Is This It? Sixers Get Another Chance for Statement Win Vs. Bulls

Is This It? Sixers Get Another Chance for Statement Win Vs. Bulls

Good as it was that the Sixers dispatched the Magic Monday night—a lot
more handily than the 74-69 final score would indicate, I might add
(again)—we all knew it wasn't going to be one to silence the critics.
The Magic had lost three of four, were officially in team-wide tailspin,
and probably weren't all that great to begin with. But the good news,
sparing though it may be, about this next stretch of six games that the
Sixers will play, is that nearly every one of them is a chance for that
longed for Statement Win to establish the Sixers as legit contenders in
this league. Defeat the Heat, Lakers, Clippers, Spurs and/or Hawks (the
last in Atlanta) and people will no longer be able to flippantly dismiss
the Ballers as a team that "hasn't beaten anybody yet."

Indeed,
tonight's game against the Bulls might be their best shot at it yet.
There's still excuses to be had on both sides—starting center Spencer
Hawes is still out for the Sixers, while starting wings Rip Hamilton and
Luol Deng are probably out for the Bulls—but even at 85% each, the
Sixers and Bulls are two of the top teams in the East, and it looks like
no one's gonna go this whole strike-condensed season without losing a
key player or two to injury anyway. At the very least, the Bulls should
have All-Everything point guard Derrick Rose at the ready, and all he's
done is score over 30 points in each of his last three games—a win
against the reigning MVP will be impressive regardless of who's flanking
him.

Of course, that means we're gonna need one hell of a performance on both
ends from our boy Jrue Holiday, who had one of his worst offensive
games of the season against Orlando on Monday, finishing with six points
on 3-11 shooting (though he did contribute six assists, with only one
turnover). Having to stay in front of D-Rose for 48 minutes is one of
the least enviable tasks in the league, but Jrue has proven to be a
capable on-ball defender when need be, and we're certainly going to need
it tonight with our front-court reinforcements (helllooooo again Tony
Battie) not so likely to provide stellar help defense.

By the way, interesting stat about The Damaja, courtesy of NBA stat guru
John Schumann—his +181 rating for the month of January (as in the
Sixers scored 181 more points than their opponents when he was on the
court) is the highest in the entire league. It's due in large part to
the fact that the Sixers as a team have been blowing out so many of
their opponents—and indeed, Thaddeus Young is #3 on the list with
+151—but still, interesting indeed for a player whose season many would
describe as being disappointing to be the leader in such an absolute
category.

7:00 tip from the WFC. The Sixers, especially Evan Turner, say No Hard
Feelings with Coach Doug Collins after his blowup at the team for
letting the Magic creep into the game late on Monday. "If we're going to
be a legit team in the playoffs, then we can't let
teams score 18 points in the last three minutes and not get one stop,"
said Collins. "At the end of the day, playing like that [late in the
game] is going to cost us in the future" agreed Elton Brand. All right,
so we're all good then? Good. Let's do this thing.

Instant Replay: Reds 5, Phillies 2

Instant Replay: Reds 5, Phillies 2

BOX SCORE

Aaron Nola struggled and the Phillies' offense slumbered in a 5-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Friday night at Citizens Bank Park.

The Phillies had just one hit through eight innings and three overall in losing for the 21st time in the last 26 games. They scored both of their runs in the ninth inning.

Over their last six games, five of which have been losses, the Phillies have been held to three hits four times.

The Phillies have scored just nine runs in their last six games.

Nola came off the disabled list and pitched seven innings of one-run ball Sunday in Pittsburgh. He failed to build on that outing against a Cincinnati club that entered the game with nine losses in its previous 12 games.

Starting pitching report
Nola, who entered the game having given up just one home run in 23 innings this season, gave up a pair of long balls in the first two innings as the Reds jumped out to a 3-0 lead. In all, the right-hander gave up six hits and five runs over six innings.

Nola is 2-2 with a 4.34 ERA in five starts.

Cincinnati right-hander Tim Adleman's 20th big-league start was the best of his career. The right-hander pitched eight shutout innings and allowed just four baserunners on one hit, two walks and a hit batsman. He struck out four.

Adleman entered the game with a 6.19 ERA this season.

Bullpen report
Mark Leiter Jr. pitched two scoreless innings and struck out three for the Phillies.

Asher Wojciechowski lost the shutout in the ninth. Raisel Iglesias came on for the final two outs. He struck out Maikel Franco, the potential tying run, hacking wildly at a full-count breaking ball to end the game.

At the plate
Andres Blanco, the Phillies' No. 2 hitter, singled in the first inning. The Phillies did not have another hit until there was one out in the ninth.

Aaron Altherr doubled in the ninth to break up the Reds' shutout bid.

Odubel Herrera batted leadoff and ran his slump to 0 for 13 before doubling in the ninth. He hit a ball hard earlier in the game, too, but Cincinnati leftfielder Adam Duvall made a nice diving catch.

For Cincinnati, Duvall and Scott Schebler took Nola deep. Jose Peraza had a two-run single against Nola in the sixth inning. He has a 12-game hitting streak.

In the field
Cincinnati catcher Devin Mesoraco made a terrific play in starting a 2-4-3 double play to end the seventh inning.

Minor matters
Second base prospect Jesmuel Valentin had season-ending surgery on his left shoulder in Philadelphia on Friday. Valentin, who was playing at Triple A Lehigh Valley, is looking at a recovery time of four to five months. He should be ready to play winter ball in his native Puerto Rico. Valentin went down to the final days of camp in a bid to make the Phillies' opening day roster in spring training (see story).

Up next
The series continues in a 4:05 p.m. start Saturday. Jerad Eickhoff (0-5, 4.70) pitches against Bronson Arroyo (3-4, 6.75).

NHL Notes: Predators' P.K. Subban rides whirlwind to Stanley Cup Final

NHL Notes: Predators' P.K. Subban rides whirlwind to Stanley Cup Final

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It has been an extraordinary 11 months for P.K. Subban.

The defenseman moved from the Eastern Conference to the Western Conference. Left his native Canada to live in the American South. Blended in with new teammates, created a new home and learned a new system of money, too.

Oh, and along the way the former star for the Montreal Canadiens played a key role in Nashville's stirring run to the Stanley Cup Final.

The best way to sum up Subban's approach? C'est la vie.

"I just tried to have the right attitude when change comes my way," Subban said. "I think when you have an open mind, an open mind is like a gold mine. You just have an open mind, you can only go up from there regardless of what comes your way and just always try to approach things in a positive way."

The Canadiens and Predators shocked the NHL last June 29 when Nashville swapped captain Shea Weber for Subban in a rare one-for-one trade of All-Star defensemen. Adding Subban's offensive skills immediately made the Predators a popular pick to be right where they are now as the Western Conference champions.

The stylish Subban has as much flair on the ice with his goal celebrations as off with his hats and stylish suits. The Predators and their fans have embraced all of it.

"When it happened, I came in here with the right attitude and just wanted to be a part of this team and do whatever I can do to help a team win," Subban said (see full story).

Penguins: Team rides maturity, resilience back to Cup Final
PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz stood shoulder to shoulder at center ice as midnight approached, crowd on its feet, Prince of Wales Trophy in hand. Another shot at the Stanley Cup in the offing.

On the surface, it could have been a scene ripped from 2008 when the longtime Pittsburgh Penguin teammates earned their first crack at a championship together, the one that was supposed to be the launching pad for a dynasty.

A closer look at the weary, grateful smiles told a different story.

This team has learned over the last decade that nothing can be taken for granted. Not their individual greatness or postseason success, even for one of the NHL's marquee franchises. Not the cohesion it takes to survive the crucible of the most draining championship chase in professional team sports or the mental toughness (along with a dash of luck) needed to stay on top once you get there.

So Crosby paused in the giddy aftermath of Pittsburgh's 3-2 victory over Ottawa in Game 7 of the helter-skelter Eastern Conference finals to do something the two-time Hart Trophy winner almost never does. He took stock of the moment, aware of how fleeting they can be.

"Every series you look at, the margin for error is so slim," Crosby said. "We've just continued to find ways and different guys have stepped up. We trust in that and we believe in that and whoever has come in the lineup has done a great job. That builds confidence. We've done it different ways, which is probably our biggest strength" (see full story).