The Philadelphia 76ers Won a Professional Basketball Game Last Night

The Philadelphia 76ers Won a Professional Basketball Game Last Night

We needed this one. Not in terms of the standings or the "playoff race"
that doesn't really exist at this point, no matter how you try to
pretend in your post-game interview Molly Sullivan, but just in terms of
the Sixers fanbase needing to watch this Sixers team play 48 minutes of
basketball without wanting to go suck on an exhaust pipe. After seven
straight losses, after a Coach Collins meltdown, after the Funny-Looking
Kid With the Big Hair giving us yet another round of further
discouraging news, we needed a reason to continue to give a shit about
this team, for this season and the ones to follow. Tankfest '13 could
hold for one game—we needed to see some good basketball, dammit.

Well,
last night against the Golden State Warriors, we finally got it. The
Warriors took a 16 point lead in the second quarter, and it looked like
it was gonna be another one of those games where a playoff team just
runs over the 76ers at home. But the Sixers actually managed to fight
back to make it a game at the half—thanks, unexpectedly, to some good
outside shooting, particularly from Dorell Wright and a red hot Royal
Ivey—and then Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday took over in the second half,
outplaying Golden State's own star tandem of young perimeter players,
Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, down the stretch. (Klay and Steph still
finished with a combined 59 points and ten made threes, but no matter.)


It was the type of game we haven't seen from the Sixers in
forever—one where they win because their good young players all play
well. Jrue was extremely sloppy with the ball early, with five TOs in
the first half alone (eight on the game), but his shot was falling all
night, and he made some big buckets (a couple on strong drives to the
basket) in the final minutes to put the game out of reach for Golden
State. The Damaja's shooting in general has just been incredible
lately—over his last five games, he's averaging nearly 22 points on
about 53% shooting, 46% from deep, upping his season averages to 46% and
36%, respectively, excellent numbers for such a high-usage player as
Jrue.

The guy who won this game for us, though, was Evan Turner.
It's been a while since Evan had one of those games that made you go
"As frustrating as he is, we just can't give up on this guy yet,"
but he certainly had one last night, putting up 22 points (on 10-15
shooting!) to go with ten rebounds, nine assists and just two turnovers,
very possibly his best game of the season. He did everything, even
connecting on a pair of threes—his first made bombs since the month of
January, sadly—and coming one rolled-out Thad layup away from posting
the first triple-double of his career. In the third quarter, he
absolutely changed the game with his aggressiveness, and as is sometimes
the case with Evan, you could feel him getting stronger and more
confident with each made jumper, each inspired pass. (His alley-oop to
Arnett Moultrie in the third was a sight for sore eyes for any number of
reasons.)

It's been a while since Jrue and Evan had games this
good simultaneously—the two haven't scored 20 points in the same game
since January 26th against the Knicks, and have only done it four times
total all season. But getting games like this from the two guys that
were supposed to be the foundation of the team's future—plus a very
strong 14-point, 16-rebounds game from Thaddeus Young, even if he did
blow the layup to give Turner the trip-dub—reminds us that amidst all
the tanking, there is still something worth saving within this team,
something vaguely resembling hope for the future. It's enough to keep us
going, at least for a little while.

After the win, Dougie
embraced some of his players with such emotion and relief, you'd think
they just won a grueling seven-game playoff series together. Not quite,
but perhaps they themselves were reminded with the win tonight that
there was something worth fighting for with the Philadelphia 76ers. The
road up ahead is a long one–they play four of their next five on the
road, three against playoff teams—and they're still probably better off
losing more of those games than they win. But without a game like last
night's, they might not have even been able to play out the string in
the City of Brotherly Love without turning on each other, causing
irreparable damage to the team's future.

It still might happen.
But at least last night, they put the bad vibes on hold for one game,
and reminded us that Philadelphia professional basketball isn't totally
beyond redemption, Funny-Looking Kid or no. Thanks for that, dudes.

Rating the Rumor: Eagles 'In on' Alshon Jeffery

Rating the Rumor: Eagles 'In on' Alshon Jeffery

Ian Rapoport for the NFL Network reports the Chicago Bears are not expected to place the franchise tag on free-agent wide receiver Alshon Jeffery before the March 1 deadline. Meanwhile, league sources previously told Jason La Canfora for CBS Sports that they “anticipate” the Eagles “being in on” Jeffery should the 2013 Pro Bowler become accessible.

Put two and two together, and there are folks around the NFL who believe the Eagles will pursue Jeffery when free agency opens on March 9.

Yet while receiver is one of the Eagles’ two greatest needs this offseason, whether they should make a run at Jeffery and whether they can afford him might be two different answers. Getting another weapon for Carson Wentz seems like it will be the top priority in free agency, but doing so will not be cheap, and the club is up against the salary cap.

There’s little doubt the Eagles will reach out to Jeffery. Aside from the organization being known for always doing its due diligence with players, the 27-year-old is hands down the best option on the market. Over the 2013 and ’14 seasons, Jeffery averaged 87 receptions, 1,277 yards and 8.5 touchdowns per year. He’s dealt with injuries and a terrible supporting cast in the two years since, yet still managed to go over 800 yards receiving in each.

Jeffery has some baggage, specifically the four-game suspension for violation of the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy in 2016. Despite everything, only nine active players are averaging more than his 72.2 yards per game, and only 10 better than 15.0 yards per reception. The talent is undeniable, and with a quarterback of Wentz’s caliber throwing him the football, the sky is the limit.

The Eagles absolutely should pursue Jeffery. Actually signing him is where this begins to get tricky.

For starters, the Eagles are currently sitting at an estimated $9.69 million under the cap, according to OverTheCap.com. Only three teams are in worse shape. There may be more moves to free up space in the coming days, which will help, although even if they get that figure closer to $25 million through a series of trades and releases, the numbers are tight.

Jeffery collected $14.6 million under the franchise tag in ’16, and while he might not see quite that much annually on his next contract, it’s not out of line with expectations. Antonio Brown, A.J. Green, Julio Jones, Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant are all making $14 million or more per season. Jeffery may not have the body of work of those players, but as the top receiver available, the market will value him and be willing to pay as such.

That $25 million the Eagles can theoretically free up might be the best case scenario. It likely won’t be that, which means signing Jeffery would take up practically all of their cap space for ’17. Obviously, there are ways to structure a contract to push money into future years, and the case could be made the Eagles don’t need to sign any other free agents.

No matter how you slice it, there are some logistical concerns here. Until the Eagles shed some of those contracts and we can see what they’re working with, it’s difficult to envision how they win a bidding war against suitors with upwards of $50, $60, even $70 million to spend.

It’s not so much a question of interest for the Eagles. It’s whether or not signing Jeffery is realistic in the first place.

Rating the Rumor: We’ll see

Flyers-Avalanche 5 things: Final showing before trade deadline

Flyers-Avalanche 5 things: Final showing before trade deadline

Flyers (28-26-7) vs. Avalanche (17-40-3)
7 p.m. on CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 6:30

A day before the NHL trade deadline, the Flyers welcome the hapless Colorado Avalanche to the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night.

Here are five things to know for the matchup:

1. Final hurrah?
Prior to Saturday's outdoor game in Pittsburgh, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall admitted his team's final two contests before deadline day could have some impact on decisions.

The Flyers lost to the Penguins at Heinz Field, 4-2, and now host the NHL's worst club in the Avalanche. It could be the final game before the Flyers look a bit different the remaining 20 contests of the regular season.

The Flyers enter Tuesday six points behind the Maple Leafs for the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot. At 63 points, they also trail the Islanders (68), Panthers (66) and Lightning (64), with the Sabres (62) and Devils (62) breathing down their necks.

With three expiring contracts on defense and young blueliners at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley, Hextall has pieces to sell and reasons to do it. Defensemen Mark Streit, Michael Del Zotto and Nick Schultz are set to be unrestricted free agents this offseason. Goalies Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth can also hit the UFA market come July 1, as can role forwards Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Chris VandeVelde.

The Flyers are clearly not in a win-now mode with the way things have gone recently, so dealing parts, clearing space and acquiring draft picks would certainly help expedite the road to contention.

2. Avoid an Avalanche
This really is a game that would be inexcusable for the Flyers to lose.

They have one last chance to make an impression on their GM.

They're in serious need of a win to keep postseason hopes flickering.

And they're on home ice against a team that has won six games over the last 2½ months.

"Everybody is frustrated right now," Claude Giroux said Monday. "We can't be pointing fingers.
 
"Everybody needs to be a little bit better and give a little more and go one game at a time here. [Tuesday], we're back in front of our fans. We've got to get this win, we know that. We've just got to keep at it."

The Avalanche are in the NHL cellar with 37 points. The next closest team is the Coyotes at 51 points. Colorado is dead last in goals per game (2.02) and goals allowed per game (3.30), and has also been interested in the Flyers as a trade partner, a source told CSNPhilly.com's Tim Panaccio.

3. Different defense
Del Zotto should get a chance to showcase himself Tuesday night.

That's because defenseman Brandon Manning will serve the first game of a two-game suspension handed down on Monday for his hit on Penguins forward Jake Guentzel during Saturday's loss.

Del Zotto, who will likely enter the lineup for Manning, has played just 32 games this season because of injury and healthy scratches. The 26-year-old also understands that trade rumors swirl this time of year.

"It happens every year," Del Zotto said last week. "It's not like it’s the first time. I've been traded before. It is what it is. It's a business.

"You realize that pretty early in your career. I understand where I'm at as far as my contract, being a UFA this summer."

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: Giroux has two goals in his last 26 games. However, he has six goals in nine career games against the Avalanche, who are giving them up in bunches this season. You'd have to think this is a game in which the captain could break out a bit.

Avalanche: Matt Duchene has been the subject of trade rumors and leads Colorado in goals with 16. The 26-year-old center has also played well against the Flyers in his career, posting seven points (four goals, three assists) in nine matchups.

5. This and that
• Flyers goalie Steve Mason is expected to start for the first time since Feb. 9. He's played just twice since Jan. 31, allowing eight combined goals in two losses. Mason is 16-17-6 with a 2.90 goals-against average and .900 save percentage.

• Avalanche goalie Calvin Pickard was scratched last Saturday because of a stiff neck. If he can't go, 27-year-old rookie Jeremy Smith will make his fourth career start.

• The Flyers have lost eight of their last 11 games.

• The Flyers have scored the NHL's fewest goals (68) since Dec. 5.