No One Goes 82-0, Probably: Sixers Get First L of Season Against Knicks

No One Goes 82-0, Probably: Sixers Get First L of Season Against Knicks

It feels like we were overdue for a game like this, despite the fact
that we've only technically played one game so far this season. The New
York Knicks simply outplayed the Philadelphia 76ers today, in virtually
all phases of the game, largely because at this point in the season,
they're probably a considerably better team. More on that in a minute,
but the end result for this afternoon was a 100-84 Knicks victory that
was never really in question from the first quarter on.

Despite
all the bad moves and worse PR for the Knicks front office that you've
no doubt heard about this off-season—letting Jeremy Lin sign with the
Rockets largely out of spite, trading for a bunch of
past-their-past-their-prime veterans, losing to the Lakers in the Steve
Nash sweepstakes, even losing Amar'e Stoudemire to injury for the first
two months of the season—the end result for New York is a team that,
whether by design or dumb luck, actually makes a lot of sense.

The
team's construction, as currently constituted isn't totally unlike the
Iverson-led Sixers teams of the early '00s, building around Anthony's
transcendent offensive talents with smart, veteran role players that can
play defense, move the ball and hit open shots—the one exception being
J.R. Smith, who's there to play poor-man's Melo with the second unit.
I'm not sure how it'll play for New York against more star-studded
lineups in the post-season, or once nominal secondary star Stoudemire
returns from injury, but so far so good for these Knicks, who have won
two games against playoff teams by a combined 36 points, and appear on
track to win a lot of games this regular season.

Meanwhile, it
might be a bit strong to say that the Sixers never had a chance today,
but the odds were certainly against them, especially with the early-game
loss of Jason Richardson to an ankle strain. (Damn you, front row
photogs!) The team needed Nick Young, Dorell Wright and Evan Turner to
step up in our most consistent wing scorer's absence, and the trio
combined to shoot 9-30, effectively torpedoing the team from the
outside. Nick Young was especially ghastly, adding nothing beyond his
non-existent shooting stroke, killing the team's momentum with a dumb
box-out foul on Jason Kidd just as they were making a run back in the
second half, and ending with a -29 for the game, which seems generous if
anything.

Turner was better than the Swagged One, but not much.
As he'll likely do throughout the season, he was able to contribute via
the defensive boards, actually scraping together a double-double for
the afternoon, and he managed to get to the free-throw line six times (a
team high by far, sadly), hitting all six. But his outside shot was
predictably flat, his ball-handling was sloppy, and he got burned on
defense repeatedly by the likes of Ronnie Brewer and J.R. Smith, closing
late on shooters and failing to switch in time. To say we need more
from Turner to have a chance to stay competitive in Andrew Bynum's
elongated absence would be an understatement, but let's say it anyway:
Evan, you gotta do better than this.

The positives today came
from Jrue Holiday, who kept the team in the game with his outside
shooting, draining five of six behind the arc for 27 points. Still,
Jrue's distribution was off, as his seven assists came with six
turnovers, and his outside shooting belied a passiveness getting into
the paint, as the Damaja took nary a shot from the free-throw line
today. Meanwhile, it was good news, bad news with Thaddeus Young, who
scored 16 points in the paint but needed 14 shots to do it, and who
collected an impressive six offensive rebounds, but didn't grab a single
board on the defensive glass. Spencer Hawes was effective early but got
into foul trouble quickly, largely thanks to some aggressive driving
from Carmelo Anthony.

Oh yeah, speaking of Melo—the Sixers
didn't have a prayer against him. Now, Anthony gets his against all
teams in the end, and he averaged about 20 a game against the Sixers
last year as well, but with All-Defensive stopper Andre Iguodala digging
in against #7, he needed a whole lot of shots to do it, shooting less
than 37% against Philly for the year. He had no such trouble against
today's Sixers, blowing by the likes of Evan Turner and the hopelessly
over-matched Thaddeus Young, scoring 27 points on efficient 10-18
shooting, and sending the ball in its route along the perimeter for an
inevitable open Knicks three-pointer when the team attempted to double.
We here at the 700 Level fully believed it was time to let Andre
Iguodala go when we traded him last off-season, but you don't give up a
player that good without occasionally feeling his absence, and today was
one of those games.

The Sixers will get another chance against
these Knicks tomorrow night at home, and with Melo and the Knicks
hopefully getting a little less love from the refs and with Coach
Collins getting a chance to retool his defensive gameplan, maybe the
Sixers will fare better. But Anthony's dominance today shows us what
we're missing with our star center Andrew Bynum riding the bench, and
what a disadvantage we're going to be at without it against teams with
players like him until Bnum's return. In any event, the Sixers wings are
gonna have to step it up considerably in the team's next few
games—Jrue's not gonna hit five three-pointers too many more times this
season, and he can't make Collins' prediction of being a top-five assist
guy a reality as long as his teammates are clunking their open jumpers.

Still, we knew the undermanned Sixers were gonna lose some
games like this early, so there's no reason to panic about one such
defeat. Split the early season-series tomorrow night, and we can
certainly live with the loss today. Too early in the season to start a
losing streak already, anyway. 

Steve Mason rediscovers himself in New York just before Flyers return

Steve Mason rediscovers himself in New York just before Flyers return

It had been a while since Steve Mason saw himself.

Walking into the Barclays Center on Sunday, the Flyers’ goalie was 0-6-2 with a 4.03 goals-against average and .844 save percentage over his last 10 appearances (see more recent Flyers numbers and stats).

A far cry from how Mason truly sees himself in net.

But heading into Wednesday’s rivalry clash with the Rangers, Mason will have something to build on, something he couldn’t say since Dec. 21 — the last time he had earned a victory. He’s fresh off his first win in over a month, a gigantic one for Mason considering all the key moments on Sunday the Flyers hope invigorate his confidence.

Without numerous clutch stops from their goalie, the Flyers don’t come back from two goals down to beat the Islanders, 3-2, in overtime. Mason made four saves  — three on four-time All-Star John Tavares — in just over a minute of a third-period power play. The Flyers ended up having to kill two New York man advantages in the final 10 minutes of regulation in order to force overtime.

The extra session is when Mason was just as good, if not better, stoning Tavares on a breakaway attempt that had game-winner written all over it. Mason made four saves in overtime after 13 in the third period.

“I was happy with the way that, personally, this game went for myself,” Mason said Sunday. “It’s been a tough stretch and this is more the type of game that I expect of myself. In recent games, the team was lacking the big saves and tonight it shows what kind of difference it can make.”

It was a massive performance heading into a massive three-game stretch against the Rangers, Maple Leafs and Hurricanes.

“Mase made some huge saves for us,” Simmonds said. “It allowed us to get back in that game.

“It’s not just Mase [with the] ups and downs. Everyone in here has been kind of fighting it and squeezing sticks pretty tight. That one felt good and I think Mase led the charge for sure.”

Mason understands just one game doesn’t turn around a season.

“It’s nice to feel good after a game,” Mason said. “At the same time, whether you’re winning or losing, you have to have a short mindset and get ready for the next one.”

That brings the Flyers to Madison Square Garden Wednesday to face the Rangers, who they’ve lost five straight games to dating back to last season. Mason hasn’t had much luck against New York this season, allowing seven goals in two losses with an .860 save percentage. However, in 2015-16, Mason put up a 1.74 goals-against average and .941 save percentage in five games against the Rangers.

“That’s going to be a tough game going into MSG,” Mason said Tuesday (see story).

The good thing: Mason was in New York two days ago, remembering what he can be.

Manute Bol's 7-foot, 17-year-old son dominates in HS season debut

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Manute Bol's 7-foot, 17-year-old son dominates in HS season debut

Bol Bol, the 17-year-old son of the late Manute Bol, is a top high school basketball prospect with offers from schools like Arizona, Kansas and Creighton. This highlight tape should give you an idea why.
 
Bol, whose father played in the NBA for parts of 12 seasons, including 215 games for the Sixers, now attends the famed Mater Dei High School in California and played in his first game of the season this past weekend. Listed as the No. 16 overall prospect in the 2018 recruiting class by Scout, Bol started his season off with a big 21-point, 10-rebound effort.
 
Take a look at the highlight tape from the 6-foot-11 Bol and expect to see him carry on his father’s legacy on the court at a major NCAA college basketball program soon.