Sick For the Big Win: Sixers Look to End Losing Against Phoenix

Sick For the Big Win: Sixers Look to End Losing Against Phoenix

Last night's overtime defeat at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder
was either a crushing loss or a feel-good moral victory, depending on
how you look at it. I personally opt for the latter—sure, if Dorell
Wright makes a wide-open sixteen-footer with a half-minute left (or if
Jason Richardson was in the game to take it instead), we probably win
that one and get our best win of the season, which is tough to now do
without, especially with the Andrew Bynum news (now out indefinitely,
don't even ask Tony DiLeo when he'll be back) constantly getting worse.

But
still, the guys fought so damn hard—particularly Evan Turner, in
All-Star form with his 26 points, five boards, four dimes and excellent
second-half defense on Russell Westbrook, and Thaddeus Young, grinding
out perhaps his best-ever game as a 76er with his 29 points, 15 rebounds
and four assists—that it's hard to begrudge them for losing in OT to a
much better team with two of the ten or so best players in the league
going off for 30+ points each. The battle was impressive, and without
Bynum, this is who we are again—a mid-level team that can occasionally
claw their way into down-to-the-wire finishes against the league's
elite, but will still lose the great majority of them.

Depressing
as it is either way, the Sixers get a chance to finish the week on a
positive note, at home against the Phoenix Suns. The Suns have been
slightly less miserable than expected in their first year after parting
ways with two-time MVP point guard Steve Nash, scrapping their way to a
6-7 record—though like the Sixers, they've had a pretty soft schedule
early on in the season. If the Sixers bigs can get a handle on the Suns'
bruising Luis Scola / Marcin Gortat frontcourt, and Jrue can take care
of business in the back court against emerging point guard Goran Dragic,
Philly should hopefully be able to take care of business in this one.
Of course, after those Pistons and Cavaliers losses, clearly nothing is
as good as in the books with this team.

Early 6:00 tip from the
Wells Fargo Center. Looks like we'll have J-Rich available in this one,
despite him missing the second half last night after re-spraining his
ankle. As the man says, Andrew Bynum is not walking through that door,
so until we figure out what the next step is, we gotta continue to get
the wins where we can.

NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins are heading back to the Stanley Cup Final.

Chris Kunitz beat Craig Anderson 5:09 into the second overtime to give the defending champions a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final Thursday night.

Kunitz scored twice, his first two of the playoffs. Justin Schultz added the other in his return from an upper-body injury, and Matt Murray stopped 28 shots on his 23rd birthday.

The Penguins are trying to become the first team since the Detroit Red Wings in 1998 to win back-to-back titles. They will host Western Conference champion Nashville in Game 1 on Monday night.

Mark Stone and Ryan Dzingel scored for Ottawa. The Senators rallied twice to tie it, with Dzingel making it 2-2 with 5:19 left in regulation.

Craig Anderson made 39 saves, but couldn't get a handle on Kunitz's shot from just outside the left circle. The Senators are 0-6 in Game 7s in franchise history.

The Senators forced a return trip to Pittsburgh -- where they lost 7-0 loss in Game 5 on Sunday -- by leaning heavily on Anderson in a 2-1 Game 6 victory, putting both teams at odds with history.

Ottawa came in 0-for-25 years in winner-take-all games, while the Penguins were 0-7 in Game 7s at home in series in which they also dropped Game 6.

Ottawa coach Guy Boucher told his resilient team to not get caught up in the big picture but instead focus on the small ones, a recipe that carried the Senators throughout a bumpy transition under their first-year head coach to the brink of the franchise's second Cup appearance.

The Penguins, trying to become the first defending champion to return to the finals since Detroit in 2009, came in confident they would advance if they could replicate their dominant Game 6, when they were undone only by Anderson's brilliance.

Pittsburgh has been nearly unflappable in the face of adversity under Mike Sullivan, going 12-2 in playoff games following a loss over the last two springs. He encouraged his team to "just play," code for fighting through Ottawa's neutral zone-clogging style and the bumping, grabbing and pulling that comes along with it.

A chance to play for their sport's ultimate prize on the line, the sheets of open ice the Penguins found so easily in Games 4-6 closed up. For most of the first 30 minutes, loose pucks hopped over sticks to spoil some scoring opportunities while Anderson and Murray gobbled up the rest.

Kunitz, relegated to the fourth line since returning from injury in the second round, picked up his first postseason goal in a calendar year when he completed a two-on-one with Conor Sheary -- a healthy scratch in Games 5 and 6 -- by slipping the puck by Anderson 9:55 into the second period.

The momentum lasted all of 20 seconds. Ottawa responded immediately with Stone -- who stretched his left skate to stay onside -- fired a wrist shot that handcuffed Murray.

Pittsburgh kept coming. Schultz, returning after missing four games with an upper-body injury, zipped a shot from the point through Kunitz's screen and into the net with 8:16 left in the third.

Once again, the Penguins could not hold the lead. Dzingel set up at the right post and banged home a rebound off Erik Karlsson's shot that hit the left post and caromed off Murray's back right to Dzingel's stick.

Notes
The home team is 21-20 in overtime Game 7s in NHL playoff history. ... Pittsburgh F Patric Hornqvist skated during warmups, but was held out of the lineup for a sixth straight game with an upper-body injury. ... Karlsson had 16 assists in the playoffs to set a team record. ... The Penguins are 10-7 in Game 7s. ... It was the fifth one-goal game of the series.

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick experienced a painful rehab start on Thursday night.

Rehabbing with Triple A Lehigh Valley, Kendrick was hit by a pitch twice before being removed after the sixth inning of the IronPigs' 8-4 loss to Indianapolis at Coca-Cola Park.

Both times Kendrick was plunked in the upper left arm, according to Tom Housenick of the Morning Call.

There was no update on if Kendrick was injured or taken out for precautionary reasons. Thursday marked Kendrick's second rehab start as he recovers from an oblique strain that has sidelined him since April 15.

The Phillies' leftfielder started at third base Thursday. At the beginning of his rehab assignment, Kendrick was expected to play four games and see time at third and first base, as well as in left field.

Kendrick made a throwing error at third on Thursday and finished 0 for 1 with a run scored. In his two games, he's 0 for 3 with two strikeouts.

Kendrick hit .333 with four doubles, a triple and five RBIs in 10 games with the Phillies prior to landing on the DL.

When he returns, he could see time at third base instead of left field if Maikel Franco continues to struggle (see story).