Flyers Deserve to Lose, Do So

Flyers Deserve to Lose, Do So

Last spring, a couple of broads who had too much to drink decided it would be more convenient to walk through my patio screen door rather than open it--same night, isolated incidents. The resulting quick fixes performed in the dark of night never quite got the sliding door back on its tracks, and within a day or two, the entire house was infested with flies. I chased the flies around the house for a few days, swatting wildly at every one I saw, but it was a losing battle. It always seemed like there were more.

Until finally I stumbled upon their lair. When the sun was out, those nasty buggers would congregate behind a tapestry that hung in front of the glass patio doors, perhaps to keep warm from the cruel central air. Well from that point on, every morning when I woke up, or whenever I returned home from work, I would grab the nearest copy of Wine & Spirits Quarterly, carefully peel away the tapestry, and begin gleefully smashing flies. It was gruesome, but I hate flies, and eventually the entire population was eradicated.

Roughly one year later, the Bruins are exorcising some demons of their own, gleefully smashing the Flyers with their bodies and swatting pucks by their goaltenders with the same level of ease.

Trying to recap this game seriously or in any amount of detail is about as pointless as that rambling lede. If you witnessed it, you don't really want to talk about it. If you didn't... lucky you. Most likely, you can look at the 5-1 final, and the fact that the Flyers have fallen behind 3-0 in a series with Boston for the second post-season in a row, and determine things went decidedly poor on Wednesday night.

Before a minute could even tick off the clock in the first period, Philly was already behind 2-0. Well before the second frame concluded, the lead was four, and Brian Boucher was heading to the bench once again. Sergei Bobrovsky settled things down somewhat, not allowing another score until the final minutes, while Andrej Meszaros tacked on a goal in the second, but it was all so very little, so very, very late.

The story of the game wasn't just in net though, despite that being the sixth goaltender change mid-game during the post-season. Matt broke it down plain enough in the game preview.

Boosh let up a goal he should have had. There were forward lapses on coverages and bad decisions with the puck on defense. Any on their own can be accepted if all else goes well. But on Monday, in a 1-goal OT loss, the single mistakes become amplified. We should expect just as close a game tonight. If not, it isn't safe to assume we'll be on the winning end of a lopsided game.

Tonight, all three occurred once again, and the the home team wound up on the wrong side of a crooked number.

Of course, it doesn't help the Flyers appear to have run into the proverbial hot goalie. If they hope to have any shot at defying the odds with another historical run in these Stanley Cup Playoffs, they will first have to solve Tim Thomas. Thomas didn't put on quite the show he did in Game 2--and didn't have to--but he's made it look far more simple than it actually is thus far.

As if that weren't enough, Boston won in practically every other aspect of this contest, not just in the final score column, or netminder confidence. They were clearly the more physical of the two clubs. The Flyers are hitting, but the Bruins were flat out steamrolling them tonight. They also destroyed the orange and black in the faceoff dot by an astounding 43-12, making the B's control on the pace of the game that much tighter. Again, that's 43-12. Might as well have been 100-0.

Honestly, looking at what happened tonight, what has gone down this entire series, it's hard to imagine the Flyers can pull four consecutive wins on this club again. And that, I'm afraid, is being kind. What more can we say?

Despite blowout loss, Sixers see potential in Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor playing together

Despite blowout loss, Sixers see potential in Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor playing together

BOX SCORE

Brett Brown was ready to do it Wednesday night. The matchup against the Kings presented an opportunity to experiment with playing Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor together. That pairing had to wait two days, though, after the Kings game was postponed

On Friday, Embiid and Okafor shared the court for just under 13 minutes in the Sixers' 105-88 loss to the Magic (see Instant Replay), who also rolled out a duo of bigs in Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic. 

“I thought we had our moments,” Embiid said. “We shared the ball, we made shots. Obviously we need to play more together and learn how to play with each other.”

Embiid and Okafor first played together for 5:29 in the second quarter. They scored all of the Sixers' 12 points during that time, including a pair of threes by Embiid. They also combined for five boards. The Sixers outscored the Magic, 12-9, with the bigs in together.

The benefits of the floor spacing was apparent. Oftentimes in the game, Okafor could be seen open at the basket with a hand up for the ball while Embiid was also getting looks from long range. 

“I liked our spacing, I liked the high-low stuff we were doing,” Brown said. “I think when you post Joel, that Jahlil is going to play sort of hide-and-seek on the other side of the floor, and work that low zone, and become — I hope — a potent offensive rebounder. When you post Jahlil, Joel has the ability to space to three.”

Brown turned to Embiid and Okafor again in the fourth. At that point, the Magic had a 23-point lead. Their next 7:25 together was a chance to give them a long run in live game action. They combined for another 12 points and four rebounds. All of their buckets were layups, dunks or free throws. Both teams scored 19 points with Embiid and Okafor in that segment.

Both Embiid and Okafor finished the game with double-doubles: 25 points, 10 rebounds and four assists for Embiid; 16 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks for Okafor. 

“I thought they played well together,” Vucevic said. “I thought it was tough to guard them because they’re both really good offensively.”

Okafor credited his friendship with Embiid, which dates back to high school, as a key to coexisting well on the court. Both emphasized their off-the-court relationship would help them in a game situation. 

“I think the communication piece went really well,” Okafor said. “He was talking to me, I was talking to him.”

Scoring and communication always seemed to be the easier parts of the pairing to tackle. Defense, though, was the challenge given that one of the centers would have to guard the four spot. Okafor noted their transition D as an area that needs improvement.

“We’re both used to going right to the rim,” Okafor said. “I think I had a couple easy buckets. That’s something we’ll be able to fix.” 

Brown had based his decision of when to play Embiid and Okafor together on the matchups. While the two could boast their own edge on the offensive end, Brown didn’t want to play them in a scenario in which they’d be at a huge defensive disadvantage. 

“It’s not offense to me, it’s defense. That’s the thing that is most challenging,” Brown said. “We want to play fast. We want to put points on the board. You don’t want to play in the 80s. You don’t want to do that, that’s not our sport anymore. So you want to make sure that you're capable of guarding the opposition.”

Vucevic noticed the challenge from an opposing perspective. He understands the necessary changes since playing alongside Biyombo.  

“It takes time for them to get adjusted, especially for the guy that will be playing the four defensively,” Vucevic said. “They’re not used to that because they always back down to the paint guarding the fives. It’s a different look. They have to work on it, communicate, and I think they’ll be fine.” 

On a night with few highlights in a 17-point blowout loss, Brown was able to take away a positive from this anticipated duo.

"I thought Jahlil and Joel did a really good job," he said. 

Sixers Notes: Joel Embiid unhappy with effort; Robert Covington hurt

Sixers Notes: Joel Embiid unhappy with effort; Robert Covington hurt

Joel Embiid didn’t see four quarters of basketball from the Sixers in their 105-88 loss to the Magic Friday night (see Instant Replay). Their efforts were inconsistent as they fell flat in long stretches and allowed the Magic to build up double-digit leads as high as 29 points.

The Sixers gave up a 16-0 run in the first and shot just 6 for 26 (23.1 percent) in the quarter. The Magic, who had lost a one-point game to the Grizzlies in Memphis the night before, rallied together to seize this opportunity.

“They just made a lot of shots that we didn’t,” Embiid said. “That’s the game, but we didn’t play hard all 48 minutes and we need to do a better job next time.”

The Sixers didn’t break 30 points until 4:33 to go in the second and attempted just two free throws in the first half. By the end of the third, the Magic had a 21-point lead which they held on to with in ease in the fourth. 

The Magic outshot the Sixers on all areas of the floor: 47.4 percent to 37.9 from the field and 50.0 to 28.1 from three. While the teams had nearly equal percentages from the line, the Magic shot 18 for 26 compared to only 7 for 10 from the Sixers. 

“They missed a lot of shots,” Magic forward Jeff Green said. “We got stops, were aggressive, guys just played hard and created for one another and played as a team.”

Covington injured
The Sixers are waiting to learn more news on the extent of Robert Covington’s injury. In the fourth quarter, Covington exited and did not return after suffering a left knee sprain when he collided with T.J. McConnell chasing a loose ball in front of the Sixers’ bench. If the starting small forward has to miss time, Sixers head coach Brett Brown is thinking ahead to possible lineup changes. 

“We'll try to figure out what his next week represents,” Brown said. “If we aren't with him, maybe there's a chance we can look at Dario [Saric] a little bit at the three.”

Covington is averaging 8.5 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.9 steals in 27.5 minutes per game. Saric has been coming off the bench at power forward behind Ersan Ilyasova. He started 10 games earlier this season at the four spot. 

Embiid honored
The Sixers honored Embiid during a timeout for being named NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month (October and November). Embiid was appreciative of the award and has his sights set on the bigger picture this season.

“All the hard work I’ve put in, it feels great,” Embiid said earlier in the day at shootaround. “Obviously, maybe the bigger picture is Rookie of the Year, that’s what matters. … I don’t have my mind set on that. But if I can get it, that would be nice.”

Brown sees this recent showing as just a glimpse into what Embiid will be able to do over his career. Embiid leads the Sixers with 18.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks. 

“This in infant stages, early days for him,” Brown said. “His body of work, given his lack of playing basketball, really is jaw-dropping for what I think he can be. To jump in and get rookie of the month I think is a real, sort of, quick snapshot view of him now. I think what he’s going to be is going to be extremely special.”

Embiid also is shooting 51.4 percent from three, including 3 for 5 against the Magic. When asked if he would like to participate in the three-point contest All-Star weekend, he said "it would be nice" and noted he would have to work on the speed of his release.