Sixers Lose to Pistons, Ensure Another Year of Textbook Mediocrity

Sixers Lose to Pistons, Ensure Another Year of Textbook Mediocrity

Goddamn it. A meaningless regular season loss after the Sixers had
already sewn up the seven seeed shouldn't hurt like this, but for the
last month or so of the season, all I wanted for this team was to get to
42 wins. A plus-.500 record. A winning record. But it just
wasn't meant to me, as the team lost five of its last six games to limp
into the playoffs at 41-41. There are stipulations, of course—namely
Andre Iguodala and Lou Williams, two of the team's key rotation players,
both missing time—but it's still far from satisfying, and not a
terribly encouraging way to be entering the post-season.

It wasn't
all bad last night, though. The Sixers' presumptive backcourt of the
future entering the season, Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner, both got some
seriously nice burn, averaging a combined 39 points, 14 assists and nine
rebounds on 14-24 shooting. But the team just doesn't have the depth to
play shorthanded, and when you've got Jason Kapono out there playing
meaningful fourth-quarter minutes (and taking the final shot of the
season and possibly his Sixers tenure with a corner three to tie the
game—which of course he missed, considering he didn't hit a single
clutch shot over the course of his two seasons earning 12-plus million
as a Liberty Baller), the results probably aren't going to be pretty.
The Pistons hit the one or two big shots they needed to, and the Sixers
failed to answer, because they're a terrible-enough fourth-quarter team
even with their two go-to fourth-quarter guys available. Final score:
Detroit 104, Philly 100.

We'll have more about the team, the season that was and the
upcoming playoff picture (grim though it may be) over the next few days,
but right now I just want to stew in anger over the fact that no matter
how great and rewarding this team's turnaround over the last four
months has been, it still couldn't end in even the most superficial of
feel-good victories. I've tried convincing myself that this team is
different than the two other 'Dre-led Sixers teams that made the
playoffs since Iverson left, that they were more talented and of tougher
moral character, but the similarities are really getting staggering.
And it's hard not to think that this team isn't going to be lucky just
to once again make it to Game Six of the first round before bowing out
of the post-season.

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets crush Islanders, 7-0

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets crush Islanders, 7-0

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Unlike some other NHL teams coming off their bye week, there wasn't a spot of rust on the sleek Columbus Blue Jackets.

In their first game following a five-day break, the high-energy Blue Jackets blew out the New York Islanders 7-0 Saturday as backup goalie Joonas Korpisalo earned his first career shutout.

Josh Anderson and Nick Foligno each scored twice, and David Savard had a goal and three assists. Boone Jenner and Jack Johnson also scored to help the Blue Jackets end New York's three-game winning streak (see full recap).

Zibanejad scores in OT to help Rangers beat Devils again
NEWARK, N.J. -- The New York Rangers are finding ways to win, and the New Jersey Devils just aren't.

Moments after goaltender Antti Raanta stopped Kyle Palmieri on a breakaway, Mika Zibanejad scored 1:16 into overtime and the Rangers rallied to beat the Devils 4-3 on Saturday.

"I had to redeem myself after that letdown on the breakaway the other way," said Zibanejad, whose mistake gave Palmieri a chance to complete a hat trick. "Rants came up big and it's nice to see that puck cross the goal line once again and win the game."

The goal was Zibanejad's first in 16 games and it gave the Rangers their ninth win in 11 games (9-1-1). Struggling New Jersey got its fourth loss in five games (1-3-1) (see full recap).

Shaw's OT goal gives Canadiens 14th straight win over the Leafs
TORONTO -- Andrew Shaw scored 1:06 into overtime and the Montreal Canadiens beat Toronto 3-2 on Saturday night for their 14th consecutive victory over the Maple Leafs.

Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk had the other goals for the Canadiens, who increased their Atlantic Division lead to four points over Ottawa and five on Toronto. They are 3-7-1 in the last 11 games and 2-2-0 under new coach Claude Julien.

Carey Price stopped 32 shots for Montreal, including a breakaway by Auston Matthews in overtime. The 19-year-old Matthews scored twice to reach 30 goals in his rookie season, and Frederik Andersen was sharp with 25 saves for Toronto (see full recap).

Best of NBA: Noel scores 9 points, grab 10 boards in Mavs debut

Best of NBA: Noel scores 9 points, grab 10 boards in Mavs debut

DALLAS -- Harrison Barnes scored 19 points and Dirk Nowitzki had 18 points and nine rebounds as the Dallas Mavericks ended a three-game losing streak by beating the New Orleans Pelicans 96-83 on Saturday night.

The Pelicans fell to 0-2 since trading for DeMarcus Cousins and pairing him with Anthony Davis.

Davis had 39 points and 14 rebounds but scored only 12 in the second half. Cousins finished with 12 points and 15 rebounds.

Seth Curry scored 10 of his 13 in the fourth quarter to help Dallas pull away. His 3-pointer with 4:49 to play gave the Mavericks an 84-72 lead, and the Pelicans never got closer than six after that (see full recap).

Harden leads Rockets past Timberwolves in 142-130 shootout
HOUSTON -- James Harden had 24 points and 10 assists to lead the Houston Rockets to a 142-130 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves as both teams set season scoring highs in a Saturday night shootout.

Houston won for the sixth time in seven games, handing the Timberwolves their first road loss in more than three weeks.

Minnesota committed a season-high 25 turnovers that led to 38 points for the Rockets.

Playing against Houston's guard-heavy rotation, Minnesota went inside all night and outscored the Rockets 68-44 in the paint. Karl-Anthony Towns had 37 points and 22 rebounds, and Andrew Wiggins added 30 points (see full recap).

Bulls benefit as James sits with strep, beat Cavs 117-99
CLEVELAND -- Dwyane Wade scored 20 points and Jimmy Butler recorded a triple-double, leading the Chicago Bulls to a 117-99 victory Saturday night over the Cleveland Cavaliers, who played without LeBron James.

James missed the game with strep throat, and coach Tyronn Lue said he wasn't sure how long the Cavaliers would be without the four-time MVP. Cleveland struggled as it often does without its star - they are 4-19 without him since he returned to Cleveland in 2014, including 0-4 this season.

Chicago has won all three games against Cleveland this season. It took advantage of James' absence to win its fourth straight overall (see full recap).

George ejected, Heat stay hot with 113-95 win over Pacers
MIAMI -- Paul George had another frustrating night in Miami.

Hassan Whiteside scored 22 points and grabbed 17 rebounds, Dion Waiters added 22 points and the red-hot Miami Heat pulled away late to beat the Indiana Pacers 113-95 on Saturday night. Miami outscored Indiana 42-22 in the final 16 minutes, all with George watching from the Pacers' locker room after an ejection.

"It felt like a playoff-type game," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said (see full recap).