Sixers Wrap Pre-Season With Win Against Knicks: What Did We Learn?

Sixers Wrap Pre-Season With Win Against Knicks: What Did We Learn?

Thus endeth the pre-season for the Philadelphia 76ers, with a 98-91 win
against the Knicks on neutral-ish territory in Syracuse. The Sixers
dominated throughout the first two-and-a-half quarters, then almost let
the Knicks erase a 20-plus-point deficit before sealing the deal in the
fourth. Jason Richardson led the way with 23 points, seven rebounds and
six assists, hitting two enormous threes late in the game to help fend
off the surging 'Bockers. Thaddeus Young also pitched in 22 on 10-12
shooting, and despite missing three starters in Jrue Holiday, Evan
Turner and Andrew Bynum, the Sixers were able to end the pre-season with
a win, finishing their exhibition schedule 6-1, with the one loss
coming against Brooklyn in overtime.

So how much do we want to take away from the Liberty Ballers' strong
play these last few weeks? Well, everyone says you can't take too much
(if anything) away from the pre-season, and for the most part, they're
right—after all, the Lakers have gone 0-6 in play so far, for instance,
but I'm guessing most prognosticators would certainly still tab them as a
playoff team at the least. Opponents are often injured, coaches tinker
with lineups or give added time to youngsters, and vets often phone it
in, preferring to save their good stuff for the regular season. Just
because the Sixers were able to mostly make short work of the Atlantic
Division in their pre-season schedule, that doesn't suddenly make them
front-runners to win the division by any means.

Still, I do think there are things to learn from the team's
pre-season performance, and in my opinion, the main takeaway is this:
This Sixers team rolls deep. In any given pre-season game, both sides
will be missing at least one or two (if not far more) regular rotation
guys, but the teams that have strong second units beyond their starters
will continue to thrive even with key players absent. That's why the
top-heavy Lakers have struggled, and why the Sixers' 5-1 record means
that they likely have a pretty strong roster from 1-12. With Bynum out,
Spencer Hawes was able to pick up a lot of the scoring and rebounding
load in the post. Turner's absence has been covered by the likes of
Drrell Wright and Nick Young. Even third-stringer Royal Ivey came to
ball tonight with starting point guard Holiday out, ending with 12
points and five dimes.

Now, the Sixers were deep last year too, and we clearly saw then how
such depth only gets you so far once the teams with star-studded
rotations start to put it all together. But usually, to add a player
like Andrew Bynum to your lineup, your team depth chart has to take a
hit as a result, and for the team to still be so loaded with seemingly
competent rotation guys after putting Bynum on top of it all...it's
definitely a good thing. And especially if Bynum doesn't start the
season healthy, the depth will be a key to keeping the team afloat until
he can be a full-time contributor.

So who this pre-season has really impressed? Well, we're not gonna get too deep into pre-season stats—we know how Ray Allen feels about those—but
Spencer Hawes certainly appears to be in fine form, looking a whole lot
like the Spence who very briefly took the league by storm early last
season. Dorell Wright has certainly made a good first impression,
scoring efficiently, making high IQ passes, and proving a real weapon in
transition. Thad has scrapped his way to big scoring nights in a number
of games, offense the team will certainly need from him. Malik Wayns
might be a legit NBA backup point. And Jrue Holiday has looked every bit
the floor general we need him to become, distributing and scoring and
proving he can lead this team from the perimeter.

Yup, it's been mostly good vibrations from the Sixers this
pre-season—of the expected rotation guys this season, only Evan Turner
really underperformed, which I think we're all used to in a weird way.
Otherwise, our young guys seem to have improved, our new guys seem me to
be good fits, and our team chemistry seems to be in a surprisingly good
place, considering how many new parts need to be integrated. It seems
like things are really looking up for this team going into the season.

Of course, I continue to use the word "seem" here, because this is
still the pre-season, and there's at least a decent chance that it all
turns out to be a house of cards or mirage or some other highly unstable
visual metaphor when the regular season starts. But I like what I see
so far, and I'd much rather see my team clicking meaninglessly than see
them go into crisis meaninglessly. Fun pre-season, can't wait for the
real thing to start a week from tomorrow.

Instant Replay: Phillies 4, Reds 3

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USA Today Images

Instant Replay: Phillies 4, Reds 3

BOX SCORE

The Phillies rallied for a 4-3 walk-off win over the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday.

Tommy Joseph won it with a single up the middle with no outs in the bottom of the ninth. The hit scored Aaron Altherr, who had singled and moved to second on a wild pitch.

The Phils have won just six of their last 27 games. Joseph has had a walk-off, game-winning hit in the last two wins.

In addition to Joseph, who also homered, the star of the game was the Phillies' bullpen. Four Phils' relievers combined on 3 2/3 scoreless innings after starter Jerad Eickhoff exited. The Phillies' bullpen is riding a 19 2/3-innings scoreless streak.

Starting pitching report
Eickhoff allowed eight hits and three runs over 5 1/3 innings. He gave up a bunt hit and a two-run homer to the first two batters of the game but took a 3-2 lead into the sixth inning. He allowed a leadoff single and a one-out RBI double in that inning as the Reds tied the game at 3-3.

Veteran Bronson Arroyo, back in action at age 40 after recovering from surgery the last two seasons, gave up three runs — all on solo homers — over five innings.

Bullpen report
Good work by Edubray Ramos to get two outs in the sixth to strand a runner in scoring position and preserve a 3-3 tie. Pat Neshek, Joaquin Benoit and Hector Neris each followed with a scoreless inning. Neris struck out dangerous Joey Votto on a splitter with a man on base to end the top of the ninth. He got the win.

Austin Brice pitched two scoreless innings for the Reds. Michael Lorenzen took the loss. He gave up two hits in the ninth. Joseph's game-winning hit came on a 97 mph heater.

At the plate
Cesar Hernandez, Michael Saunders and Joseph all clouted solo homers for the Phillies. Joseph has six homers in his last 21 games.

Zack Cozart smacked a two-run homer against Eickhoff in the first inning. The Reds tied the game on a one-out double by Scooter Gennett in the sixth.

Remembering Bunning
Jim Bunning died Friday night. Larry Bowa recalled the impact that the Hall of Famer had on his career (see story).

Up next
The series concludes Sunday afternoon. Zach Eflin (0-2, 5.36) and Scott Feldman (3-4, 3.99) are the pitchers.

Soul hold off Valor in 48-47 win, remain unbeaten on the season

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Soul hold off Valor in 48-47 win, remain unbeaten on the season

The Soul on Saturday survived a late scare and moved to 7-0 on the season with a 48-47 win over the Washington Valor at Verizon Center.

With 41 seconds left, the Valor scored a touchdown and appeared poised to tie up the game. However, a fumbled snap led to a failed extra-point attempt and the Soul promptly recovered the ensuing onside kick.

"It’s hard to win a game in arena football, but we'll take them any way we can," Soul head coach Clint Dolezel told the team's official website. "We are definitely happy with 7-0 and looking forward to this bye week to get healed up and ready to finish the second half of the season." 

Soul quarterback Dan Raudabaugh led the way with 148 passing yards and five touchdowns. Wide receiver Ryan McDaniel led the team with four receptions, racking up 49 yards, while Darius Reynolds had 54 yards on three receptions. Each receiver reeled in two touchdown catches while Shaun Kauleinamoku accounted for the fifth score.

Running back Mykel Benson ran in a one-yard touchdown while Chirs Duvalt returned a kickoff 58 yards for a touchdown before halftime.

The Soul have a bye week before returning to the Wells Fargo Center on June 10 to face the Cleveland Gladiators.