Sixers Play First Actually Good Opponent in Weeks at Home Tonight

Sixers Play First Actually Good Opponent in Weeks at Home Tonight

The Philadelphia 76ers recently completed a six-game pre-Thanksgiving
stretch which included five games at home and opponents including the
Jazz, Raptors, Pistons and Cavaliers (twice). It would've been awesome
if the Sixers had grabbed five or (lord forbid) all six of those, and
would've been good if they had won four of 'em, but instead, the Ballers
split the six-gamer down the middle, getting three and giving three.
Now, things are about to get a little tougher, starting tonight with a
contest against the 9-4, Northwest-best Oklahoma City Thunder.


OKC has been a little stilted out of the gate, struggling to adjust a
bit after trading away a core player in the off-season in dynamic
scoring guard James Harden. They got a good return in bench
sharp-shooter Kevin Martin, but have missed Harden's stability and
play-making, and have struggled offensively at times—though when you
have two All-NBA scorers averaging over 20 a game in Kevin Durant and
Russell Westbrook, "struggle" is always a relative term. In any event,
OKC dropped a tough one last night against the erratic Boston Celtics,
so look for the Thunder to be out for blood tonight at the Wells Fargo
Center.


The Sixers should be smarting a little themselves after a brutal
loss against a crappy, injured Cavaliers team in Cleveland, which saw
Cleveland connect on 13 out of 23 threes as little-used reserve guard
Jeremy Pargo went for a career high 28 after franchise Cav Kyrie Irving
was held to 14 in the two teams' first matchup of the season. "Just one
of those games" was my Dad's analysis and I'm inclined to agree, though
some of the team's flaws were badly exposed in that game—particularly
their lack of a solid presence in the middle, as the team's small lineup
(with Thad at the five) was pummeled on the boards by Anderson Varejao
at the end of the game, getting the team endless second opportunities
that they used to bury the Sixers.


It'll be interesting to see what big man rotation Coach Collins goes
with tonight, as well as what he plans to do about the superstar
swingman Durant, as the last time the Sixers faced a dynamic wing like
KD, the Knicks' Carmelo Anthony, the results were not pretty. You'd like
to see Evan Turner, who has struggled with his shot in the last few but
contributed with his rebounding and passing, picking up the challenge,
though Dorell Wright and Thaddeus Young will also likely see action on
Durant as well. And Jrue Holiday will have a hell of a matchup of his
own to work with, as he will undoubtedly be stuck to his fellow UCLA
alum Westbrook for most of the game.


7:00 tip from the WFC. If the Sixers struggle out of the gate
tonight, a starting lineup shakeup might be called for, and we don't
want to see that—with the possible exception of actually getting a
starting center at some point.

Best of NHL: Patrick Kane hat trick lifts Blackhawks over Coyotes

Best of NHL: Patrick Kane hat trick lifts Blackhawks over Coyotes

CHICAGO -- Patrick Kane scored three goals for his third career hat trick to lead the surging Chicago Blackhawks past the Arizona Coyotes 6-3 on Thursday night for their third straight win and eighth in nine games.

Kane has 23 goals to lead Chicago, which closed within three points behind first-place Minnesota in the Central Division and Western Conference.

Rookies Nick Schmaltz and Ryan Hartman each had a goal and assist. Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival scored his first goal of the season in his first game since Jan. 15.

Chicago captain Jonathan Toews added two assists to extend his points scoring streak to five games and increase his output to 22 points in his past 13.

Jakob Chychrun, Ryan White and Radim Vrbata scored for the Coyotes. Chychrun and Vrbata each scored for the second straight game (see full recap).

Rangers outlast Maple Leafs in shootout
TORONTO -- Mika Zibanejad scored the shootout winner and the New York Rangers continued a strong February with a 2-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Henrik Lundqvist made 32 saves and J.T. Miller scored the game-tying goal in the third period for the Rangers, who improved to 8-1-1 this month.

New York moved into third place in the Metropolitan Division with 80 points.

Connor Brown scored for Toronto, which fell to 1-7 in shootouts this season. Frederik Andersen had a stellar performance in defeat with 37 saves.

The Leafs hold the third playoff spot in the Atlantic Division (68 points), two points back of Ottawa (70) and four back of Montreal (see full recap).

Islanders shut out Canadiens
MONTREAL -- Rookie Anthony Beauvillier scored in the first period, Thomas Greiss made 24 saves, and the New York Islanders beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-0 Thursday night.

Anders Lee scored in the second period and John Tavares added an empty-netter in the final minute to seal the Islanders' third straight win. New York has won the first two games on a crucial nine-game road swing and improved to 12-4-2 since interim coach Doug Weight replaced the fired Jack Capuano.

Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson each had two assists, and Greiss got his third shutout of the season.

Carey Price finished with 21 saves as the Canadiens lost coach Claude Julien's 1,000th NHL game. Montreal is 1-2-0 since Julien replaced Michel Therrien last week and has totaled just 14 goals while going 2-7-1 in the last 10 games, including four shutouts (see full recap).

Best of NBA: Rockets crush Pelicans to spoil Cousins' debut

Best of NBA: Rockets crush Pelicans to spoil Cousins' debut

NEW ORLEANS -- The Boogie-and-Brow era in New Orleans is off to a highly inauspicious start.

The Pelicans' tandem of newly acquired All-Star DeMarcus Cousins and All-Star Game MVP Anthony Davis was no match for the surging Houston Rockets on Thursday night.

Reserve Lou Williams hit seven 3-pointers and scored 27 points in his Rockets debut, and Houston crushed New Orleans, 129-99.

Davis had 29 points, and Cousins finished with 27 points and 14 rebounds. But New Orleans turned the ball over 20 times couldn't keep pace with the firepower of the Rockets, who hit 20 3-pointers.

Eric Gordon scored 19 points and Ryan Anderson added 17 in both players' first game in New Orleans since leaving the Pelicans. James Harden had 13 points and 14 assists (see full recap).

LeBron triple-double powers Cavs past Knicks
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James recorded his 48th career triple-double and Kyrie Irving scored 23 points, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 119-104 victory over the New York Knicks, who hung on to superstar Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose at Thursday's trade deadline.

James scored 18 points and had 13 rebounds with 15 assists for his sixth triple-double of the season.

Anthony, the subject of trade rumors because of a strained relationship with Knicks President of Basketball Operations Phil Jackson, scored 20 points, going 9 of 25 from the field.

Kyle Korver scored 20 points for Cleveland, which is 8-1 in February and has beaten New York 10 straight times.

Courtney Lee had 25 points for New York, which has lost six of seven and is 12th in the Eastern Conference playoff race (see full recap).

Pistons rally from 18 down to beat Hornets in OT
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 33 points, including three 3-pointers late in the fourth quarter during a pulsating Detroit rally, and the Pistons outlasted the Charlotte Hornets 114-108 in overtime Thursday night.

Caldwell-Pope scored Detroit's last 11 points of regulation, and his 3-pointer with 18.2 seconds to play tied the game at 100. Kemba Walker scored Charlotte's final nine points of the fourth, but the Pistons forced him to give up the ball on the last possession, and Marco Belinelli missed a 3-pointer that could have won it.

Detroit, which was behind by 18 in the third quarter, never trailed in the overtime. Caldwell-Pope's 3-pointer with 55 seconds remaining put the Pistons up 110-102.

Charlotte led 85-70 at the start of the fourth but missed 14 of its first 15 shots in the period, enabling Detroit to cut into the lead.

Walker scored 34 points. Tobias Harris had 25 for the Pistons (see full recap).