Sixers Look for Quick New Year's Redemption Against Warriors

Sixers Look for Quick New Year's Redemption Against Warriors

OK, the Sixers really should have won that game last night in Utah. They
were playing an 0-2 team without last year's leading scorer Al
Jefferson, and they got up 13 in the second quarter, looking like they
were gonna pull away like they did in Phoenix. But the Jazz fought back
on what felt like 20 straight foul calls drawn by Devin Harris, and then
used their size advantage down low to pound the Sixers into submission,
with center Derrick Favors (who, lest we forget, the Sixers passed on
to draft Evan Turner in 2010) having maybe his best game as a pro with
20 points (10-16 shooting) and 11 rebounds. Meanwhile, the Sixers failed
to capitalize on a number of opportunities late, including missed free
throws, missed wide-open threes, and a missed tip-in by Spencer Hawes
with seconds to go that could've tied the game. Guh.

Luckily, the Liberty Ballers play again tonight in Golden State with a
chance to erase the sour memories of last night and beat another team
that they should be very able to beat. The Warriors are an improved team
under new coach Mark Jackson, and winning at Oracle Arena is never
simple when that crowd gets going, but they should be without leading
scorer Monta Ellis, and with a limited Stephen Curry due to a sore
ankle. It's by no means a sure W—the Warriors did win the other night
against the Knicks without Curry—but it's the sort of game the Sixers
really should be winning if they want to show that they deserve to be
taken seriously as an improving team in the East. And nobody wants to
start the season 1-3, right?

Anyway, tough as last night's loss was, it wasn't without its positives.
After looking rusty the first two games of the season, Jrue Holiday was
his usual bad self last night, scoring 22 points on 9-15 shooting
(though again, he was passed up in favor of Lou Williams when it came to
taking the potentially game-tying three), and Spencer Hawes continued
his strong play with 16 points (on 7-9 shooting, showing a much-improved
outside touch) and 13 rebounds, marking only the second time in his
career (and the first time during his tenure in Philly) that Hawes has
grabbed double-digit boards in three straight games. Tonight, though,
we'll need stronger performances from our second unit, including
Thaddeus Young, who scored nine points but grabbed just a single rebound
and missed some open shots, and Evan Turner, who was fairly dreadful in
18 scoreless minutes of play.

9:00 tip from Oracle. Would've been nice to start 2012 with a winning
record, but now, we'd just like to not enter the new year two games
under .500. Please?

Instant Replay: Central Florida 71, Temple 69

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USA Today Images

Instant Replay: Central Florida 71, Temple 69

BOX SCORE

Temple and UCF went for punch-for-punch in the final two minutes, and the Owls missed their final swing in a 71-69 loss Wednesday at the Liacouras Center.

Down by one with 20 seconds left, Temple fouled Tacko Fall to attempt a one-and-one. The 7-6 center, who is a 47 percent free throw shooter, missed a and Temple gained possession. 

Temple had a chance to gain the lead on the ensuing possession out of the timeout, but Mark Williams missed a wide-open three-pointer from the wing. 

The loss is Temple's fourth in five games and forces them to 14-15 on the year and 5-11 against AAC opponents. Meanwhile, UCF won for the third straight time to improve to 18-10 (9-7 AAC).

Temple head coach Fran Dunphy has only finished with a record under .500 twice since becoming the Owls’ head coach in 2006.

Ding ding
Midway through the second half, Matt Williams threw an elbow at Shizz Alston Jr. that left the Temple freshman on the floor and a bloody lip. Alston followed by getting in Williams' face as the refs separated the two from each other. 

The refs ruled the elbow by Williams a basketball play and no foul was called.

Williams and Alston were involved in another scuffle at the scorer’s table after Alston got a steal. Williams shoved Alston and was called for his first personal foul as the two again had to be separated. 

Inside the box score
• Fall finished the game with 14 points, 10 rebounds, five blocks and two assists in the contest.

• After finishing the first half 0 for 3 from the field, Obi Enechionyia caught fire for the Owls by shooting 5 of 6 from downtown in the second half. The junior led the Owls in scoring with 17 points. He also had five rebounds, two assists and a steal.

• Temple shot 47.6 from beyond the arc. The Owls are 6-3 this season when they shoot ball 40 percent or better from three-point land.

• B.J. Taylor finished the game with 19 points, three rebounds and three assists. It's the 10th consecutive game he scored in double figures this season. 

• Mark Williams scored 11 points on 5 of 11 shooting off the bench.

Temple's starting lineup
For the fourth straight game, Dunphy went with the same starting lineup featuring Damion Moore instead of Ernest Aflakpui and Quinton Rose instead of Alani Moore II.

The Owls are 1-3 with this lineup so far. 

After scoring a career-high 11 points on 5 of 5 shooting against UConn on Sunday, Moore finished with two points against UCF. 

First half
Temple had a hard time avoiding the 7-6 big man, Fall, in the first half. Fall had six points, three rebounds and four blocks. But he also picked up two quick fouls, forcing him to the bench at the 4:23 mark.

While Fall watched from the bench, Temple's offense found some rhythm. 

Temple went on a 15-3 run toward the end of the first half as UCF hit only two field goals in the final eight minutes of the frame.

Rose led the Owls with eight points in the first half, while Alston Jr. and Mark Williams each had seven points.

The Owls finished the first half shooting the ball 46.9 percent from the field. That tripled their amount of points in the first half the last time they faced UCF. They finished with only 11 points in the first half in their first meeting Dec. 31.

What's next
Temple will play its final home game of the season against Tulane on Saturday at noon.

UCF will face Cincinnati at the CFE Center Sunday at 3 p.m.

Report: Bulls continuing trade push for Jahlil Okafor

Report: Bulls continuing trade push for Jahlil Okafor

The Bulls are apparently still after Jahlil Okafor.

Chicago has continued its trade push for the Sixers’ big man, according to a report Wednesday night by The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski.

In early February, the Bulls inquired about Okafor, according to a report by CSNChicago.com.

With Thursday’s 3 p.m. deadline nearing, the clock is ticking on the Sixers’ possible trade of Okafor, who will get moved” by the mandatory cutoff date, according to NBA.com’s David Aldridge on Tuesday.

The Sixers already have one trade nearly completed. They are currently finalizing a deal that will send Ersan Ilyasova to the Atlanta Hawks, a league source confirmed to CSNPhilly.com Sixers Insider Jessica Camerato on Wednesday night (see story).

With Okafor, aside from the Bulls, other teams have reportedly expressed interest in the second-year center, including the Pacers, Blazers and Pelicans (who are expected to be out of the running after landing DeMarcus Cousins).

Okafor is averaging 11.4 points and 4.8 rebounds in 23 minutes per game this season over 38 contests. Last season, he played 53 games (48 starts) as a rookie and averaged 17.5 points and seven rebounds.

The 21-year-old has taken all the trade buzz in stride.

“Trade rumors are something that’s going to be part of my life probably for as long as I’m in the NBA," Okafor said on Feb. 4 after the Bulls’ reported interest originally surfaced. "I’ve been hearing it since I’ve been in the NBA about me being traded. I just try to focus on what I can. That’s being here on this team and trying to help this team win.”