PHI 107, CHI 104: The Sixers did it again. The beautiful bastards did it again.

PHI 107, CHI 104: The Sixers did it again. The beautiful bastards did it again.

We're in uncharted waters here, people. Once is a fluke, twice is a coincidence, three times is a trend. Three nights after beating the two-time-champion Miami Heat and just one night after taking down the resurgent Wizards in Washington, the Sixers moved to 3-0 last night against the Chicago Bulls--maybe the only team in the East (or even all of basketball) expected to be on Miami's level this season--with a victory no less astounding than either of those historically unexpected Ws.

It's 6:00 in the morning (7:00 by non-DST body clock standards) and I'm far too tired to write my usual novella about the heroes that made last night's upset possible, so I'm gonna hit it and quit it in top ten list form, from least to most important to last night's win:

10. Daniel Orton. Solid PT off the bench, 2-2 for four points with a board, an assist and typical defensive presence in 11 minutes. Looks to have legit backup center potential.

9. Darius Morris. Hit a three and a buzzer-beating iso jumper to end the first and keep the Sixers afloat.

8. Lavoy Allen. After basically no-showing the pre-season, Lavoy has come correct in the first three games of the regular, showing much improved range on his jumper and giving the second unit desperately needed scoring punch. Six points and four boards tonight.

7. Wells Fargo Center crowd. Can't say enough about the WFC turnout these last two home games--a little lucky we had big names in town to attract otherwise uninterested fans, but those in attendance have given the 76er performances the rapturous reception they deserve.

6. Tony Wroten. Has already matched last season's total of threes made (four) and tripled last season's total of games in double-figure scoring. Avert your eyes from the heat-check three and alley-oop in transition attempts, though.

5. Evan Turner. Evan's least impressive stat line of the season, and his defense is always an adventure against a team as tough and athletic as the Bulls, but he still managed to hit the 20-point plateau for the third time in three tries, shooting 7-16 from the field and 6-7 from the charity stripe. There were only five games where Evan got to the line seven times or more last year.

4. Thaddeus Young. One of the only Sixers to play defense last night, and three three-pointers--one more than he hit in the last two seasons combined--including two standstill bombs I still can't believe actually went in.

3. Brett Brown. He gets the team running, he gets the team executing, and he even gets the team to run a play to get the game-sealing open bucket instead of letting ET work his way to a contested step-back elbow jumper. After Brett Brown, no team is ever going to take less than an entire summer to choose their new head coach again.

2. Spencer Hawes. 18 points, 11 boards, and this impossibly poised pump-fake and drop-the-mic jumper:

Welcome back, Lockout Spence. Oh, how we have missed you.

1. Michael Carter-Williams. This graphic just about says it all about our most unexpected Rookie of the Year front-runner:

The Sixers are 3-0, without a cupcake win in the bunch. The Championship Belt remains ours. It's probably still more fluke or coincidence than legitimate trend, but it's getting harder to stay guarded about it. In any event, this is the biggest story of the early NBA season, and I can't wait to spend the next week writing about it.

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Highly ranked 2018 recruit Brandon Slater verbally commits to Villanova

Highly ranked 2018 recruit Brandon Slater verbally commits to Villanova

The future of Villanova basketball just got brighter.

Brandon Slater, a 6-foot-6 wing and highly touted 2018 recruit, told Scout.com on Wednesday night that he has verbally committed to the Wildcats.

He later made the announcement on Twitter.

Among the 2018 recruiting class, Slater, a product of Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax, Virginia, is ranked in the top 30 by Scout.com and top 50 by ESPN.com. He's slated as a four-star talent by both media outlets.

Per ESPN, Slater had offers from Louisville, Maryland, Miami, Syracuse, USC and Virginia Tech. He is Villanova's first commitment for 2018.

"Going up there it just feels like a second home," Slater said, via Evan Daniels of Scout.com. "It gives me a good vibe. It's nothing like all the other schools. I just feel like a Villanova guy. It feels like PVI. It's already home."

Slater and Villanova head coach Jay Wright expressed their excitement on Twitter.

Pete Mackanin maintains positive outlook even though Phillies now have worst record in majors

Pete Mackanin maintains positive outlook even though Phillies now have worst record in majors

BOX SCORE

On the surface, it might appear that the Phillies were done in by one bad inning on Wednesday night. After all, they suffered a 7-2 loss at Citizens Bank Park and the visiting Colorado Rockies scored all of their runs in one hellacious burst in the third inning (see Instant Replay).

But there was more to the loss than just one poor inning by starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson. The Phillies came to the plate in nine innings against the Rockies pitchers and managed hits in only two of them while finishing the game with just three. It was the third time in the last four games — all losses — that the Phillies have mustered just three (expletive deleted) hits. Through the first seven innings in this one, they were out-hit, 11-1.

"Well, once again, three hits," manager Pete Mackanin said afterward. "Not a whole lot of good to talk about."

No, there wasn't. Hasn't been for a while. The Phillies have lost five in a row, 9 of 10 and 20 of their last 24 games. Wednesday night's loss left them with the worst record in the majors at 15-29.

"There's a lot of baseball left, and I know we're better than this," Mackanin said. "We just have to have some kind of spark to get out of it. Win a couple in a row and it could put us on a winning streak."

It's not going to be easy to start the winning streak in Thursday's series finale against Colorado. The Rockies have the best record in the National League at 31-17 and they have outscored the Phillies, 23-5, in the first three games of the series.

That's a serious beating.

"They have some really good hitters in that lineup and it's a deep lineup, too," Hellickson said. "There are no easy outs."

Conversely, there have been many easy outs in the Phillies' lineup in this series. The Phils did not get their first hit Wednesday night until Andrew Knapp singled with two outs in the fifth inning. The Rockies' starting pitchers in this series have held the Phils to two runs in 20 innings. And two of those pitchers were rookies, Jeff Hoffman and German Marquez. Tyler Chatwood pitched seven shutout innings Wednesday night.

The Phillies' starting pitching in the month of May has been brutal. Phillies starters have a 6.39 ERA in the month, second worst in baseball over that span.

The team is 4-17 in the month.

"It's been kind of surprising," Mackanin said of the rotation's problems this month. "I know they're better than that. We're going to put something together. I believe that."

Hellickson went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in five starts in April. He's been a different pitcher in May. His ERA in the month is a hefty 7.30 in five starts. The difference in the months: Hellickson located his finesse repertoire down in the strike zone in April. He's been up in the zone in May. On Wednesday night, Rockies hitters fought off his middling fastball and didn't miss his soft stuff because it was up. Carlos Gonzalez had the big hit against Hellickson in the Rockies' seven-run third. He jumped out of his shoes to hack at a 2-1 changeup and hit it for a three-run home run.

"He had poor command of his changeup," Mackanin said. "He was yanking his changeup, not locating it. That's his out pitch. He didn't have it tonight.

"He's had a lot of good starts for us. When he doesn't locate, he gives up a run here or there, but he kind of gets it back. For that one inning, it fell apart on him."

Hellickson allowed eight baserunners on six hits and two walks in the Rockies' seven-run third inning. He gave up a double, a triple, a homer and three singles in the frame.

"I beat myself that inning by falling behind and walking too many," the pitcher said. "When I did make a good pitch, they found a way to get hits off those, too."

This is the third straight season that the Phillies have endured a 4-20 stretch.

"It's not easy," Hellickson said. "It's not fun. It's just something you deal with. It's not fun."

During this stretch, Mackanin has benched his cleanup hitter, Maikel Franco (see story). Otherwise, he has kept his sanity.

"I remember when I took over in '15, the team was scuffling, really not playing well," Mackanin said. "Then something clicked and we started beating teams. Last year, we had a good first part of the season and then kind of scuffled at the end. Sometimes one little thing clicks and you get better.

"In a long season, these things sometimes happen. I remember Atlanta, the first half last year, was terrible. They had a real good second half. I believe we just need to get something going. We're going to put something together. I believe that."