No Good: Sixers Hang Tough in Game Three But Ehhhhhhhh

No Good: Sixers Hang Tough in Game Three But Ehhhhhhhh

Man, this is tough. Not as tough as losing as a favorite, not as tough as getting barely outplayed by a peer, but tough all the same. To see your guys do their best, to play hard, to execute, to hang in there, and still come up short...it's not heartbreaking, it's not even depressing, it's just damn dispiriting. It's hard to say that losing two games the way the Knicks have, off bad ref calls, late-game flubs and last-second Celtics shots, would be preferable—it probably wouldn't be—but you do have to be a little envious of the Knick fans for at least being able to feel some sort of righteous indignation for feeling they were the better team in both games that they lost. With the Sixers, there's no such feeling of injustice: They keep losing to the Heat—as they did tonight, 100-94—simply because they're not as good as the Heat are.

In a way it's not so bad, because none of the Sixers really have to feel bad about the way they played in tonight's loss. Elton Brand was a beast, going for 21 and 11, helping to keep the team afloat in the second half. Lou Will penetrated and scored as he failed to do in the first game, ending with 15 and four assists, with a couple threes and no turnovers. Spencer Hawes was often the Sixer that the Heat sagged off of defensively, and he did a decent job of making them pay, going 6-11 for 12 points. Andre Iguodala had his struggles—and believe me, we'll get to them later—but he also handed out 10 assists to only one turnover, and played hounding defense on LeBron, who was "held" to 24 points, 12 rebounds and six assists. (It could have been a lot worse, sadly.)

And the player of the game, the series, and possibly the season for the Sixers would have to be Jrue Holiday. Scoring 20 points with the versatility we've come to expect of him (jumpers, bankers, up-and-unders, threes) and handing out eight assists with only two turnovers, he looked like the Sixers' best offensive weapon on the court all night. Most encouraging to me was the open top-of-the-arc three that he stepped into with the Sixers trailing late in the fourth—it wasn't the smartest shot, but it was a shot that the team desperately needed, and one that Holiday would never have had the confidence to take earlier in the season. Getting Jrue that kind of big-game experience might end up being our biggest takeaway from this series, and seeing him respond to it like he has is a real positive. You'd like to see Evan Turner, who got just seven first-half minutes after scoring a team high 15 in game two, get some of that good stuff as well, but with Coach Collins needing 'Dre's defense on LeBron pretty much the whole game, it's not terribly surprising that ET got the snub.

And ah yes, let us talk a little further about Mr. Iguodala. 'Dre's performance tonight was a microcosm not only for this Heat series at large, but his entire run in Philly since graduating to the role of franchise player. He did so many things on the court—without his defense and playmaking, the team's probably not even close in this game—but all that most Sixer fans are likely to remember from his effort tonight are the trio of wide-open threes that he spotted up for, badly bricking all three. It sucks for such a great player to forever be remembered for the one thing he can't do, but the team needed so badly for him to hit one of those shots, and he just couldn't make it happen. With his 10 points tonight, 'Dre has a mere 19 points combined in the first three games of this series. Damning, to say the least, and yet another illustration why as much as 'Dre does for this team, he'll never be the guy to lead them to the promised land on his lonesome.

Meanwhile, another guy whose lack of shooting tough is coming back to haunt him is Thaddeus Young. After being the Sixers' biggest (only) weapon in Game One of the series, the Heat appear to have made it a point of emphasis for Young to get no easy lanes to the basket, forcing him into a variety of hook shots and jumpers, none of which have been dropping for him. He was able to pad his stats in garbage time in game two, but Thad had no such luck in this contest, and only a late scoop prevented him from posting an 0-fer in the field goal column, ending with four points total. Ironically, Thad's tailing off in this series might end up being a good thing for the Sixers long-term, as it might either prevent him from demanding an over-inflated contract on the open market in the off-season, allowing Philly to afford keeping him, or it might persuade them to let him walk, saving the Sixers from tying up their precious little remaining cap space to keep him. (Of course, a lackluster '08 post-season didn't stop the Sixers from giving 'Dre $80 million, so who knows, really.)

So now what? The Sixers threw their best punch and still lost, Miami's Big Three (a combined 77 points and 31 rebounds) displaying too much firepower for the Liberty Ballers to contain, and their size on the offensive boards (20 offensive / 50 total to Philly's 11 / 34) proving too much to match up with. They'll try again on Sunday to stave off the sweep, and we certainly hope they'll be able to, but we're not really holding our breath at this point. You can't really get on the guys or the coaching staff for it, since they're legitimately doing the best they can, but the best the Sixers can do at this point is just to try to delay the inevitable as long as possible. The 76ers' '10-'11 season will be coming to an end sooner rather than later.

Sixers draw high praise from Warriors after loss to NBA leader

Sixers draw high praise from Warriors after loss to NBA leader

BOX SCORE

The Warriors are the blueprint of a total team in the NBA. They have a star-studded starting lineup and a top sixth man with the positional versatility that creates hard-to-combat matchups.

Yet, as the Warriors notched their 50th win of the season, 119-108, in a collaborative effort against the Sixers, they gave credit to the potential they see in their opponent, even when Brett Brown didn't have his key pieces on the court Monday (see Instant Replay).

"They play hard," Stephen Curry said. "They have some talent to work around. Hopefully they have some consistency with their roster going forward and getting guys healthy. One thing about them, you've got to compliment their energy and effort and fight every night they play."

Facing the Warriors with a full squad is challenging enough. The Sixers did it shorthanded without Joel Embiid, who is out indefinitely with a left knee contusion (see story). They also are less than a week removed from trading starting power forward Ersan Ilyasova and the defensive-minded Nerlens Noel.

"You've got to give this team a lot of credit," Draymond Green said. "They're going to be really, really, really good. I mean, they're missing Embiid and Ben Simmons and they're really on their way."

With 10 available players, including Justin Anderson, who has had just one shootaround to actually get a run in with the team, the Sixers fought until the final buzzer sounded. Dario Saric led the Sixers with 21 points and seven assists, while also collecting seven rebounds. Gerald Henderson scored 16 and both Robert Covington and Richaun Holmes added 15 (see feature highlight). Covington also grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.

"They play the right way," Klay Thompson said. "They made it tough on us tonight. I'm excited to see their team when Embiid and Simmons are healthy. It should be a scary frontcourt, and with Saric. They're heading in the right direction. They'll only get better this June because they have some high picks. It's a bright future in Philly."

The Sixers held the Warriors to 6 for 29 three-point shooting (20.7 percent), including an 0-for-11 outing by Curry. This was the third time this season and only the 37th time in his career Curry missed all of his three-point attempts.

"I think he had an off night," Brown said. "I think at times we got lucky with them as a team. They didn't shoot it the way the team normally would shoot it. Some of it is I give our guys credit."

Curry took his uncharacteristic performance, which included a pair of air-balls, in stride.

"The weatherman said it was a low-pressure system that was coming and I forgot to adjust," Curry said. "One thing, [I] don't ever get down on myself. Obviously that's why I got 11 of them up and not make one. You still have confidence the next one's going in."

Still, the Warriors turned to team basketball to pull away with the win. While they struggled from long range, they found other ways to run up the scoreboard, including shooting 33 for 39 at the free throw line.

Kevin Durant led all players with 27 points to go with eight rebounds. Green recorded a 14-point, 11-assist double-double and six boards. Thompson scored 21 points and Zaza Pachulia added 16. And at the end of the night, Curry still finished with 19 points in spite of his three-point woes.

"We've been doing this for a while together now and just try to find ways to get it done," Green said. "Obviously you've got to do a lot more on the defensive end to get stops, and try to create more offense. I think it was a good effort from everybody tonight to chip in."

Added Curry: "For us to still have the moxie to withstand that and still pretty much have the lead the whole game and allow our defense to get us a win tonight was kind of our M.O."

The Warriors are a perennial title contender thanks to their balanced roster and depth of weapons. The Sixers are in the beginning stages of working toward that goal. After Monday's game, the NBA's strongest example of "team" appreciated the direction in which Sixers are moving.

"Putting this franchise back together," Green said, "it's amazing to see."

Best of NHL: Ryan White scores in winning debut with Wild

Best of NHL: Ryan White scores in winning debut with Wild

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Mikael Granlund beat two defenders to find open ice and wrap the winning shot around goalie Jonathan Quick just 12 seconds into overtime, giving the Minnesota Wild a 5-4 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night.

Granlund's 20th goal of the season gave goalie Devan Dubnyk his NHL-leading 33rd win and the Wild their 15th comeback victory. They answered all four goals in regulation by the Kings, from Nick Shore, Tanner Pearson, Jake Muzzin and Marian Gaborik.

Jason Zucker's spinning wrist shot midway through the third period tied the game for the Wild, who also had goals from Nino Niederreiter, Jordan Schroeder and Ryan White in his debut. White and Martin Hanzal were acquired in a trade with Arizona the night before (see full recap).

Kucherov's hat trick carries Lightning past Sens
TAMPA, Fla. -- Nikita Kucherov scored three power-play goals in the second period and the Tampa Bay Lightning kept their fading playoff hopes alive with a 5-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Monday night.

Kucherov had the second hat trick of his career and added an assist in the third period. Jonathan Drouin assisted all three of his goals and Victor Hedman assisted on two.

A day after trading goaltender Ben Bishop to Los Angeles and just hours after trading forward Brian Boyle to Toronto, the Lightning improved to 6-1-2 over their past nine games.

The Senators, who won at Florida on Sunday night, are 6-6 over their past 12 games (see full recap).

Galchenyuk lifts Canadiens over Devils in OT
NEWARK, N.J. -- Alex Galchenyuk scored on a power play at 2:54 of overtime and the Montreal Canadiens rallied from a two-goal third-period deficit to beat the New Jersey Devils 4-3 on Monday night.

Max Pacioretty scored twice in the final 11:23 of regulation to tie the game and Alexander Radulov added a goal for the Canadiens, who won consecutive games for the first time since early January. Al Montoya had 34 saves for Montreal.

Kyle Palmieri, John Moore and Travis Zajac scored for the Devils, who have lost four straight games (0-2-2), the past two in overtime. Cory Schneider made 29 saves.

Galchenyuk beat Schneider with a shot from between the circles less than a minute after Damon Severson was penalized for hooking (see full recap).