Slaughterhouse 3: Sixers Destroyed at Home, Fall 2-1 in Series

Slaughterhouse 3: Sixers Destroyed at Home, Fall 2-1 in Series

Sad to say it like this, but this is just what happens in a series when you play a team that's better than you a bunch of times—occasionally, they're really, really gonna show it. There were some semi-fluky things that went wrong for the Sixers, but generally, they were just thoroughly outplayed by a team with better players. Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce ate the Sixers alive tonight, and the result was a dispiriting 107-91 blowout that wasn't nearly as respectable as the final score indicated.

The really crazy thing was that after one, things were actually looking up for the Sixers in their first home game of the series. Jrue Holiday was beastly early, hitting some threes and distributing well, and Lou Williams hit a classic away-from-his-body trey as the buzzer sounded to put the Sixers up 33-28 at the end of the quarter. But the floodgates opened for the C's in the second quarter, as they pounded the Sixers down low and turned the tables on them in transition, and completely shut them down on the other end. The Sixers were outscored 32-16 in the second, and it only got worse from there, with the Celtics pulling away at the end of the third, and by pretty early in the fourth, it was pretty clear this was not going to be the Sixers' fourth straight game decided by one point.

Here's the (biggest) problem with the Sixers: They have no interior defense. Lavoy Allen gave the team some good minutes again early, but he quickly got in foul trouble in the second, and the C's took over from there. Thaddeus Young had by far his best offensive game of the playoffs tonight, scoring 22 points on 10-16 shooting, but he just can't hold off Garnett and he can't bang with any of the Celtics bigs—he had just five boards in the game. That's one more than starting center Spencer Hawes managed to grab, in a game where he was miserable on offense (just four points on 2-8 shooting) and even worse on D, not only getting over-powered by Garnett all over the court, but not even bothering to get out to contest most of his 15-18-foot jumpers.

Hardest to watch among our bigs in this series, though, is Elton Brand. After being our best post defender all year, Elton—who has been playing through injury for as long as he can probably remember—finally seems to be wearing down. Not only is he being over-powered by Garnett in the post, he can't even stay in front of him when he's driving. Throw in the Old School Chevy's running-on-empty offense—just 1-6 tonight, including a couple momentum-killing misses on wide-open eight-footers—and I'm starting to wonder if he can even be starting for this team anymore. Love you like my name was Doug Collins, Elton, but...you're a liability in this series.

The guards were more of a mixed bag tonight. After his previously mentioned big first quarter, Jrue (as he is wont to do) turned passive, and only scored five points the rest of the way—though he did augment that with nine assists and six rebounds, and probably gets absolved from most of the blame tonight. Evan Turner, however, does not get let off the hook, scoring just four points on 1-10 shooting, including missing some jumpers that were nearly as easy as Brand's. He did grab a bunch of rebounds (eight) and played sporadically good defense, but we need scoring from Evan in this series, and if he's scoring single digits and missing gimme jumpers, we're probably not gonna win the game. I keep hoping that we're getting to a point where Evan doesn't have games like this, but... (By contrast, Lou Williams was decent enough in this one.)

But rather than get too deep into the many ways the Sixers came up short on this one, attention should probably be paid to just how good the Celtics were tonight. Paul Pierce's 6-17 line doesn't exactly scream "breakout game," but he also willed his way to the line 14 times (making 11), grabbed 12 boards, and had a couple huge dunks in the first half to get him and the team really into the game. After a bum game two, Rondo was magnificent, playing the scorer early (a role he embraces only with great reluctance) and ending with 23 points, 14 dimes, six rebounds and just one turnover. And Garnett...man, I just don't know what we do with this guy when he's playing like this, scoring 27 with 13 boards and just sucking out the Sixers' will to live. We have no answer.

Game Four this Friday. This still counts as just one game, and as good as they looked tonight, there's certainly no guarantee that this'll be the team that shows up in Game Four, rather than the one that played the first two in Boston. But man, the Sixers are gonna have to figure out a way to prevent KG from getting to own the game like this again—even if it means unchaining Nik Vucevic from the bench (who did play the last three minutes in this one, his first post-season burn, notching one point and one board). Not that I think it'll help, but hey, gotta exhaust all options when you're getting killed by one guy this badly. Let's free Craig Brackins while we're at it. And is Tony Battie still loitering on the bench, somewhere? All hands on deck, people.

Phillies-Brewers 5 things: Opportunity for a rare 4-game win streak

Phillies-Brewers 5 things: Opportunity for a rare 4-game win streak

Phillies (33-61) vs. Brewers (52-47)
7:05 p.m. on NBC10; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

For the first time since they won four straight from June 3-6, the Phillies have a three-game winning streak going. On Friday night, they were carried by the arm of Aaron Nola, who is on a roll since early June (see story). Going for the Phils' fourth straight win, Jeremy Hellickson toes the rubber Saturday against rookie lefty Brent Suter.

Here are five things to know for the game:

1. Gone streaking?
A winning streak! The Phillies have put together one of their better stretches of the season over the last week, winning four out of five beginning with the final game of their set in Milwaukee. 

While the offense has picked up its play in that span (6.2 runs per game in the last five), the pitching needs to be mentioned first. The staff has come together well and looks much more like what the team expected in the spring. Fitting, the three-game streak began with six quality innings from Vince Velasquez. This season has been a struggle for the righty, who came off the disabled list in the win.

On Wednesday, Nick Pivetta allowed three runs in 5 1/3 innings, but the bullpen held the Marlins scoreless. And then there was Nola on Friday. He looked sharp from the get-go and found a second gear when the lineup turned over. The second time through the lineup, he struck out seven batters in the midst of retiring 10 straight batters.

Now to the offense. Going into Friday's win, the Phillies were ninth in team OPS in July. Nick Williams has 10 hits in his last six games, picking up where Aaron Altherr left off. Maikel Franco has a five-game hit streak and has raised his average to .233, the highest it's been since the Phillies' opening series in April.

Meanwhile, the Brewers are ice cold. They've lost six straight and have a tenuous hold on their division with the red-hot Chicago Cubs on their heels. They're only a game up on the Cubs and are one behind in the loss column. They're only 2.5 games ahead of Pittsburgh and 3.5 up on the Cardinals. The clock may have hit midnight on baseball's first-half Cinderella.

2. Hellickson at home
In his last time out, Hellickson had the Brewers off balance for most of his outing. He was cruising into the fifth inning with a 1-0 lead, but the righty made one big mistake, leading to a home run by Brett Phillips that put Milwaukee up.

While the Phillies won the game, it ended Hellickson's day. It was the first time in his last five starts that he had failed to complete at least six innings.

The righty has been on a mini-roll since he was roughed up by the Red Sox at Citizens Bank Park last month. In his last five appearances, he has a 3.26 ERA with 25 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings. He's allowed only 30 baserunners in that period and held batters to a .227 average. 

Looking at Hellickson's season as a whole, he has similar numbers away from CBP in 2017 compared to last year. However, he's faltered at home. He had a 3.16 ERA in 99 2/3 innings at CBP last year with a 4.55 K/BB ratio. This year, it's a 4.59 ERA with a 1.59 K/BB ratio while his home run rate has ballooned. It's not a great look for a pitcher the Phillies would like to trade.

3. Brewers turn to the rookie
With their division lead evaporating, the Brewers are turning to Suter, a rookie making just his 12th appearance and fifth start of the season after making 14 and two last year. 

And the lefty has looked good in limited action. In 32 innings, he has a 3.09 ERA with 27 strikeouts and 10 walks. He's allowed 32 hits and just one home run.

The 27-year-old lefty has had success despite his four-seam fastball topping out in the upper 80s. He still throws it 70.3 percent of the time working in his mid-70s slider and low-80s changeup with some success. He'll rarely throw his curveball. 

One may wonder how a lefty who doesn't touch 90 mph can handle RHBs. Believe it or not, Suter actually has a reverse split for his career, holding righties to a .680 OPS while LHBs hit .803 off him.

Suter has made three starts in July and has held hitters to a .254/.294/.317 slash line in 17 innings, striking out 15 and walking four.

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Speaking of lefties, Odubel Herrera has had better command of the strike zone recently. He's drawn a walk in four consecutive games and has five walks to go with nine hits since the All-Star break.

Brewers: Eric Thames has cooled off considerably since his hot April, but he still leads the Brewers with 23 home runs this season and has a .774 OPS since May. 

5. This and that
• The Phillies haven't won back-to-back series since sweeping Atlanta and Miami April 21-27. They've lost every home series since taking two of three from the Giants on June 2-4.

• In five career starts against the Brewers, Hellickson is 3-1 with a 2.89 ERA over 28 innings. 

• Mark Leiter Jr. took a loss for Triple A Lehigh Valley on Friday, but Rhys Hoskins and Scott Kingery hit their 21st and fifth home runs for the IronPigs, respectively.

With off-the-charts command, Kyle Young aims to become tallest MLB pitcher ever

With off-the-charts command, Kyle Young aims to become tallest MLB pitcher ever

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Phillies prospect Kyle Young is aiming to become the tallest pitcher in MLB history.
 
The 7-foot left-hander out of Long Island has become the staff ace in Short-Season Class A Williamsport, with a 1.59 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 34 strikeouts and just seven walks in 28 1/3 innings this season. Those numbers would be impressive for any 19-year-old pitcher, but when you consider his size, Young’s command is off the charts.
 
His coaches attribute that ability to an athleticism rarely seen in taller pitchers.
 
“The amazing thing with him is the coordination he brings to the table,” Crosscutters pitching coach Hector Berrios said. “It’s been off the charts for a guy his size to be able to repeat his delivery and not only do it with one pitch, he does it with all three pitches.”
 
Right now, those three pitches include a fastball that reaches the low 90s, a changeup and an off-speed pitch that Young calls a “slurve.” And he believes that his height gives him an additional weapon.
 
“Not even just because of the intimidation or anything, but also just the downward plane that I can get on the ball with my fastball," Young said. "I think that really helps induce groundballs. I know they’re going to hit it, everybody hits fastballs, but just try to get weak contact. That's the main goal.”
 
“He hides the ball fairly well in addition to the release point being a tad bit closer to the plate, which matters,” said Crosscutters manager Pat Borders, who you might remember as the starting catcher for the Blue Jays in the 1993 World Series. “If you get a release point that's a foot closer, it's like adding some velocity. He's a kid now physically. In a couple years, you're going to have somebody that's throwing harder and already has the mindset and physical skills to do some damage.”
 
The Phillies selected Young in the 22nd round last year, and a $225,000 bonus swayed him to turn pro rather than accept a scholarship to Hofstra. Early in his professional career, it looks like money well spent by the Phillies.

You can see more on Young, 2017 first-round pick Adam Haseley and 18-year-old power-hitting sensation Jhailyn Ortiz on the next episode of Phillies Clubhouse, which airs Saturday (11 p.m.) and Sunday (12:30 p.m., 6 p.m.) on CSN.