Sixers get blown out by Minnesota, sky unfalls

Sixers get blown out by Minnesota, sky unfalls

In the words of a man whose name is an anagram for "oral sex," all we need is just a little patience. Philadelphia 76er fans were losing their collective minds a couple days ago after the team's unexpected road upset in Portalnd, and not totally unreasonably so, considering the win was their fourth straight on the road and the team was starting to look like a squad that might actually have playoff contention--a veritable worst-case scenario for the team's long-term prospects--on the brain.

But as I said back then, the winning streak wasn't as dramatic as it seemed. Three of the teams they beat were lousy squads the Sixers caught at pretty much the exact right squad, and the Portland win was about as fluky and unrepeatable as any Philly was likely to have this season, maybe even including the Miami game. The hotness was not meant to last, and I figured it would cool its boots sooner rather than later--though I'll admit I was a little terrified about the potential consequences if it didn't.

Well, no matter anymore. The Sixers can't undo four wins' worth of damage in one night, but it seems like whatever mojo they were summoning over their recent West Coast swing has now officially dried up with the team's 126-95 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves last night. Combined with a Nets win in Brooklyn last night, they're now back to a comfortable 4th in the Atlantic Division, possibly to fall to last tonight with a loss to Cleveland on the road and a Knicks win against Detroit tonight.

It was the same old story for the Sixers--poor three-point defense, lackluster rebounding, and far too many mental errors and terrible decisions with the basketball. They let up 16 threes and turned the ball over 22 times. They got destroyed by Kevin Martin and Kevin Love outside and Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Love (again) inside. It was enough to make you nostalgic for the unapologetically crappy 76ers teams of a couple weeks ago.

But really, it wasn't as bad as it looked, just like the Blazers win wasn't as good as it looked. The Sixers didn't do a great job defending beyond the arc, but watching the game, it felt more like the Wolves making a lot of shots than the Sixers really blowing rotations or losing their men on the perimeter. They let up a ton of offensive rebounds, but that'll happen on occasion playing a frontline of Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic with your own big man combo of Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes. That's the NBA: Sometimes shit happens, and sometimes it doesn't. Last night it did.

The turnovers were a bit much, though. Maybe it was inspired by playing the Timberwolves, one of the league's best-passing squads, but the Sixers--particularly Spencer Hawes, who seemed intent on proving he could out-outlet Kevin Love--went for way too many home-run-type passes that weren't really available to them, and absolutely killed their own momentum on about a half-dozen separate occasions throughout the game. It's always good to see the team playing on the aggressive side, but the Sixers were just downright careless a lot of the time, and that's not really acceptable.

But yeah, point is, every game's a new chance for this Sixers squad to get back to their losing ways, and they did in a big way last night. It'll be interesting to see if it drags into their game tonight against the woeful Cleveland Cavaliers, who may or may not have their banged-up franchise player Kyrie Irving in the lineup, and also may or may not be debuting their recent blockbuster trade acquisition Luol Deng (for the price of Andrew Bynum, who may show up soon enough on the Heat or Clippers or may just be done with this whole basketball thing). Seeing whether the team can recover from the dispiriting loss tonight may have a bearing on their next week or so of games, most of which are at home and winnable in theory.

Regardless of what happens tonight, the good news about the Deng-Bynum swap is that it means trade season is officially in full effect, and will no doubt be impacting the Sixers sooner rather than later. As always, we place our faith in our EGOT winner of a GM, and trust that winning or losing, tanking or contending, he can steward this Philly squad into a brighter tomorrow. In the meantime, stay frosty, Thaddeus Young.

Today's Lineup: Cesar Hernandez (groin) returns

Today's Lineup: Cesar Hernandez (groin) returns

Cesar Hernandez returns to the Phillies' punchless lineup on Saturday afternoon against the Reds (4 p.m./TCN).

Hernandez, who missed Friday night's 5-2 loss with a groin injury, is back at second base and leading off. Hernandez has led off in all 44 games he's started this season. The fifth-year pro has struggled after getting off to a torrid start. He's hitting just .185 (10 for 54) over his last 14 games.

After bouncing around the lineup, centerfielder Odubel Herrera returns to his customary spot in the two-hole. Herrera's season is a microcosm of the Phils' woeful offense. An All-Star in 2016, Herrera is hitting just .227 this season. Manager Pete Mackanin hopes the Venezuelan will hit his way out of it soon (see story).

Here is the rest of today's lineup:
1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Odubel Herrera, CF
3. Aaron Altherr, LF
4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
5. Michael Saunders, RF
6. Maikel Franco, 3B
7. Cameron Rupp, C
8. Freddy Galvis, SS
9. Jerad Eickhoff, P

Top NHL draft prospects Nolan Patrick, Nico Hischier get CHL awards

Top NHL draft prospects Nolan Patrick, Nico Hischier get CHL awards

Brandon center Nolan Patrick and Halifax center Nico Hischier, the projected top two picks in the 2017 NHL draft, on Saturday afternoon added some CHL hardware to their trophy case.

Patrick won the Sherwin-Williams Top Prospect Award, beating out Hischier and Windsor's Gabriel Vilardi, while Hischier edged Swift Current's Aleksi Heponiemi and Guelph's Ryan Merkley for the CCM Rookie of the Year Award.

Injuries forced Patrick to play just 33 games this season, but he still produced at a point-per-game pace for Brandon. He finished with 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists).

Hischier scored 38 goals and 86 points in 57 games with the Mooseheads, his first season in the QMJHL after coming over from Switzerland.

The Flyers have the No. 2 overall pick. If the draft goes as projected, the Flyers will come away with either Patrick or Hischier, whoever the New Jersey Devils do not pick.

The 2017 NHL draft is June 23-24 in Chicago.

Missing history
Flyers prospect Carter Hart had a chance to become the first goalie in CHL history to win the Vaughn CHL Goaltender of the Year Award twice, but this year's award went elsewhere.

Owen Sound goalie Michael McNiven on Saturday afternoon took home the 2016-17 CHL Goaltender of the Year Award. McNiven was 41-9-4 for the Attack this season. He posted a 2.30 goals-against average and .915 save percentage with six shutouts.

McNiven led the Ontario Hockey League in save percentage, and his six shutouts were tied with Windsor's Michael DiPietro for the league lead. His 41 wins were tops in the OHL.

Hart, 18, posted a 32-11-6 record in 54 games with the Everett Silvertips in 2016-17. His 1.99 goals-against average, .927 save percentage and nine shutouts were all ranked No. 1 in the WHL.

Despite missing out on the CHL Goaltender of the Year Award this year, Hart previously did win the Del Wilson Memorial Trophy as the WHL's Goaltender of the Year for the second straight season. He was twice named the Vaughn CHL Goaltender of the Week and had a shutout streak of 193 minutes and 48 seconds during the regular season.

Hart was one of three second-round picks by the Flyers in the 2016 NHL draft.