Tonight: Blackhawks Return to Scene of the Hoist; 247 Finale

Tonight: Blackhawks Return to Scene of the Hoist; 247 Finale

Two Junes ago, the Chicago Blackhawks tore us to pieces by lifting the Stanley Cup on the Flyers' home ice. As much as we don't mind their fans being denied the pleasure of watching that live, it still burns that they got to celebrate in our barn, probably treating the locker room like a frat house at a school you didn't go to.
They return tonight, ushering in the post-Winter Classic portion of the season, and with no semblance of a soft landing. The Blackhawks are currently second in the Western Conference with 52 points, and they're probably pissed off that they lost to the Oilers on Monday.

After the game, we're treated to the final installment of HBO's 24/7. And I do mean treated, because despite knowing how it ends, we also know that's only going to be a small portion of the show we've seen to be pretty great from start to finish. A closer look at the Flyers' night ahead below.

Bryz Is Back to Exorcise His Rights
Michael Leighton's five-hole may not currently be on the Flyers roster (though it's not geographically far away this weekend either), but the ghost of that goal continues to drift along with the team. It was here before Leighton, and we're not sure it's ever leaving. It was seen most recently when sniper extraordinaire Mike Rupp somehow slipped a poorly angled shot under Sergei Bobrovsky's armpit to tie the Winter Classic.

Now that the true regular season has resumed, Peter Laviolette is going back to the goalie tasked with exorcising the ghost before season's end. Hopefully sooner. Hopefully starting tonight. Ilya Bryzgalov is your Peter Venkman.

Reading Rainbow
With Jaromir Jagr shelved due to a groin strain, Matt Read took the first line reps at practice and will get a chance to be in some Claude Giroux highlights tonight. Makes perfect sense given that the rookie has found quite a few of his own already this season. Read's earned the shot while the Czech star gets a rest.

No Chico
Dan Carcillo is one Blackhawk who won't come out of the tunnel with his team tonight. Definition of a prior offender, he's been handed a seven-game suspension for his hit on Edmonton's Tom Gilbert. Honestly, the timing sucks. We were kind of hoping to see what the thrill of facing his former fans would do to his PIM tendencies...

Yes Razor!
Ray Emery wasn't here long, and was hurt while he was, with the injury feared to be career-threatening. But, surprisingly enough, he became somewhat well-liked among the fanbase. So aside from tonight, when he'll start in net for the Blackhawks, Emery probably still has quite a few fans in Philly and may even get some cheers when he's announced.

We'd have a lot more to look forward to after the game if the Flyers had won the Winter Classic, obv… But the rest of Winter Classic Weekend was a total win, and a lot of the footage will likely bring us a little closer to that. Plus, we'll have the Penguins win… But that's it for on-ice joys, as the Flyers haven't put more than one in the win column since the last airing.

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).