Amazing: Sixers Rally From 18 Down to Steal Game One in Orlando

Amazing: Sixers Rally From 18 Down to Steal Game One in Orlando

This instant recap of the Sixers huge win in Orlando comes from Andrew Unterberger.

Say what you will about the Sixers, they know how to follow a script.
Stop me when this sounds familiar: The Sixers, down double digits in
the second half of the first round's game one, start to rally back just
as it seems the game's getting out of reach, and crawl ahead in the
final minute to stun the home court and pull off the upset. But as
amazing as their win was to start the playoffs last year in Detroit,
the finish to this one took it to a whole new level. Down 18 with just
a minute left in the third, it looked for sure like this thing was
over--the Magic were hitting from all over, the Sixers looked
completely directionless (and went five and a half minutes without a
field goal), and you could just sense that the Magic had gotten the
better of the Sixers this time out. My Sixers insecurity complex kicked
in full throttle as I pictured sportswriters/broadcasters/naysayers around the country chuckling to themselves and exclaiming "How the hell did this team ever get to the sixth seed?" Worse, I thought they might have had a point.

But then a couple buckets to close out the third left it a 14-point
lead, and the Sixers begin to chip away. Royal Ivey and Lou Williams
both hit threes, and as he always seems to when the Sixers are making a
fourth-quarter run, Donyell Marshall poured in a couple more. A Sweet
Lou three-point play cut it to two, and eventually Andre Iguodala was
at the free-throw line with a one-point deficit and a minute to go.
When he bricked both, and Dwight Howard posterized Theo Ratliff at the
other end to make it a three-point game, it was time to break out the
concessions--"well, at least they didn't give up," "well, if so and so
had gone different," etc. But then a third Donny three to tie it up, a
stop at the other end, and suddenly the opportunity was there to walk
away with the win. With three seconds to go in the game, Andre "I Won't
Call You Iggy Ever Again After This" Iguodala stepped back at the top
of the key, fired a fadeaway jumper over Hedo Turkoglu...and buried it.
Hedo put up a desperation heave well behind the arc as the game ended,
but it was way off. Final Score: Philadelphia 100, Orlando 98.

The thing I didn't even realize until watching Iguodala's
game-winner for the fifth or sixth time was how immaculately it was
defended. Andre tried to do his trademark swoop-and-pull move on
Turkoglu twice to get separation, and neither time bought him an inch.
When the shot actually went up, Turkoglu's hand was so far into Iggy's
face that he could probably smell the Cheetos that Hedo was eating
during the last quarter break. The shot simply could not have been
defended any better without Turkoglu actually grabbing the ball out of
Iguodala's hands, and he drilled it anyway. It was the kind of shot
usually reserved for guys who wear numbers like 23 and 24. Good thing,
too, because those missed free throws could've haunted Andre's
clutchness rep for some time to come. Now I doubt anyone will even
remember them by the time the next SportsCenter airs.

It was such an unbelievably satisfying win--vengeance for Rashard
Lewis's last-minute game-winner earlier in the season, if nothing
else--that it's important that we not start trying to read too much
into it. Yes, what the Sixers did tonight was phenomenal, but if you'll
remember, that Detroit series didn't end up finishing so hot, and
Orlando still proved tonight why they are such a dangerous team. I've
never given Dwight Howard the same credit that others have because I
thought his game was still shallow--he was never really dominant in the
interior, he missed a lot of key free throws, and he got in foul
trouble too early, too often. Well, if there was a flaw to be found in
D-12's game tonight, I couldn't see it--he was absolutely sick on both
ends, denying the Sixers anything easy in the paint, and abusing
Ratliff and Dalembert offensively in the post. In the third quarter,
his unstoppable offense got the team's wings all the open shots they
could handle, and they took advantage, to say the least. The really
scary thing is that Theo and Sammy both actually played Howard fairly
well--there was just no stopping Superman II tonight, on his way to 31
points (11-13 FG and a stunning 9-12 FT), 15 rebounds and 2 blocks.
Whether this was a fluky strong performance or the start of Howard
taking his game to that next level remains to be seen, but for the
first time that I've actually witnessed, he looked like an MVP tonight.

Wherever the series goes from here--and you're absolutely nuts if
you don't stick around to see it for yourself at this point--this game
illustrates why, in my opinion, making it to the post-season at all
costs is so important. You never know when your team is going to go out
and, when you least expect it, turn a game into an absolute
classic--the kind of game that takes second-tier, relatively unknown
young talents like Iguodala and turns them into the stars of tomorrow.
Even if the team doesn't end up advancing, it's just not right to rob
your team and fanbase of potential to make memories like that.

Oh, and I've decided that at this point, after keying a fourth
fourth-quarter game-winning resurgence for the Sixers, Donyell Marshall
absolutely must have a nickname, or at the very least some sort of lame
Chris Berman-ism. So far, I've come up with the following

1. Dagger Donny
2. The Marshall Plan
3. He Is Marshall
4. The Secret Weapon
5. The Amplifier

Votes and other nominations are welcome and encouraged.

Flyers-Hurricanes 5 things: Avoiding another bad 1st period

Flyers-Hurricanes 5 things: Avoiding another bad 1st period

Flyers vs. Hurricanes
7 p.m. on CSN, Pregame Live at 6:30

Another season, another slow start for the Flyers.

After dropping their home opener Thursday, the Flyers (1-2-1) welcome the Hurricanes (1-1-2) to the Wells Fargo Center Saturday night looking to snap a three-game losing skid.

Here are five things to know for Game 5 of 82.

1. Slow starts
Through four games, there are a few areas behind the Flyers' lousy start.

The defense continuing to abandon the goaltending and the lackluster power play are near the top of the list, but look no further than the first period of games.

The Flyers have been outscored, 6-1, in first periods through four games. Only Tampa Bay and Vancouver have scored fewer first-period markers with zero. The six first-period goals allowed are tied for the second most in the NHL. Only Calgary has more with seven.

It was an issue last season as well. In 2015-16, the Flyers were outscored, 62-50, in first periods, and the 50 goals ranked in the bottom five of the league. We've talked about slow starts in terms of wins-losses, but this issue extends to first periods too.

While the Flyers have exerted far greater efforts in second periods — leading the league with eight second-period tallies — getting behind so early results in playing from behind, and while resiliency is a trait of winning teams, it's ultimately cost them thus far.

On Saturday night, it doesn't get any easier for the Flyers, either. Carolina is an improved club from last season, which it, too, struggled scoring in opening periods.

That hasn't been the case this season. The 'Canes have outscored opponents, 5-2, in first periods, so it'll be important for the Flyers to come out of the gate with more authority.

2. Read-emption Song
One of the highlights of the early season for the Flyers has been the play of Matt Read.

Read scored his team-leading fourth goal of the season during the Flyers' 3-2 loss to the Ducks on Thursday, dusting off a play that brought back memories of years past.

The 30-year-old got behind the Anaheim defense on the backhand, drove to the net and deposited the puck into the net past John Gibson for a go-ahead score. It was very much a play we saw Read make a few years ago, but has been missing the last two seasons. Read came into training camp early this season hungrier than the previous two seasons, and on Wednesday, general manager Ron Hextall said Read knew he had to get back to the brand of hockey he was playing in 2013-14.

After the game Thursday, Read said his self-evaluation this offseason resulted in him realizing he has to get into the greasy areas to score and avoid playing the outside.

"I think that's something the last two years, I kind of faded away from, I was a perimeter player," Read said Thursday. "It's easy to be a perimeter player if you're going to be making plays and stuff like that. But if you want to score goals, you've got to get into those tough areas, be nasty around the net and battle for loose pucks."

3. Not so special
Special teams so often decide hockey games and it should factor into Saturday's game, too. Carolina comes into the game with a power play and penalty kill both in the top five.

The Hurricanes' man advantage has found twine five times in 16 chances, and their penalty kill has killed off 15 of 16 power plays against. On the other hand, the Flyers have had their struggles on special teams in the early going.

On Thursday night, the Flyers’ PP played a huge role in their loss. They finished 1 for 7 on the man advantage against Anaheim but were 1 for 5 in the second period alone. With Anaheim asking to be beaten, the Flyers couldn’t make the Ducks pay. 

“I thought we had pretty good power plays, our first power play,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “I thought we had a good power play during the second, scored a good goal. Had opportunities to stretch to 3-1. It’s disappointing we couldn’t.

“We had one poor power play at the end of the first, where we weren’t able to get set up at all. Our power play was OK. The bigger thing for me is the goal we gave up a few seconds after the last power play in the second period. Those are the type of goals that as a team we can’t give up.”

4. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: It hasn't been the smoothest transition to the NHL for Ivan Provorov, one of two 19-year-olds on the roster. Provorov has shown glimpses, but there have been hiccups, as expected. He had a nightmare of a game in Chicago on Tuesday, and followed it up with a not-so-great effort against Anaheim. But we have to remember he's a teenage rookie. Patience is important. Still, the spotlight should remain on him Saturday. How does he respond after a pair of games in which he's made visible mistakes?

Hurricanes: Carolina has a few young players that are a joy to watch, but let’s highlight defenseman Justin Faulk, who quarterbacks the power play. The 24-year-old has a goal and three assists in four games, with two of the helpers coming on the man advantage. An extremely gifted blueliner, Faulk has scored 15 and 16 goals, respectively, the last two seasons, but that wasn’t enough to get him on Team USA for the World Cup of Hockey. We all know how that panned out.

5. This and that
• Read has 14 points in 20 career games against the Hurricanes.

• Dale Weise was suspended three games for an illegal check to the head of Anaheim defenseman Korbinian Holzer. Roman Lyubimov will replace Weise in the lineup.

• Carolina has killed off its last 11 penalties and has scored at least one power-play goal in three of its four games and two power-play goals in two of its four games.

Matt Read showing Flyers he's done his homework

Matt Read showing Flyers he's done his homework

To Matt Read’s credit, his hockey education never stopped.

Through a second straight subpar season with a murky summer ahead, Read realized he had to change, even on the cusp of his 30th birthday.

It was in late April when the much-maligned winger met with head coach Dave Hakstol and turned in his homework, almost like a student-teacher conference to address troubled grades.

Read vowed he had learned.

Now, nearly six months later, he’s off to the best start of his six-year career.

“He has always been a hard-working guy,” Hakstol said Thursday. “He is a guy that is doing things with a lot of confidence. For me, it started with Reader back in late August. He was in here working early, getting ready, getting prepared and he has carried that through everything he has done so far this year.”

What he has done is rip off a team-high four goals in four games, attacking the net at will and with an undeniable bravado. Really, it’s a Matt Read we haven’t seen before. On Thursday night in the Flyers’ 3-2 home-opening loss, he took a bouncing puck at the blue line, careened toward the net on a sharp, decisive angle and buried his fourth goal with skilled stick work.

“For myself, I’m just trying to play with speed and get to the net,” he said. “I had all the speed and kind of beat the goalie to the back post.”

Last season, the bottom-six forward needed 26 games to score four goals. The year prior, it took 54 games.

So Read studied. What exactly did he grasp?

“Even my linemates, we talk about that if we’re in the offensive zone, we’ve got to get somebody in the blue paint there,” Read said Thursday. “I don’t know the stat, but I think it’s near 90 percent of all goals are within 10 feet of the net. So if you want to score goals, you’ve got to get in that area.”

This offseason, Read looked in the mirror and, with some self-evaluation, knew what had to be done.

“I think that’s something the last two years, I kind of faded away from, I was a perimeter player,” he said. “It’s easy to be a perimeter player if you’re going to be making plays and stuff like that. But if you want to score goals, you’ve got to get into those tough areas, be nasty around the net and battle for loose pucks.”

A new outlook has brought renewed confidence. It’s fair to question whether over the last two seasons if Read ever makes the play he made Thursday. He also knows it’s early and more can be accomplished.

“I feel good out there right now,” Read said. “Hopefully I continue to have good health, keep working out and being strong on my feet. A lot of it has to do with confidence. If you’re shy or not having the confidence, you probably won’t go to that far post.

“I know for myself in the last two years, I know I’ve got to be better. Even going into last year, I knew I had to be better and I did as much I could in the offseason to have a good season and I guess it didn’t go my way, or over the course of the season, it took its toll.”

Read amassed 11 goals and 15 assists in 79 games. The 26 points were a personal low for a full season. Those figures didn’t sit well with Read and general manager Ron Hextall noticed.

“You know what, Reader came in early before camp, he's absolutely worked his tail off,” Hextall said Wednesday. “He understood that he hadn't been as good a player as he should have been last year. He understood it, he took it upon himself, put in a great summer, came in early, got himself in great shape, and he's a hungry hockey player right now and he's been back to where he was.”

When signed by the Flyers in 2011 out of Bemidji State University, it was uncertain where Read projected. Over the past two seasons, he’s fallen to a fourth-line role and was even healthy-scratched last season. More buzz surrounding his status within the organization heated up entering training camp as the Flyers made additions and Travis Konecny blossomed.

Thus far, however, Read has won himself a promotion to the third line because of his early success. He played only 16 power-play seconds Thursday, but if goals keep coming and the Flyers produce more 1-for-7 results on the man advantage, maybe Hakstol increases the 30-year-old’s minutes there, as well.

“When Matt Read is playing like he can play,” Hextall said, “he's a helluva player.”

Not a bad student, too.