Sixers Lose But Jrue Holiday Really Good at Basketball, Nick Young Still Swag to Spare

Sixers Lose But Jrue Holiday Really Good at Basketball, Nick Young Still Swag to Spare

It's tough to take consolation in the ol' "Got beat by a better team"
explanation tonight when facing a team like the 11-26 Hornets, but it's
true. After all, the Hornets are a whole lot better than their 11-26
record, something analysts always say when their squad is getting beat
by opposing teams with crappy win-losses, but in this case it's
basically inarguable—the Hornets finally have franchise lynchpins Eric
Gordon and Anthony Davis healthy together for the first time all season,
and have now won five of their last six, including Ws over the Spurs,
Rockets and Timberwolves, all of whom are also a lot better than the
Sixers. Depressing but true.

The Sixers lost tonight because
they couldn't play competent defense. Again, not as inexcusable as you
might think, considering that the Hornets have several legit scorers and
playmakers in their suddenly formidable starting roster (+ Ryan
Anderson off the bench), but it's stuff that's dogged the Liberty
Ballers all season—getting hung up on picks, not rotating to shooters,
allowing dribble penetration and failing to rebound the basketball.
You'd like to blame it one guy, and if Spencer Hawes was playing the
whole game maybe we could, but really it was a team-wide malaise
tonight, where the Hornets were given quality looks and rarely missed.
Credit to them, debit to us, if that makes any sense which it probably
doesn't.

There were two bright spots tonight, which made this
game a lot more fun to watch than all the other shitty losses the Sixers
have gone through as of late. Jrue Holiday...if a point guard can play
any better on offense then he did in the first half tonight—where he
scored 12 points and handed out nine assists, making seemingly every
correct move and decision and basically keeping the Hornets from running
away with it all by his lonesome—I haven't seen it too often, and
certainly not for the Philadelphia 76ers. Even as The Damaja appeared to
be slowed down in the second half (and the thing really slowing him
down was Doug Collins benching him for half of the fourth quarter,
before deciding garbage time was over), he still scored another 17 and
ended with 29 points on 10-17 shooting (4-5 from deep), 11 assists, five
rebounds and four steals. Give that man his All-Star bid.

But
of course, if Sixers fans remember the game tonight, chance are it will
be for that previously mentioned fourth quarter stretch where Jrue sat,
and His Swagness took over. With the Sixers down 20, Nick Young did what
we brought him to Philadelphia to do, and in his first action in a
couple games, scored 15 points in a five-minute stretch that brought the
Sixers back to nine down, and had the Wells Fargo Center buzzing like
it hasn't been since...I dunno, Lou Williams' Heat-beater? AI's return
game? A long time. The run wasn't enough, and Young dried up shortly
thereafter, but Sixers fans will no doubt be tickled to know that the
Swag lives on, PT be damned.

In the end, another game where you
see your guys getting outboarded and outmuscled—Spence and Lavoy Allen
combined for ONE REBOUND in the first half—and you look at that
funny-looking kid with the big hair at the end of the bench and wonder
if he might have made the difference. Sixers won't find out for at least
another month, but with games like the one Jrue had tonight—with game,
if not quite sufficient, support from Thaddeus Young and Evan
Turner—it's reasonable enough to hope for.

Toronto on Friday in a vengeance game. Go Sixers.

In 1st game post-Ersan Ilyasova, Dario Saric shines as Sixers' starting PF

In 1st game post-Ersan Ilyasova, Dario Saric shines as Sixers' starting PF

When Ersan Ilyasova was traded to the Hawks on Wednesday, it became Dario Saric's time to shine.

And shine he did in the Sixers' 120-112 win over the Wizards Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center. In the first game coming off the All-Star break, Saric got the starting nod at power forward. He certainly looked the part, posting 20 points (10 of 19 from the field), 11 rebounds and four assists.

Saric, now the only true four on the roster, was proud of his team's performance against one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

"We have a lot of veterans who can share the ball and that's how you're supposed to play," Saric said. "For me I'm not surprised if we [beat the third-best team] in the East, but I believe these guys can play very good basketball."

Saric was excellent in the starting role, but his exceptional play dates back before the All-Star break. Including Friday, he's averaged 20.5 points, eight rebounds and 2.5 assists over his last six games. The Sixers are 4-2 in that span.

Head coach Brett Brown is seeing what he expected to see from the Croatian rookie.

"He's a professional basketball player," Brown said. "He has been that for a while. His love of the game, his passion for the game is contagious. It's a thing that we loved maybe more than anything about him when we did the deal with Orlando, knowing however many years ago with the trade with Elfrid Payton and Saric. That was a calculated move."

Saric played almost 33 minutes Friday night. So what did Brown do to give Saric a breather? He sent out Robert Covington.

Covington has played the position most of his life but has spent his entire Sixers career on the wing. In a time of need, he stepped up for a team still adjusting to roster changes.

The 6-foot-8 Covington held his own against the likes of Philly native Markieff Morris. It didn't seem to faze his offensive game, either. Covington scored 25 points on 9 of 14 from the field (5 of 9 from three). He also added 11 rebounds and three assists.

Covington has also been a catalyst for the Sixers during their recent success. He's averaging 17.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 steals in his last six. He's also shot a ridiculous 46 percent from three (19 of 41) in that span.

"We can only control what we're able to control on the court," Covington said. "Everything outside of what they do in management doesn't include us. We can only focus on what we can control on the court, and that's what our main focus was on these last few days."

Saric continues to show that he was worth wait while Covington continues to prove that he's a keeper.

They've certainly had different paths. Saric was a lottery pick and regarded as one the top young players in Europe. Covington went undrafted out of Tennessee State and spent the 2013-14 primarily with the Rockets' D-League affiliate.

Bryan Colangelo has identified Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons as the team's "transformational players." That's likely true, but every NBA team needs guys like Saric and Covington to complement their stars.

Covington is impressed with the progress of Saric in his rookie season.

"Dario's a very special player," Covington said. "He's able to do so much on the court. Tonight, you saw every aspect of his game. He'll guard, defending, rebounding and making plays on the offensive game. That's what Dario does. Now that he's going to play more in the starting lineup, it's really going to help him."

Saric may be the frontrunner to take home the Rookie of the Month for February. He's second only to Joel Embiid in double-doubles (seven) and 20-point games (six) among rookies. Whether it's Saric or Embiid, it appears the Rookie of the Year will be a Sixer.

His promotion to the starting lineup and wins against teams like the Wizards should only help Saric's cause.

"Maybe you see [me start consistently], maybe not," Saric said. "The game first time here I try to find myself. I got a couple rebounds, but still I try to find myself with the new role. I've tried to move around, catch the rhythm of the game, that's the most important thing in basketball."

He appeared to find himself just fine Friday night.

For Shayne Gostisbehere, Dave Hakstol, Stadium Series brings back cherished memories

For Shayne Gostisbehere, Dave Hakstol, Stadium Series brings back cherished memories

PITTSBURGH -- For Flyers coach Dave Hakstol and defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, tonight’s Stadium Series game between the Flyers and Penguins brings back memories.
 
Hakstol coached North Dakota in an outdoor hockey in college, while Gostisbehere participated in one as a freshman at Union College.
 
For Hakstol, however, this whole idea of outdoor hockey began when he was growing up in central Alberta in the small town of Drayton Valley.
 
“I think everybody’s got great memories of growing up outdoors,” Hakstol said. “We had a back creek that we could shovel off. I’m sure everybody could sit back and tell you stories of playing on the outdoor rinks.
 
“For me, most recently, I’ve got two kids growing up playing on outdoor rinks, backyard rinks. It’s pretty cool. It takes you right back to the heart of the game.”
 
Hakstol’s outdoor coaching experience came during a game between Nebraska-Omaha and his North Dakota squad in 2013 at the “Mutual of Omaha Battles on Ice.”
 
“I don’t know how to describe it,” Hakstol said of the event. “It’s just a different feel. It’s an ideal scenario.”
 
He said while tonight's game is special, it’s still about the points, first and foremost.
 
“You are cognizant of everything that surrounds the event and the game,” Hakstol said. “Yet for us, it’s two points. We’re fighting for every point here. That is going to paramount.”

Gostisbehere played at Fenway Park in 2012 for Union in a game against Harvard. That night, Union won, 2-0, to become the first ECAC club to ever win outdoors.
 
“I played at Fenway Park against Harvard and it was fun,” Gostisbehere said. “That was my freshman year and the only one I ever played in.
 
“Good crowd. It wasn’t packed obviously, but it was a night game. The ice was really good. It was really cold, too. It was pretty cool.”
 
As warm as it was Friday here -- a historic 78 degrees -- temperatures will begin in the 40s tonight at Heinz Field and then drop. It rained this morning but has since ceased.
 
“The biggest thing for me was to take a second, look around,” Gostisbehere said, admitting he failed to do that in college and won’t make that mistake again.
 
“Just cherish it a little bit. You are so focused on the game, it’s tough. That was biggest thing for me. It was such a blur. Just being in college and having the opportunity to play at Fenway Park was pretty awesome.”

This will the Flyers first-ever outdoor affair in Pittsburgh.
 
“It’s pretty exciting and I’m glad to be part of it,” Gostisbehere said.