Sixers Chat: Wrapping the Bulls Series and Previewing the Celtics

Sixers Chat: Wrapping the Bulls Series and Previewing the Celtics

It's been a crazy couple of weeks for the Philadelphia 76ers, as they
pulled off the weirdest upset in NBA history against the East-best
(though roster-depleted) Chicago Bulls and now face an aging-but-loaded
Celtics team with the chance to make the Conference Finals (!!) for the
first time since 2001. As always, we called in Michael Levin of the
excellent Sixers blog Liberty Ballers to help us put the Bulls series to
bed, see what we have coming with the Celtics, and generally figure out
what the hell is going on.

Andrew: All right, so first and foremost: You stopped laughing about that Game Six ending yet?

Michael Levin, Liberty Ballers: Yeah at some point I had to go to sleep, so eventually, yeah. It was close though.

Our editor at the Level wrote an article about the two FTs being 'Dre's signature moment as a Sixer. You agree?

Yeah
I'd guess that's how he'll make his stamp. When I think signature
moment I think of like something he does often? So maybe a huge dunk to
win it or a big stop. But in terms of meaningful, yeah this was the
biggest moment.

Which would you have said to be more likely before Thursday: The
Sixers winning a playoff series on 'Dre's clutch FT shooting, or the
2008 Phillies winning the world series on Pat Burrell stealing home?

Hahahha Dre's foul shots. I've seen Pat run far too many times to
know he's not stealing home or anything else anymore. Not since he was
like 22. Dre used to be a decent foul shooter. He just tailspinned the
past two years.

But can you think of a more...maybe not ironic, but like,
poetically unexpected way for the Sixers to have won this series? How
many times have we seen 'Dre come up on short in this near-exact
situation?

It was perfect poetic justice. Maybe Turner nailing a three. Or Lou
making a huge defensive stop. But Dre at the line was the ultimate
vindicator for him and for the team. I hate to say "you can't script
this" and that crap, but it was the absolute perfect way to end that
game.

Did it even cross your mind that he might make both, or were you thinking "Just hit one, send it to OT"?

I
don't know that I thought will he make one or two or none, I knew I was
confident. Earlier that game I said he'd been money from the foul line
this series. Which, money for him was like 80%. So I felt better about
his foul shooting at least temporarily, but I've seen him miss so many
late game free throws that it probably crossed my mind that he'll brick
both. But I'm not sure -- in hindsight it feels like I was confident.

It seems like the Sixers, who have struggled all year to close
out close games even against subpar teams, finally figured out how to do
it in this series. Is that legitimate development, a fluke against an
undermanned team, or just odds saying you have to win a couple close
games eventually?

I'd say the last two. Without Rose and Noah, the Bulls don't have
many options to go to. CJ Watson shouldn't have been in the game at the
end, but he had to because he's the only alternative. He shouldn't make
that pass to Omer Asik, who ALSO shouldn't have been in the game. But
when you're that undermanned, you gotta play somebody.

And yeah I've been saying "they're due" all season long. You can
only lose by 4 so many times before something goes their way. And the
Basketball Gods picked a good time to finally give them a few bounces.

How much of an upset, if at all, would you call this win? Were the Bulls still a better team, even without their top two guys?

I'd call it even. The Sixers are as good as the Bulls minus their two best players. Not exactly a confidence booster.

So sad, yeah.

If the Bulls had a few games without
Rose and Noah going into the series, i think it would have been
different. But happening so close together when you have this gameplan
and then it falling apart, I don't think they had time to recover.

What was your primary feeling after the end of Game Six,
excitement and elation over the Sixers' win, or relief that both the
Sixers weren't going to blow the series and you wouldn't have to watch a
Game Seven?

Hahahaha ummm....excitement for Dre. That was the #1 thing. And
yeah, I was really thrilled that we don't have to watch another game
between those two teams. Even if the Celtics series won't be much
better. Or possibly (gasp), worse.

And I wasn't so worried that the Sixers would blow the series,
because I'm not exactly invested in their success this postseason, but
it's fun to watch them win, even with the knowledge that no, all of this
doesn't matter because they're not good enough.

Was there one unreserved positive that we could take from the
series win, besides just "Hey, we won a series for the first time in a
decade"?

Initially, it was the success of [Evan] Turner and
Jrue [Holiday]. But that kind of tailed off towards the end, so....I'm
not sure. I guess the positive would be - they won a series, and now
people in Philadelphia might watch them play. That could be nice. I
think it would take another series win for people to actually care. But
we'll see if it's at least temporarily meaningful for the state of
professional basketball in the city.

What grades would you give Evan and Jrue's performances in this series?

Both
of them were pretty terrific defensively, especially Jrue. And they did
take the ball to the basket a lot, which I liked. So I'd give Jrue a B+
and Evan a B. But I might be going a little easy on them because I'm in
love with both of them. So take that into consideration too.

What grade would you give Coach Collins?

C-. Got the wins, but I disagreed with so many of his calls that it makes me hyperventilate.

Were you disappointed that in the end, he trusted Lou and 'Dre over Jrue and Evan again?

Yeah especially because of how the series started. It was very
promising and then...Boss. Dre in Game 5 was more on him than it was
Doug, in my opinion, but I'm bitter about him benching Evan in favor of
Lou towards the end.

Are you worried about the win sidetracking the Sixers'
development? That maybe it'll be an excuse to get the band back together
yet again in the off-season?

My opinion is that if the
owners watched this series and think this team deserves to be kept
together, then we have a bigger problem than just one year of not
rebuilding. They'd have to be batshit crazy to think this team that
barely beat the Bulls minus their two best players is worth keeping
together.

But do you think that now, Andre Iguodala, Playoff Hero is untradeable in the off-season?

No I think he's still gone. What they get for him I'm not sure. I'm hoping a pick, a contract, and a prospect.

What about Spencer Hawes? Did he make himself money in this series, and will it be the Sixers giving it to him?

I
can't imagine the Sixers bringing him back. I'm operating under the
assumption that Doug is the coach next season, and I'm pretty sure he
will be. That's why I don't think Andre or Spence will be back.

Lou [Williams]...... I'm worried. Really worried. My hope is that he
wants to start somewhere and he'll go where the money is. But if he
likes being here and doesn't mind coming off the bench, then we're in
trouble.

Who do you think the Celtics were hoping came out of this series?

Sixers. The Bulls would still give them trouble inside.

Even with the young legs and the 2/3 wins and everything?

Yeah
I'm sure they don't really care about the 2 out of 3 wins in the
regular season. One game was when Pietrus went down. And both games had
the Celtics at the end of long stretches. They know they're the better
team.

But do you think the youth will be any kind of advantage for the
Sixers? Can they win a game or two running the C's out of the gym?

Yeah
I think they've certainly got a chance to, providing one of the bigger
Celtics gets hurt. Youth is mostly on their side, and if they commit to
pushing it in transition and a few shots go in, we could be talking
about a series.

How do you think the Sixers deal with [Celtics Point Guard Rajon] Rondo? How would you have them do it?

I'd
put Turner on him. Have a bigger guy handle him, disrupt passing lanes
and such. Get Jrue on [Avery] Bradley and make him as annoyed as he'll
make Jrue on the other end.

Is [Celtics Forward Kevin] Garnett the toughest matchup for the Sixers in this series? How do they handle KG?

I
think Brand/Thad/Spencer/Lavoy will all take turns on him. He'll get
his but I don't think he'll be the problem. I'm more worried about the
Sixers not being able to score than the Celtics scoring a lot.

Who's the key for the Sixers offensively, then? Is there one?

It's
everybody. They need help from everyone. I think Sugar Bear [Elton
Brand] will have a big series because he's crazy like that. If Thad can
break out that would be huge. Dre making Pierce work on the other end
would certainly be nice. And obviously Evan and Jrue. Get to the basket,
get people in foul trouble. Find Elton for open jumpers. Gotta hit
shots, gotta keep moving. Can't dribble yourself into trouble.

If there's one thing you want to see from the team in this series short of them actually winning it, what would it be?

Evan
and Jrue. Efficient and being used frequently. Attacking the basket,
playing good defense, and getting the call when it matters most.
Everything else is gravy.

How confident are you feeling that they'll be the ones Collins leans on?

Not very!

All
right, give me a prediction of winner and games, and then give me the
odds you think the Sixers have of pulling out the upset.

Hahah this is going to contradict everything I've said but
Sixers in 6. And I have no clue what the odds are. That's my pick, for
better or worse.
 
Where is that pick stemming from?

Cuz
Fuck Me, that's why. Everything the Sixers do is to spite me
personally. So they'll win, resign Lou and Spencer to max contracts, and
I'll be here shaking my head. Oh and then they'll get plastered by
Miami. Before resigning those guys, obviously.

Maybe LeBron and Wade get hurt and the Sixers make the finals
just by virtue of still having seven or eight competent basketball
players to dress.

That's going to be how it has to happen. Then they'll win it all and we'll be like What the Fuck just happened.

---

8:00 tip on Game One form the TD Banknorth Garden tonight. Go Sixers.

Best of NHL: Sergei Bobrovsky ties career high with 32nd win as Blue Jackets top Rangers

Best of NHL: Sergei Bobrovsky ties career high with 32nd win as Blue Jackets top Rangers

NEW YORK -- Cam Atkinson and Alexander Wennberg each scored twice to lead the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 5-2 victory over the New York Rangers on Sunday.

Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 28 shots to tie his career high with his 32nd win. Josh Anderson also scored and Oliver Bjorkstrand had two assists to help the Blue Jackets win for the fourth time in five games.

Columbus won for the second time in two days after its bye week and moved past the Rangers into third place in the Metropolitan Division.

The Blue Jackets won three of five in the season series -- including both games at Madison Square Garden -- after losing seven straight meetings coming in.

Rick Nash scored a tying goal for the Rangers early in the first period. Jesper Fast scored in the final second, and Henrik Lundqvist finished with 26 saves (see full recap).

Surging Blackhawks beat Blues on late Anisimov goal
CHICAGO -- Artem Anisimov scored with 5:20 left in the third period to lift the Chicago Blackhawks over the St. Louis Blues 4-2 on Sunday night for their fourth straight win and ninth in their last 10.

Anisimov beat Jake Allen on the glove side from the right edge of the crease for his 22nd goal after taking a pinpoint cross-ice pass from linemate Artemi Panarin. Tanner Kero added an empty-netter with 2.6 seconds left.

Patrick Kane assisted on Anisimov's winner and scored a power-play goal. Jonathan Toews also had a goal and an assist for surging Chicago, which pulled one point behind first-place Minnesota in the Central Division and Western Conference.

Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith had an assist for his 500th NHL point.

Magnus Paajarvi and Alex Pietrangelo scored for the Blues, who played their first game following their bye week and lost their third straight (see full recap).

Gaudreau's 2 goals helps Flames down Hurricanes
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Johnny Gaudreau had two goals and an assist to help the Calgary Flames beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 on Sunday.

Micheal Ferland also scored for the Flames. They have earned at least one point in six straight games, going 5-0-1 in that stretch to move into playoff position in the Western Conference.

Victor Rask scored on the power play for Carolina. The Hurricanes have lost six of seven to fall into last place in the Metropolitan Division.

Brian Elliott made 34 saves for the Flames, with his best coming with roughly 15 minutes to play when he stopped Jeff Skinner from point-blank range.

Eddie Lack finished with 21 saves. He made his second straight start for Carolina (see full recap).

Turris, Anderson lead Senators past Panthers
SUNRISE, Fla. -- Kyle Turris scored the tiebreaking goal in the second period and Craig Anderson stopped 37 shots to lift the Ottawa Senators over the Florida Panthers 2-1 on Sunday night.

Zack Smith had an early short-handed goal for the Senators, who have won four of six.

Jonathan Marchessault scored for Florida, and James Reimer made 31 saves. The Panthers have lost three straight after sweeping a five-game road trip, and dropped their last four home games overall.

Turris put Ottawa ahead when his wrist shot went over Reimer's glove at 9:58 of the second for his 21st goal of the season.

The Senators took a 1-0 lead on a short-handed goal by Smith. Reimer blocked a shot from Erik Karlsson, but Smith grabbed the rebound and poked in the puck at 6:28 of the first. Smith has 12 career short-handed goals (see full recap).

Best of NBA: Jaylen Brown, Celtics use 5-point possession to top Pistons

Best of NBA: Jaylen Brown, Celtics use 5-point possession to top Pistons

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Jaylen Brown sank a 3-pointer from the right corner while being fouled with 37.6 seconds remaining, part of a five-point possession for Boston that lifted the Celtics to a 104-98 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Sunday night.

The Celtics were down 96-95 when Brown connected while being fouled by Marcus Morris. Brown missed the ensuing free throw, but Detroit couldn't come up with the rebound, and Tobias Harris was called for a loose-ball foul. Marcus Smart added two free throws to put Boston up 100-96.

Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics with 33 points. Andre Drummond had 17 points and 15 rebounds for the Pistons, but he went 1 of 11 on free throws and was taken out for some key possessions toward the end to prevent Boston from fouling him.

Lakers crushed by Spurs in first home game since front office shakeup
LOS ANGELES -- Kawhi Leonard scored 25 points and the San Antonio Spurs routed the Lakers 119-98 on Sunday in Los Angeles' first home game since Magic Johnson took over the franchise's basketball operations.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 16 points for the Spurs, who have won four straight and nine of 11.

Pau Gasol added 15 points against his former team, and the Southwest Division leaders had little trouble with the Lakers, who have lost four straight and 15 of 19.

Five days after owner Jeanie Buss put Johnson in charge of basketball operations, the Lakers' dismal season still hasn't changed much, although new Lakers acquisitions Corey Brewer and Tyler Ennis got limited playing time.

Rookie Brandon Ingram scored a season-high 22 points as the Lakers fell to 19-41, ensuring their fourth consecutive non-winning season (see full recap).

Antetokounmpo scores 28 as Bucks hold off Suns
MILWAUKEE -- Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 28 points, Tony Snell made a clinching 3-pointer from the corner in the closing seconds and the Milwaukee Bucks held off the Phoenix Suns, 100-96 on Sunday.

Michael Beasley added 17 points and Malcolm Brogdon had 15 as the Bucks swept the two-game season series with the Suns. Greg Monroe finished with 14 points and Snell had 13.

TJ Warren led the Suns with 23 points. Alan Williams scored a career-high 17 points and tied his season high with 15 rebounds, while Devin Booker added 15 points and Eric Bledsoe had 11.

Clinging to a one-point lead, the Bucks came out of timeout with Monroe inbounding the ball to Antetokounmpo. He dribbled the clock down before passing to Brogdon, who whipped the ball to Snell in the corner. Snell hit a 3 with a defender flying at him.