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. 

Carson Wentz talks Derek Barnett, that Cowboys hat and crazy Eagles fans

Carson Wentz talks Derek Barnett, that Cowboys hat and crazy Eagles fans

Carson Wentz has had a whilrwind few days in Philadelphia as the city hosts the 2017 NFL draft.

He took some time between posing for selfies with Eagles fans and messing with Dallas Cowboys fans and hitting trick shots on live TV to talk about his busy week with CSNPhilly's Danny Pommells.

Obviously that pesky Cowboys' fan was a topic of interest.

"He was coming up and was getting booed. I was like, 'I can't take this picture.' So I nicely took his hat off and set it down and took the picture. He was cool with it. It was all in fun," Wentz said.

Carson also spoke about the record-setting Philly crowd and impressive atmosphere on Day 1 of the draft

"It was crazy. I didn't know what to expect being at the Draft Experience. The fans just kind of all circulated, it was nuts. That's Eagles fans. So much passion."

As for the Birds' first round pick Derek Barnett? Wentz had to look him up just like many Eagles fans.

"I watched some film of him. He's a dynamic player. He can really turn that corner and bend around that corner. I'm happy he's on our team I'll tell you that."

"I've heard he's a hard-working kid so that will serve him well," Wentz said.

The NFL Draft Experience continues on Friday and Saturday and is free for all fans.

Sixers 2016-17 Player Evaluation: Richaun Holmes

Sixers 2016-17 Player Evaluation: Richaun Holmes

Richaun Holmes

Position: Center

Status for 2017-18: Under contract for $1,471,382

Holmes in 2016-17
This year very well could have been a lost season for Richaun Holmes. The 23-year-old center was fourth on the Sixers' depth chart to begin the season, sitting behind top-10 picks Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel. Cracking the lineup, even with Embiid not playing back-to-backs and Noel hurt to start the year, was a daunting task.

Early in the season, Holmes provided solid minutes when he received them, reeling in 12 rebounds in a win vs. the Pacers on Nov. 11 and picking up 11 points and eight boards against the Nuggets on Dec. 5. However, Holmes was sent to the D-League soon after and with centers excelling ahead of him, it seemed his time in Philly may be numbered.

But then Embiid got hurt. This opened the door for consistent playing time for the former second-round pick and he shined. He averaged 7.1 points and 4.8 rebounds in 17.9 minutes during February, then shot up to 14.1 points and 6.8 rebounds over 26.4 minutes in March after Noel was traded. He put up 14 games with double-figure scoring despite eclipsing 30 minutes only four times. 

In all, Holmes proved himself to be a force off the bench for the Sixers, as well as when he got into the starting lineup. In 57 games, he started 17 and averaged 9.8 points and 5.5 rebounds, both increases from his rookie season. He upped his field goal percentage to 55.8 percent and became a viable three-point threat, shooting 35.1 percent, up from 18.2 percent as a rookie. Holmes finished the year with five straight games in double figures as he was one of the only healthy players left on the roster.

Signature game
Soon after returning from the D-League in January, he put up 18 points on 8 for 11 shooting against the Clippers in a win. He also had a double-double against the Wizards in late February after the trade deadline.

However, his signature game is one of two. He had 24 points, 14 rebounds and five assists against the Magic on March 20, giving a tremendous effort over 42 minutes. Nine days later, he had 25 points — a career-high — while facing off against Dwight Howard and the Atlanta Hawks, earning the praise of the veteran center (see below).

Looking ahead to 2017-18
It may have seemed unlikely in early January, but Holmes is likely a rotation piece for the Sixers next season. Noel is gone, Okafor may follow soon and Embiid may have trouble with back-to-backs again next season, although president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo has indicated otherwise. That opens the door for a lot of playing time, including more starts, for the Bowling Green product. 

The Sixers may bring in veteran help at center if Okafor is dealt, but it likely won't deter the 6-foot-10 forward in securing a role for next season. He proved too valuable at the end of the season. The energy Holmes provides is a necessary element to a second-unit and something the Sixers will gladly take next season.

On Holmes
"He's a kid that I remember the first time he stepped on the court with me, he was just like excited. He kept saying, 'Wow, I'm on the floor with Dwight Howard.' He just kept saying he was excited. Just to see his growth from that moment, he plays with such passion, it's great to see especially from a young guy like him. I'm proud of him."
- Atlanta Hawks center Dwight Howard

"He just sat there and accepted whatever we gave him: go to the D-League, sit there and clap, start, play behind Joel — whatever it was, he accepted. And he did it where it didn't diminish his work ethic, it didn't diminish his ability to coexist within a team. He found ways to improve individually, and he did it with a great level of maturity."
- Sixers head coach Brett Brown