Garbage Time For All, Big Macs for No One: Sixers Beat Raps 97-62

Garbage Time For All, Big Macs for No One: Sixers Beat Raps 97-62

Well, this one isn't going to hurt our score differential any. On a line
graph, the Sixers' performance against the Raptors tonight would look
remarkably similar to last night against the Pistons—steadily climbing
for two quarters, then suddenly shooting almost straight up towards the
end of the third quarter into the fourth. Again, the Sixers thoroughly
outplayed the Raps in the first half, but missed open jumpers (Jodie,
oh, Jodie), failed to convert fast breaks, and let rebounds and passes
slip through their fingers, resulting in Toronto staying nearly level
with Philly throughout. Then in the third, a couple of shots started to
fall, the fast breaks got a little smoother, and before you knew it, the
Sixers were up 20, never to look back. The Sixers made Garbage Time out
of the entire 4th quarter, and ended up winning 97-62.

The key to the team's win tonight, as that number "62" would suggest,
was the defense. The Sixers, especially in the backcourt, had the
Raptors smothered, had them covered like my Waffle House hash browns,
cutting off driving lanes and getting their hands on the ball in what
felt like every possession, getting those deflections that Coach Collins
has preached about all season, causing turnovers and suffocating
possessions. They switched well on pick-and-rolls, they helped well on
layup drives, they got out to shooters and they played tough D in
general without fouling. (In fact, you'd have to say they got more than a
little help from the referees tonight, considering the Sixers only got
whistled for three fouls in the entire first half—their defense was
good, but no one's D is that good.)

Their stellar defensive effort—and it was not only the fewest points the
Raptors had scored since 2003, it was the lowest amount of points ever
scored by an opponent at the [Rotating Bank Name] Center—kept the
Sixers in the driver's seat, despite a lackluster first half on the
other end. Whatever juju was working for Jodie Meeks in the fourth
quarter last night did not carry over to this one, as he went a
miserable 2-11 (1-6 from deep) despite a whole host of clean, open
looks. Andre Iguodala wasn't much better, shooting 3-12 for the evening
and hearing a smattering of boos for an opening-drive airball. In fact,
no Sixer scored more than 14 points on the night, usually a sure recipe
for offensive disaster.

But that's sort of how this team works now, isn't it? 'Dre and Jodie
can't buy a bucket, Spencer Hawes (who has somehow become this team's
most potent offensive threat, and I don't even mean that in an
eye-rolling way) misses almost the entire second half with a tight back,
nobody gets particularly hot from the field—and we still string
together a 97-point performance and a 35-point win. It's sharing the
ball, it's taking care of the ball, and it's going nine deep—the ninth
tonight being Nik Vucevic, who had a very nice night scoring, passing
and rebounding the ball, nearly coming up with his first career
double-double (9 and 10), though he did get burned on defense by Andrea
Bargnani a couple times. It's not gonna get the team many nationally
televised games, but it is fun to watch, and so far this season, it's
getting them wins—decisive ones, at that.

5-2 for the Liberty Ballers now, their best start to the season since
they went 10-0 in '00-'01, Iverson's MVP season where the team went to
the finals. Of course, neither the blowout win or the best start in a
decade meant much to those in attendance at the WFC tonight, most of
whom left cruelly disappointed that Evan Turner would not shoot a three
in the team's final clock-dwindling possession, up 35, to try to get the
crowd the free Big Macs that come with a 100-point performance. Well,
the Lakers have had to put up with similar "WE WANT TA-COS!" chants for
as long as I can remember, even in the midst of three straight trips to
the finals and two championships, so hopefully the Sixers aren't taking
it as too much of a slight.

Next up: The 6-2 Pacers at home on Monday night, the first of three
games in three nights for the Sixers, and a game that should represent
the Sixers' first real challenge since returning East. Bring 'em on, I
say. We might not beat 'em by 35, but I like the chances of our nine
guys outplaying their nine guys just the same. TURNER AND VOOCH 4 LIFE.

Instant Replay: Phillies 2, Rockies 1 (11 innings)

Instant Replay: Phillies 2, Rockies 1 (11 innings)

BOX SCORE

Tommy Joseph hit a walk-off single in the bottom of the 11th inning Thursday to score Michael Saunders and snap the Phillies' five-game losing streak with a 2-1 win over the Rockies.

The win is their first victory in a game not started by Jeremy Hellickson since May 1. It also prevented the Phillies from being swept by Colorado.

At 16-29, the Phillies have the second-worst record in the majors. The Rockies, 32-17, have the second-best record in the majors.

Starting pitching report
Vince Velasquez pitched well, allowing one run over five innings to a stacked Rockies lineup, but he again had a short outing because of a high pitch count.

Velasquez put nine men on base and struck out seven. He threw 94 pitches, 70 for strikes.

After Velasquez's last start in Pittsburgh, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said the right-hander's secondary pitches simply need to improve, that he needs to be able to show more than just a mid-90s fastball.

On Thursday, Velasquez threw 72 fastballs, 14 curveballs, four sliders and four changeups. The Rockies swung through only two of those 22 off-speed pitches and went 4 for 6 when putting them in play.

Mackanin left Velasquez in to hit for himself with runners on first and second and no outs in the bottom of the fifth and Velasquez popped out on a sacrifice attempt. Many fans have already questioned the decision, but let's keep in mind Velasquez has handled the bat well. He's 6 for 17 (.353) on the season and tied for the major-league lead in hits among pitchers. He had an infield single in his first at-bat.

Rockies left-hander Tyler Anderson continued the theme of mediocre starting pitchers stymying the Phillies. Anderson allowed just one run on six hits over seven innings with seven strikeouts.

In the series, Rockies starting pitchers allowed three runs in 27 innings. They had a 1.00 ERA, a 0.96 WHIP and more than a strikeout per inning. And these four starters — Jeff Hoffman, German Marquez, Tyler Chatwood and Anderson — entered the series with a combined 5.27 ERA.

Bullpen report
Edubray Ramos, Pat Neshek, Joaquin Benoit, Hector Neris, Luis Garcia and Jeanmar Gomez each pitched one scoreless inning. It's understandably been overlooked during the Phillies' skid, but the bullpen is finally in a groove. Over their last seven games, Phillies relievers have allowed just two earned runs in 22 2/3 innings for a 0.79 ERA.

Neris threw 10 pitches, all of them strikes. He's allowed one run in 9 2/3 innings since his meltdown at Dodger Stadium.

At the plate
Before the walk-off hit, Joseph stayed hot with a home run off the ivy wall in dead-center to start the bottom of the seventh.

Joseph is hitting .329 in May with six doubles, six homers, 15 RBIs and a .657 slugging percentage. The only first basemen in the majors with a higher slugging percentage this month are Yonder Alonso, Justin Bour and Paul Goldschmidt.

Joseph has now played 148 games with 498 plate appearances in the majors — slightly less than a full season. He's hit .255 with an .804 OPS, 28 home runs and 23 doubles. Those numbers are just above the league average for first basemen over that span.

Batting third, Odubel Herrera went 0 for 5 with five strikeouts. He's the first player in the majors this season to do that and the first Phillie since Pat Burrell in September 2008. Herrera is hitting .226 with a .275 OBP. 

Maikel Franco returned to the lineup after a two-game benching and went 1 for 5, singling up the middle in his first at-bat and flailing at a low-and-away, two-strike breaking ball to strike out with two on and one out in the eighth inning. He then struck out on three pitches to lead off the 11th.

Cameron Rupp walked three times, raising his on-base percentage from .330 to .345.

Up next
The Phillies start a three-game series at home against the Cincinnati Reds, who they haven't seen since the opening week of the season.

Friday, 7:05 p.m. — Aaron Nola (2-1, 3.52) vs. Bronson Arroyo (3-4, 6.75)

Saturday, 4:05 p.m. — Jerad Eickhoff (0-5, 4.70) vs. Scott Feldman (3-4, 3.99)

Sunday, 1:35 p.m. — Zach Eflin (0-2, 5.36) vs. Amir Garrett (3-3, 6.00)

NFL Notes: Former Giant Victor Cruz inks 1-year deal with Bears

NFL Notes: Former Giant Victor Cruz inks 1-year deal with Bears

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears added some salsa, signing former New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz to a one-year contract Thursday.

The Bears were looking for help after Alshon Jeffery signed with Philadelphia.

A feared receiver with the Giants, he helped them win the Super Bowl before being slowed by injuries. He was released after seven seasons in February.

Cruz has 303 catches for 4,549 yards and 25 touchdowns, many of which he celebrated with a salsa dance. A knee injury and a calf problem caused him to miss most of the 2014 season and all of 2015. Last year, he had 39 catches and one touchdown reception.

Giants: Odell Beckham and Olivier Vernon miss OTAs
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York ended their first week of voluntary organized team activities missing two of their biggest stars -- wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and defensive end Olivier Vernon.

The workout Thursday was fourth of the week, and Beckham missed them all. The team did not say whether Vernon missed all four, but the veteran who signed an $85 million contract in the offseason last year wasn't there Thursday, the only day workouts were open to the media.

The only other player missing was third-year defensive end Owa Odighizuwa, who hinted since the end of last season that he may take time away from football.

While coach Ben McAdoo said he wanted all his players at the workouts, he said he would coach the ones there.

NFL: International players to join practice squads
NEW YORK -- Four NFL teams will carry an additional overseas player on their practice squads during the 2017 season. Three players are from Britain and one from Germany.

The announcement by the NFL on Thursday is part of a new International Player Pathway program.

The international players are: tight end Alex Gray with Atlanta, defensive end Efe Obada with Carolina, defensive end Alex Jenkins with New Orleans and linebacker Eric Nzeocha with Tampa Bay.

The players have been training alongside NFL players and draft hopefuls in Florida the past three months.

Gray is a former rugby player; Jenkins and Nzeocha were recent college players. Obada was originally signed by Dallas in 2015. Each team will get an exemption for an 11th practice player, who is ineligible to be activated during the season.

Bills: Linebacker Hodges signs, cornerback Gaines released
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills have signed linebacker Gerald Hodges, who started 12 games for San Francisco last season.

Team officials also said Thursday that cornerback Charles Gaines had been released.

Hodges is going into his fifth season after being drafted in 2013 by the Minnesota Vikings. He played two-plus seasons with Minnesota before joining the 49ers. He had 83 tackles, two interceptions and a forced fumble last year.

Gaines did not play last season but started four games for Cleveland in 2015.

Jaguars: Jags to host Bucs for joint practices before preseason game
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for two joint training camp practices before their preseason game in August.

The teams will practice Monday and Tuesday before playing Thursday night, Aug. 17. The Jaguars also will have two joint practices at New England a week earlier, before their preseason opener.

New coach Doug Marrone and top executive Tom Coughlin want the Jaguars to be more physical. Holding joint practices in consecutive weeks will make that clear to the players.

Marrone says he's a fan of joint practices "as long as you can make sure that it is competitive and not combative."

The Jaguars and Bucs also practiced together in Jacksonville before their preseason game last year.