No Losing Streak: Sixers Look to Protect Home Court Against Atlanta

No Losing Streak: Sixers Look to Protect Home Court Against Atlanta

Last year, the Philadelphia 76ers had a mantra of sorts under then-new
coach Doug Collins: "We don't lose two in a row at home." Humble
ambitions, maybe, but for a team that won less than 30 games the year
before, it was a definite point of pride. And indeed, the team only lost
consecutive games at home twice all year—the first two and the last
two. We can only guess that the '11-'12 Sixers, with their 10-4 record
and unexpected Atlantic division supremacy, hold themselves to similar,
if not higher standards this year—one of the many reasons we hope they
can pull off a W at the WFC tonight against the Atlanta Hawks.

The Hawks have been something of a surprise team this year in the
East—not as surprising as the Sixers, perhaps, since the Hawks have made
the playoffs the last four years and won a first-round series each of
the last three—but many expected Atlanta to regress without sixth man
Jamal Crawford and an injured Kirk Hinrich (and now Al Horford). But the
Hawks have flown high, a half-game better than the Sixers at 11-4,
including an impressive 4-0 record since losing the two-time All-Star
big man Horford to a torn pec muscle. The play of Josh Smith is a
primary reason why, having a career year with his 17 and 9 on 50%
shooting, but the team's bench has also been better than expected, with
vets like Tracy McGrady and one-time Sixer Willie Green making solid
contributions, along with rookie scrapper (and Barkley favorite) Ivan
Johnson.

The Sixers will need to face their conference foe again without the
services of starting center Spencer Hawes, who sits again with a
strained Achilles. Luckily, unlike the first two games the Sixers played
without Hawes (against the Knicks and Nuggets, both losses), they don't
face any dominant big men in this game—undersized power forward Smith
can likely be checked by Andre Iguodala, and without Horford, the only
other real bigs the Hawks have are defense-first types like Jason
Collins and Zaza Pachulia. Spencer will still be missed, especially if
rookie Nik Vucevic can't stay on the court, but hopefully his absence
won't be quite the killer it was against New York and Denver.

7:00 tip from the WFC. By the way, even if Spencer can't make it on the
court tonight (or tomorrow against Miami, in all likelihood), you should
all know that he's at least remaining productive off the court—who else
is crazy excited for the Hawes/Turner dual podcast??

5 Eagles to watch on offense and defense at OTAs

5 Eagles to watch on offense and defense at OTAs

Tuesday is a big day in the progression of the 2017 Eagles

The team is finally all together as OTAs kick off at the NovaCare Complex. We've already looked at the biggest storylines of the week (see story), but how about the individual players? 

Well, let's look at five offensive and five defensive players to watch this week, leaving out Carson Wentz. Yeah, we're going to watch the QB. 

Offense

Alshon Jeffery
Jeffery won't be hard to spot. The 6-foot-3, 218-pound receiver was brought in on a one-year deal this offseason. He's been in Philly working out, but this will be his first time at a real practice with his new team. Maybe we'll quickly get a sense of his chemistry with Wentz. 

Torrey Smith
At his introductory press conference in March, Smith was asked about his speed and responded by jokingly challenging a reporter to a race. While that never happened, it's fair to wonder what the Eagles are getting in Smith. He wasn't the same player in San Francisco, so we'll get to see if he has some gas left in the tank. 

Donnel Pumphrey
We already got a glimpse of Pumphrey during rookie camp, but didn't get a long time to watch practice. At OTAs, we'll see everything. The biggest thing that stood out about Pumphrey a couple weeks ago was his size — or lack of size. How will Doug Pederson use his new weapon? We might get some hints this week. 

LeGarrette Blount
Pumphrey and Blount technically play the same position, yet Blount is 74 pounds heavier. To put that in perspective, 74 pounds is about the weight of an average 10-year-old. Blount has been in the league for nearly a decade, but he's in a new offense in Philly (without a true tight end), so we'll see where he is in a short time with the team.  

Taylor Hart
Normally we wouldn't put an offensive lineman on a list of guys to watch in shorts, but Hart is transitioning from defensive tackle to offensive tackle and this is the first chance to see him on offense. Worth watching. He was pretty excited about the switch in January (see story).

Defense

Timmy Jernigan
Honestly, it's harder to evaluate defensive players during OTAs because there's no hitting, and it's even harder to evaluate linemen. Jernigan, though, is worth watching because he's replacing Bennie Logan. 

Rasul Douglas
We've already seen Douglas at rookie camp, but he was really looking forward to lining up against some veterans like Jeffery. Douglas was a third-rounder, but he might be more important to the team in 2017 than any other rookie simply because of his position. 

Patrick Robinson
Speaking of the cornerback position, this week is the first of seeing Robinson, who signed a one-year deal that's mostly gone forgotten. The 29-year-old former first-round pick is coming off a rough yearlong stint with the Colts, but was much better in 2015 with the Chargers. He's on a prove-it deal, so who knows if he'll be the Eagles' best option. 

Ron Brooks
One of the biggest losses the Eagles suffered during the 2016 season was when Brooks went down with a bad leg injury. No, Brooks wasn't great before the injury, but he was the team's slot corner, which kept Malcolm Jenkins at safety. Not sure where Brooks is in his recovery, but don't forget about him. Jim Schwartz clearly likes Brooks. 

Joe Walker
Walker is recovering from an ACL tear from last preseason. He was lining up to be the team's backup middle linebacker before the injury and the 2016 seventh-round pick will probably have the inside track to win that job this year ... as long as he regains his form from before the injury. 

NBA Playoffs: Warriors sweep their way to 3rd straight NBA Finals

NBA Playoffs: Warriors sweep their way to 3rd straight NBA Finals

BOX SCORE

SAN ANTONIO -- Stephen Curry scored 36 points as the Golden State Warriors closed out the Western Conference Final against the injury-ravaged San Antonio Spurs with a 129-115 victory Monday night, becoming the first team in league history to start the playoffs 12-0.

Golden State led by as many as 22 points in cruising to its third straight NBA Finals. The Warriors await a possible third straight championship matchup with Cleveland, which leads Boston 2-1 in the East finals.

"It's great to be one of the last two teams standing, we'll see how it goes," said Kevin Durant, who had 29 points and 12 rebounds.

San Antonio's only lead came on the opening possession when Manu Ginobili tossed in a left-handed scoop shot. The Spurs started Ginobili in what could be his final game with the team. The 39-year-old had maintained he will not ponder whether to retire or return until after the season.

Unsure if the beloved veteran will return, the crowd serenaded Ginobili with "Manu, Manu" chants as the game came to a close.

"An amazing competitor, even more fun playing against him," Durant said of Ginobili. "He was phenomenal this series."

Kyle Anderson scored 20 points to lead the Spurs, who were without Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker and David Lee. San Antonio didn't go down without a fight despite the injuries.

Anderson dove on the court for a loose ball that the Spurs had tipped away defensively, pushing the ball upcourt to Patty Mills who fed Ginobili for a 3-pointer that pulled San Antonio to 108-94 with 7 minutes remaining.

The effort made Spurs coach Gregg Popovich smile and clap at times, but the Warriors' depth and talent proved too much for short-handed San Antonio.

Golden State shot 56 percent and were 14 for 39 on 3-pointers.

Draymond Green had 16 points, eight rebounds and eight assists for the Warriors.

Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge closed out a disappointing series with his second eight-point effort against the Warriors.

Ginobili finished with 15 points in 32 minutes.