Game 6: It's JAM Time

Game 6: It's JAM Time

After dropping a laughably poor effort followed a tightly fought battle, the Flyers have let the Penguins back into a series they had the opportunity to sweep. The Pens who slumped through the early games are wide awake now, including Marc-Andre Fleury, who went from historically bad to being a major factor in Pittsburgh's rebound. 
Two more chances to close out the series, but I'm pretty sure I speak for everyone in the good half of the state when I say we don't want to see a game 7. Not that the Flyers can't win it—they might even be better with elimination on the line—but if they lose today, they may not have much edge left either. 
They need to play like today is game 7. 
The teams will skate the same lineups today as game 5. No Nick Grossmann. But being without him in game 5 might have contributed to the Flyers slowing the pace down a bit, as they did in some of the March stretch that saw them winning despite being shorthanded on the blue line. 
It also meant increased minutes for the Flyers' top three defensemen, and fatigue could be  a factor as today's game wears on. 
Playing conservatively isn't necessarily an answer to the Penguins' attack. It's certainly not how they won games 1-3. It's gonna take some JAM. 
Time to stay out of the penalty box… 
Time for Ilya Bryzgalov to show up too. MAF's made a new mark on the series, and despite being slowed by a pair of injuries, Bryz is still the same goalie who went on a tear in March. He seemed pissed after the game 5 loss, which could be a good thing because he needed some swagger back. Forget March. Bryz was the better goalie the first three games of this series. 
Time for HartnellUp and the Wayne Train. Scott Hartnell got off the schneid in game 5, and the Flyers could use some more of that, along with some more JAM from fellow power forward Wayne Simmonds. 
Time for the refs keep the whistles quiet on ticky-tack shit and let the boys play today. If it's egregious, call it. Don't let it get out of hand. But leave the questionable minors out of a game between two tough but talented teams. No matter what the refs do, it's gonna be rough out there, and the Flyers can't let the Pens gain an edge on cheapshots, but they can't get suckered into retaliating and losing the special teams battle. It really could be the biggest factor in the series. 
Time for Marc-Andre Fleury's luck to run out. No, he isn't winning purely on luck, but he owes his posts a steak dinner, and one goal on a bad bounce or deflection could be the difference in who wins this series. 
Time for the refs to see what Evgeni Malkin is (besides strong on the puck and dangerous if given space). 
Time to win the even strength battle. 
Time for Riemer to save his lost season with a huge goal. 
Time for Jaromir Jagr to brandish the dagger. 
Time for Max Talbot to make goal-scoring jokes to Dan Bylsma. 
Time for Brayden Schenn to do what Mike Richards couldn't. 
Time for Sean Couturier to lock Malkin in a two-dimensional prism and hurl him through infinite space. 
Time for Matt Read to make the Calder vote look even more absurd. 
Time to block some shots. 
Time to Lappy up. 
Time for Claude Giroux to take the series back. Youth has served this team well, but they need a closer right now. They need a captain, and it's G. 
Time to giddy up and fuckin go. 
Puck drops at noon on NBC… 

Sixers burned by yet another point guard in loss to Celtics

Sixers burned by yet another point guard in loss to Celtics

The Sixers had been burned by point guards before. Many times, actually. 

Just a week ago, Kyrie Irving dropped 39 points in the Cavs' 112-108 win. Nineteen came in the decisive fourth quarter. 

On Saturday Isaiah Thomas did the same damage. The undersized All-Star tied his season-high with 37 points in the Celtics' comeback 107-106 victory (see instant replay).

“Isaiah’s an All-Star,” Jahlil Okafor said. “He showed us why tonight. He’s the head of their team and came up big for them like he usually does.” 

Thomas made his impact in spurts. During the Celtics' 9-0 second quarter run, he scored six of those points. In the fourth quarter, in which the game was decided, he dropped 12 straight Celtics points. Thomas finished the night 11 for 19 for the field and only 2 of 3 from three. 

The most telling stat was at the free throw line. Thomas shot 13 for 15 after attacking and drawing fouls, a point of emphasis by head coach Brad Stevens for the second half. 

Thomas scored 15 points in the first half. He noticed a change in the Sixers defense in the second and capitalized on it. The Celtics ability to stretch the floor with their three-point shooting bigs also created opportunities for Thomas to get to the rim. 

“In the second half they sat back a little bit and they were switching a lot,” Thomas explained, also noting, “We wanted to put Okafor in a pick-and-roll. He sits far back. I just wanted to attack him downhill. It’s hard for bigs to move those bigs legs they’ve got. So I just tried to stay in attack mode and I saw we were in the bonus.”

The Sixers have had problems defending the one spot all season. Isaiah Thomas is the fifth starting point guard to score 30 points or more against them. He joins Russell Westbrook (32), Jeff Teague (30 in overtime), James Harden (33) and Irving. Another five (Kemba Walker, John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, Mike Conley and Kyle Lowry) have scored 20 or more points. 

The oneness of these high-scoring point guards doesn’t fall solely on the Sixers backcourt, where Sergio Rodriguez has been assuming the starting role in place of the oft-injured Jerryd Bayless. These opponents have been doing their work inside the arc. Of the five who have scored 30, only two (Harden and Irving) attempted more than three treys. 

“We’re all working hard trying to stop them, but it’s easier said than done,” Okafor said. 

The next point guard the Sixers will face is Emmanuel Mudiay when they take on the Nuggets Monday. Last season Mudiay hit the game-winning, buzzer-beating three in Denver. 

Instant Replay: No. 7 Penn State 38, No. 6 Wisconsin 31

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Instant Replay: No. 7 Penn State 38, No. 6 Wisconsin 31

BOX SCORE

INDIANAPOLIS — Penn State got bullied a bit Saturday, but never gave up its lunch money. 

It spent the second half taking control of the schoolyard.

After getting pushed around for much of Saturday night’s first half, the Nittany Lions were anything but punchy after the break. Penn State (No. 7 in the College Football Playoff rankings) got its high-powered offense into gear in the second and roared back for the school’s first victory in the Big Ten Championship game, 38-31, over No. 6 Wisconsin.

The Nittany Lions (11-2) are bound for the Rose Bowl for the first time since the 2009 season and are outright conference champions for the first time in 22 years.  

Penn State trailed by three touchdowns midway through the second quarter but allowed just three points the rest of the night. Quarterback Trace McSorley threw for 384 yards and a title-game record four touchdowns to spark a comeback that saw the Nittany Lions outscore the Badgers 24-3 in the second half. McSorley was named Big Ten Championship game MVP.

Wisconsin missed a 48-yard field goal early in the second half and Penn State needed just 11 seconds to take advantage. McSorley (22 for 31) hit Saeed Blacknall with a 70-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to a touchdown. Saquon Barkley tied it at 28 later in the third with a 1-yard scoring run.

Blacknall ended the night with six catches for 115 yards and two touchdowns while DaeSean Hamilton had eight grabs for 118. 

Wisconsin retook the lead with a short field goal in the final seconds of the third quarter but Penn State went ahead for good on the ensuing drive, which ended with McSorley’s 18-yard touchdown pass to Barkley.

Tyler Davis added a 24-yard field goal later in the fourth and the Penn State defense sealed the victory when Grant Haley stuffed Wisconsin’s Corey Clement on fourth-and-1 with 1:01 to play.

The Nittany Lions fumbled the ball away twice in the opening half — one was returned for a short Badgers touchdown — but only trailed 28-14 at intermission after McSorley hit Blacknall for a 40-yard touchdown with under a minute to play in the half. 

Mike Gesicki caught McSorley’s first scoring pass, a 33-yarder, late in the first quarter.

Clement finished with 164 yards and a touchdown on the ground for the Badgers (10-3), who also got scoring runs from Bradrick Shaw and Dare Ogunbowale. Bart Houston was 16 for 21 for 174 yards. 

Smelling the roses?
Penn State is likely off to Pasadena for the fourth time in school history and is seeking to reach .500 in college football’s longest running postseason game. The Nittany Lions defeated Oregon 38-20 in the 1995 game but fell to Southern California in their other two trips, in 2009 and 1923.

It appears the Trojans might be their opponents once more; No. 4 Washington won the Pac-12 championship Friday night but appears headed for the playoff. The Rose Bowl gets its choice of Pac-12 runner-up Colorado (10-3) or 9-3 USC.

There is a chance Penn State could be selected to the College Football Playoff, but No. 1 Alabama, No. 3 Clemson and No. 4 Washington all won this weekend, while No. 2 Ohio State was idle. The playoff will be announced at noon on Sunday.

He’s fine
Sophomore running back running back Saquon Barkley showed no ill effects of a right foot injury suffered during a Nov. 26 win over Michigan State. He added the go-ahead touchdown — and another mention in Penn State’s record book — for good measure.

Barkley, who left in the third quarter of Nittany Lions’ penultimate victory, hauled in a touchdown pass from McSorley in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter to give Penn State the lead for good. He had a short scoring run earlier in the period.

Barkley broke Evan Royster’s sophomore rushing record with a 19-carry, 83-yard night to push his season total to 1,302 yards. He set the mark for Penn State freshman (1,076) last fall.

Nice run
Wisconsin’s Andrew Endicott’s 23-yard field goal late in the third quarter snapped a shutout streak that had seen Penn State outscore its opponents 82-0 in the second halves of games. The last scoring play before Endicott’s boot came in the second half of a 45-31 win over Indiana on Nov. 12.