior Day was an unfortunate end to the university's most unfortunate week.

5. Flyers Swept By Bruins, May 6

One year after the amazing comeback of winning a series after being down 3-0 in a playoff series, the Flyers were once again down 3-0, but went out with a 5-1 debacle to cap one of the most disappointing seasons in Flyers history. Losses of 7-3, 3-2, 5-1, and 5-1 ended the Richards & Carter era with a whimper. Tim Thomas was the glowing example of what the Flyers hadn't had in decades—a goalie who could carry a team to a Cup. The Flyers, meanwhile, couldn't even decide who should start throughout the playoffs. Even more painful, there were rumors that the Flyers and Bruins had a deal on the table that would have made Thomas a Flyer the previous year, in exchange for the now expendable Carter. This series as much as anything likely led to the dismantling of the team and a big-money, long-years contract offered to a goalie they hoped could be the one.

4. Eagles Unforgivable Loss to Arizona, Nov. 13

By the time the Cardinals came to town, the Eagles already needed plenty of help if they were going to make the playoffs -- but that's what the Cardinals were for, wasn't it? With Arizona relying on backup quarterback John Skelton, the game was supposed to be a breeze. In the end, the Birds came down with a case of the Larry Fitzgeralds. At one point, the All Pro wide receiver snared three deflected passes on the same drive, including a touchdown reception. Meanwhile, Mike Vick suffered some broken ribs on the opening drive, and with this knowledge, for some ungodly reason Andy Reid shied away from the run as LeSean McCoy averaged nearly six yards per carry. In the end, Juan Castillo's defense blew their fifth fourth-quarter lead on the season, effectively pissing away the club's final playoff hopes with a 21-17 loss.

It also spurred the famous Angry Greg Ryan rant. So.

3. Phillies' Game Two vs. Cardinals, Oct. 2

Cliff Lee with a four-run lead? Yeah, we'll take our chances, thanks. No one would admit it, but most of the Philly Phaithful in attendance and watching at home had to be chalking up Game Two as an almost-certain win after the Phils scored four runs in the first two innings, with one of the best post-season pitchers of the 21st century taking the hill for our side. But the $120 million man faltered, letting up three runs in the fourth inning, the tying in the sixth and the go-ahead in the seventh on an Allen Craig single—a lead the Cardinals would hold, knotting the series at 1-1. As the series headed back to St. Louis, the creeping doubt was undeniable—if we couldn't hold that kind of lead with Cliff Lee on the mound, then this series certainly packed the potential for true disaster.

2. Eagles Lose Wild Card Game to Packers, Jan. 9

As absolutely incredible as Michael Vick's first full season as the Eagles' QB1 was, the momentum had certainly started to sputter by the time of the post-season—as a certain Tuesday night game in Minnesota made abundantly clear—and going into their Wild Card matchup against the 10-6, injured-but-finally-getting-healthy Green Bay Packers, nobody could feel all too confident that we were the better team. The early results on the field were not promising—Vick was mostly contained, LeSean McCoy was all but bottled up, and surefooted David Akers missed two makeable field goals. Still, the Eagles were driving in the fourth quarter with a chance to win it, until Vick threw a jump ball in the end zone that was cleanly picked off by Tramon Williams. The Packers went on to win the Super Bowl, the Eagles put their pride before the fall in the 2011 regular season, and, of course, Akers broke just about every regular-season record for a kicker in his first year with the 49ers.

1. Phillies Get Shut Out in Game Five vs. Cardinals, Oct. 7

The hardest part about losing this series-decider to the Cardinals—well, one of the hardest parts—was watching all the idiot pundits on ESPN and SI and whatnot have the temerity afterwards to refer to this game as a "classic." A classic?? Didn't they realize that the Phillies scored zero runs in this game?? Didn't they realize that we totally wasted an all-time studly performance by Roy Halladay because our once-mighty offense couldn't manage more than three hits in nine innings against Chris Carpenter? Didn't they realize that we wouldn't even have been playing this game if we could have held that four-run lead with Cliff Lee in Game Two, or if Roy Oswalt hadn't let David Freese tee off on him in Game Four? Didn't they realize that this might bring about the death of the Era of Good Times at Citizens Bank Park?? Didn't they realize that the world was coming to an end because we couldn't score one f'ing run against this f'ing team that only got to October at all because we swept their closest competitor at home in three meaningless games just because WE WERE THAT F'ING GOOD????

Yeah, this game was a classic all right. Put it on an MLB Network marathon block with Game Six of the '93 World Series, Game Three of the '77 NLCS, and all ten games of the '64 Philly Phold. We've got our popcorn microwaved already.

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

The crowd erupted as Joel Embiid stepped to the free throw line. They chanted a phrase Embiid has been repeating for the past two years, a fitting welcome to his NBA debut.

“That was great,” Embiid said after the Sixers' 103-97 loss to the Thunder on Wednesday in the season opener (see Instant Replay). “That’s my motto, 'Trust the process.'”

After two years of rehabbing foot injuries, Embiid has his first regular-season game behind him. Embiid scored a team-high 20 points, shooting 6 for 16 from the field, 1 for 3 from long range and 7 for 8 from the line. He also recorded seven rebounds, two blocks, four turnovers and four fouls in over 22 minutes. 

“The beginning I was nervous, but once you make that first shot, it just goes away,” he said. “The fans were so into the game that it was fun. I love having fun.”

Sixers head coach Brett Brown enjoyed watching Embiid on the court as much as the big man liked being on it. Brown has seen the 7-foot-2 center grow and develop during his rehab. Finally, he was able to utilize his versatile skills in a real game setting.

“I can't say this loud enough,” Brown said. “For the city to be rewarded with a player that we all understand has unique gifts, special gifts, for him to go through all the things he has been through and play like he did on opening night, the city deserves it. Most importantly, he deserves it.”

Now that Embiid has been cleared to play, he would like to do so for longer periods of time. He began the preseason at 12 minutes and was increased to 20 in segmented spurts for opening night. Even though he exceeded that limit by over two minutes, Embiid is itching to be cleared to play more extensively. 

“It sucks,” Embiid said. “I feel like I could have played more but you know you’ve got to trust the process, got to trust those guys. If I have my minute restriction at 20 minutes, I guess I’m going to go with that. But obviously I want to play more and more and I think it can help the team better. But they have a plan for me and I’ve got to follow it.”

Embiid has maintained he wants to be a clutch player. Brown looked to him toward the end of the game as the Thunder pulled ahead late in the final quarter. He drained a fadeaway jumper to tie the game at 97 apiece with 50.7 to go. 

Later trailing by four with 10 seconds left, the Sixers went to Embiid. While he was whistled for an offensive foul, Brown was glad to have a go-to unlike in years past. 

“You have a target,” Brown said. “We tried to get the ball to him a lot. … By and large, to have somebody like Joel, where the mystery is solved like, 'What do you do?' You get him the ball as much as you can.”

The more the Sixers found Embiid, the more the Thunder had to try to defend him. Thunder head coach Billy Donovan knew what his team was going up against. He watched Embiid as a high schooler and coached against him during his tenure at Florida. 

“He’s gifted and skilled,” Donovan said. “It was probably our guys' first time seeing him … I knew the talent, the gifts. The one thing with him is, he’s got great footwork. He’s hard to guard because he’s herky-jerky. He moves. He’s got a lot of [Hakeem] Olajuwon to him.”

Opening night had been two years in the making. Even though the Sixers didn't win, the significance of the evening didn't disappoint. 

"I thought this moment was going to be special," Embiid said, "and it was just great."

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

NEW ORLEANS -- Jusuf Nurkic scored 23 points, Will Barton added 22, and the Denver Nuggets survived a dominant performance by Anthony Davis to defeat the New Orleans Pelicans 107-102 in both teams' regular season opener Wednesday night.

Davis had 50 points, 16 rebounds, seven steals, five assists and four blocks. His production helped New Orleans trim a deficit as large as 14 late in the second quarter down to two points in the waning minutes. He simply didn't have enough help.

The rest of the Pelicans combined to shoot 21 of 58. Tim Frazier scored 15 for the Pelicans. E'Twaun Moore added 10 points, but missed a 3-point attempt that could have tied it with 24 seconds left.

Danilo Gallinari scored 15 for Denver and Wilson Chandler added 12 points (see full recap).

Celtics top Nets in Horford's home debut
BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas had 25 points and nine assists, Jae Crowder added 21 points and Al Horford pitched in 11 in his Boston debut on Wednesday night as the Celtics survived a late scare to beat the Brooklyn Nets 122-117 in their season opener.

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 21 for Brooklyn, including a 3-pointer to make it 120-117 with 47 seconds left after the Nets erased most of a 23-point deficit against the Boston bench. But he missed one with a chance to tie it after Joe Harris intercepted Thomas' cross-court pass, and the Celtics were able to hold on.

Justin Hamilton came off the bench to score 19 points and grab 10 rebounds for the Nets in coach Kenny Atkinson's debut (see full recap).

Turner's opening act leads Pacers past Mavs in OT
INDIANAPOLIS -- Myles Turner scored 30 points, tied his career high with 16 rebounds and made a 3-pointer with 1:18 left in overtime to start an 8-0 run that allowed the Indiana Pacers to close out a 130-121 victory Wednesday night over the Dallas Mavericks.

Three-time All-Star Paul George added 25 points, including another 3 with 55 seconds left to seal Indiana's fifth season-opening win in six years.

Deron Williams scored 25 points, while J.J. Barea and Dirk Nowitzki each added 22 as the Mavs lost their fifth straight in the series. They still haven't won in Indianapolis since February 2014.

Dallas didn't tie the score or take a lead until the fourth quarter, yet still forced overtime when Harrison Barnes' open 3-pointer made it 115-all with 2.3 seconds left.

Turner could have won it with a long buzzer-beating 3, but it bounced off the back of the rim (see full recap).