Crisis Averted for Flyers This Time (and Temporarily?)

Crisis Averted for Flyers This Time (and Temporarily?)

Let’s begin on a positive note for a change. The Flyers did
what they had to on Sunday night, beating an inferior opponent to halt a
three-game skid. They still face a steep climb to get back to respectability,
but at least they stopped the bleeding for the time being.

On the flip side, the boys in the orange sweaters were
flirting with disaster. Clearly the superior team for most of the game –
especially the first 20 minutes – Philadelphia only narrowly escaped the
Buffalo Sabres with a 3-2 victory. Just how close did they come to blowing a
two-goal lead?

Which of these measurements is smaller: an inch, or a tenth
of a second?

What should have been a relatively easy save for Ilya
Bryzgalov on a short-handed rush wound up dancing on the goal line. Luckily
Brayden Schenn was there to sweep away Cody Hodgson’s slapper from above the
faceoff circle after it trickled through the goaltender – not a moment too soon
either with Hodgson looking to finish the play.

Bryz has been getting a ton of grief lately, but looked
strong in this tilt even if Schenn did have the save of the night. Billy stopped
18 of 20 shots despite making his second start in as many days.

Besides, it’s not like this near-miss was the sole reason Buffalo
nearly closed the gap. The Sabres were given multiple shorthanded opportunities
on Flyer power plays down the stretch – one of which Jochen Hecht was able to
beat Bryzgalov on – while a dumb boarding penalty against Luke Schenn put his
mates in a tough spot as the third period was winding down.

Yet they survived.

Simon Gagne slipped his second score of 2013 past Ryan
Miller on a breakaway early in the first period, while Max Talbot tallied a
shorty of his own off a beautiful feed from Ruslan Fedotenko. Buffalo cut the
deficit to one before intermission, but Claude Giroux opened up round two with
a quick goal on the man advantage, blowing right through Buffalo’s
penalty-killing unit to set up that sweet wrister.

For Giroux, it was goal number eight this season. Kimmo
Timonen picked up his second assist of the night, giving him 16 – only two
defensemen in the NHL have more.

The important thing is the Flyers took care of business, and
prevented the sky from falling for a few more days at least. Picking up two
points on the lowly Sabres doesn’t signify a whole lot right now though, not
after losing to the Rangers, Penguins, and Bruins in succession, not when a
home-and-home with the Devils looms this week.

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Nerlens Noel to get one-on-one experience while Sixers on road

Nerlens Noel to get one-on-one experience while Sixers on road

Being immersed in the team is important for Nerlens Noel, and so is continuing his rehab. 

While the Sixers are on the road for three days to play the Grizzlies and Pelicans, Noel will remain in Philadelphia to work out at the training complex in Camden, New Jersey. The team is not scheduled to practice in between games, so staying back allows Noel another day to get on the court.

“[I want him to] just start playing more and have a ball in his hands, get hit, physical, feel people, play one-on-one,” head coach Brett Brown said.

Noel has yet to play this season because of elective arthroscopic left knee surgery in October. He rejoined the Sixers after completing the first phase of his rehab in Birmingham, Alabama. There still is no timetable for his return. 

Brown has said there is a “classroom” element to Noel’s return. He has to learn a roster with new players and schemes. 

The on-the-court side of it is a reacclimation to the intensity of the league. Regardless of how many games Noel already has played in the NBA, there is an adjustment period getting back into the grind of the competition. Brown believes the time in the gym this week will help Noel prepare for the level of intensity he will face in his return. 

“It’s such fool’s gold to think somebody’s going to jump back into NBA basketball after you haven’t played for so long. I don’t care how athletic he is,” Brown said. “It’s a man’s world, this league, and there’s a physicality and there’s a real-time reaction you have to have to play in the game. You can’t make that up in practice, you can’t make that up playing one-on-one, but you can better position him instead of just going out to get shots. I want him to feel a body, get hit, hit back, play one-on-one, those types of things.”

Noel had been assigned to the Sixers’ Development League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers, to get in practice time when the Sixers had a game. The Sixers may forego another assignment and keep Noel at their facility as the Sevens also have two games in the next three days. 

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

BOX SCORE

Joel Embiid has been making the NBA look easy. Rookie of the Month honors, five double-doubles in 13 games, seven performances of 20 points or more … all having missed the last two years rehabbing from foot injuries.

Embiid, though, still is a player learning the league. Night’s like Monday’s lackluster showing are going to happen, even if it seemed unexpected against the struggling Denver Nuggets. 

“We’ve been used to seeing Jo have superhuman nights,” Brett Brown said after the Sixers’ 106-98 loss (see Instant Replay). “I thought Joel was down tonight.” 

Embiid tallied a total 16 points (5 for 15 from the field, 1 for 3 from three, 5 for 6 from the line) with four rebounds, one assist, a career-high five blocks, three turnovers and three fouls in 25:32. 

He had a quiet first half with six points (2 for 5 from the field) and one rebound in 9:21. The biggest struggle came in the third quarter. Embiid scored a single point off a free throw and shot 0 for 6 from the floor. By the end of three, he was shooting 18.2 percent. 

The big man said he needed to be better at passing out of the double team. He committed two turnovers in the third. 

“I wasn’t getting to my spot and I wasn’t getting what I’m used to getting,” Embiid said of the first three quarters. “I’m going to go back and watch the tape and see what I did wrong.” 

Embiid bounced back for another Embiid-like offensive effort in the fourth. He dropped nine points off an efficient 3 for 4 shooting in 7:31. Still, it wasn’t enough. 

“I made a couple shots,” Embiid said. “It didn’t help us win, so I don’t think it matters.”

Brown noticed Embiid rushing his game. He also thought Embiid’s balance was off, something the big man has been dealing with all season as he continues to find his legs. 

Embiid will not play in Tuesday's game against the Grizzlies. It is part of his workload management in which he does not play both games of a back-to-back. Expect him to hone in on game film until his next matchup, and get back on the roller coaster that can be a first year in the NBA. 

“It's just part of a young man's growth,” Brown said. “It just happens. I don't think we need to read too deeply into it. I think, in many ways, to expect from time to time not as good of a performance as we have been used to is fair enough.”