Flyers Need a Turnover Intervention. Intervention!

Flyers Need a Turnover Intervention. Intervention!

With the Hurricanes, Devils, Caps, and Pens on the schedule to start the season, a 3-1-0 record is perfectly acceptable. But, I'm pretty sure most of us would rather that loss be to any of those other teams. Hell, I'd rather be 2-2 and have one of the wins be against the Pens.  

After the jump, we'll dispatch with any excuse-making. (Then we'll talk about a possible biting and watch a video of Chris Pronger throttlin' him a Penguin.)

The depth we saw on the 3rd and 4th lines in the first three games was washed away without JVR and Betts in the lineup. No excuse... If everyone's healthy except two lower line forwards, even though both are big special teams contributors and more than solid at even strength, that's still fairly normal in this league. And anyway, no one's blaming Arron Asham or Riley Cote for this one. Weak penalty gripes? No excuses... The call on Briere :14 into the game was an annoying reminder of what the league loves—powerplays and more powerplays, but the ensuing goal also wasn't the reason the Flyers lost. The Penguins were whistled for more PIM in the game anyway. Overall, despite the close 5-4 final score, the Flyers just flat out blew this one. 

Although they did keep it interesting... 

Braydon Coburn will draw the fans' ire in the wake of this loss, especially those of us who have maybe had a few HopDevils. He coughed up a couple of pucks that resulted directly in Pens markers, including an autogoal.

After seeing turnovers result directly in Ovechkin goals on Tuesday, and a mess of flubs tonight, let's hope it's not an enduring trend. 

Ray Emery was left high and dry a few times, and he didn't have his best game with him tonight to match the fleury flurry. 

At the other end of the ice, Marc-Andre Fleury gave up four goals of his own, but overall, way too many of the Flyers' shots were benign. Good news is, his chest will probably be sore tomorrow, and his glove got a lot of action. 

A couple of positives on the night: Danny Briere picked up two more goals, both from in tight. Jeff Carter also had a good night on the score sheet, tallying two goals and two assists. The scoring depth is there again this year, but it wasn't enough tonight. Honestly, it wasn't as close as the score would indicate. Any time the Flyers seemed to pick up momentum, the Pens scored like it was a free happy hour at Bootleggers. 

Mike Richards played hard, coming up with some big hits and clearly trying to steal back the game's energy. After the Flyers had scored with the goalie pulled, they threw everything they could at MAF, including Richards, head-first. The ensuing scraps are gonna make the rounds tomorrow. Update: They already are

First, Kris Letang claims, well... he doesn't publicly claim anything specific. But, it's assumed he told the refs that Scott Hartnell bit his hand. Hartnell says he didn't. While that was going on, Chris Pronger was ripping former teammate Chris Kunitz away from the action by his gruff. Almost have to feel bad for Kunitz, who just looked scared. 

It's gonna be a crazy season series, that's for sure. That's fun and all, but at least for the first game, the off-season moves aimed at putting the Flyers ahead of the Penguins haven't achieved that goal. Chris Pronger had a solid game at both ends, and Sidney Crosby was held off the score sheet. Malkin had a goal and an assist though, and for most the game, the Flyers couldn't match the Penguins' tenacity with and without the puck. 

We'll keep you posted on any developments stemming from the last half-second of the game.

Sixers-Celtics 5 things: Slowing down Isaiah Thomas

Sixers-Celtics 5 things: Slowing down Isaiah Thomas

The Sixers (4-15) continue their homestand against the Boston Celtics (11-8) at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday night (7:30 p.m./CSN and CSNPhilly.com).

Let's take a closer look at the matchup.

1. A green giant-sized challenge
Just crumple it up and move on.

That's about the only thing the Sixers can do after getting ran out of the gym by the Orlando Magic on Friday. Instead of looking like a team that hadn't played since Monday, the Sixers appeared flat in a 105-88 loss.

Outside of Joel Embiid's first 20-point, 10-rebound game (he had 25 points and 10 boards) and a strong effort from Jahlil Okafor (16 points and 13 rebounds), not much else went right for the Sixers.

Now Embiid will sit the second game of a back-to-back set and Okafor will be thrust into the starting lineup, as the Sixers try to deal with Boston big man Al Horford. 

Horford, the Celtics' prized free-agent acquisition, is coming off his best game so far for his new team. He recorded 26 points, eight rebounds and six blocks in the Celtics' 97-92 win over the Kings on Friday.

2. Little big man
Even with Horford coming off a productive performance, the Sixers' game plan against the Celtics has to focus on slowing down Isaiah Thomas.

The 5-foot-9 guard continues to put up big numbers in the scoring department. Despite his shooting percentages taking a dip this season, Thomas still ranks ninth in the NBA with a career-high 25.7 points per game. 

And even though he is a willing passer (averaging a career-high-tying 6.3 assists), expect Thomas to try and score early and often against the Sixers. After all, the reserve-turned-All-Star has put up 21.5 points per game against the Sixers during his career, his highest mark against any opponent.

3. Dial up the long-distance defense
The Sixers need to be aware of Thomas and just about all of his teammates when they toe that three-point line.

The Celtics rank fifth in the league in three-pointers attempted (31.1), three-pointers made (11.3) and eighth in three-point percentage (36.3) per game.

The C's have four players shooting above 40 percent from beyond the arc, and perhaps a bit surprising, three of them are big men. Jonas Jerebko (46.4 percent), Horford (42.4 percent) and Amir Johnson (40.0 percent) have all been on target from long range.

4. Injuries
Robert Covington (knee) and Jerryd Bayless (wrist) are both questionable. Embiid (rest), Nerlens Noel (knee) and Ben Simmons (foot) are out for the Sixers.

The Celtics have no players listed on the injury report.

5. This and that
• The Sixers have lost five games in a row overall and eight straight to the Celtics.

• The Celtics rank 25th in rebounding with 42.2 a night.

• Dario Saric had two points Friday against the Magic and has failed to reach double digits in scoring five of his last six games.

Worst loss of the year for excuse-less Sixers against Magic

Worst loss of the year for excuse-less Sixers against Magic

Another new feeling for the rebuilding Sixers: The bad loss with no excuse. For at least one and possibly multiple seasons, there was no real such thing as an inexcusable L, because they were so never the favorite going into any game that their excuse could almost always be "the other team was better." But four wins and one transcendent player into this season, the Ballers actually do need an excuse for dropping a home game against a subpar team by double digits. And if they had one last night in their 105-88 loss to the Orlando Magic, they weren't telling the rest of us.

Really, this game couldn't have been teed up much better for Philly: We were home, well-rested after Wednesday's weird-ass cancellation, against a 7-12 team we nearly beat early in the season, who were on the second night of a back-to-back after ceding a tough one to the Grizzlies -- and we had Joel Embiid for up to 28 minutes. If this one was to be a laugher by early in the fourth quarter, you'd almost have to assume that it'd been the Sixers who put it to bed early. 

Instead, the Sixers slumped horribly from the field in the first quarter, missing bunny after bunny and plenty of open jumpers, as they dug themselves a hole they were never quite able to climb out of. Philly kept it manageable and D.J. Augustin and Nik Vucevic caught fire for Orlando in the third quarter, and the game was suddenly in Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot territory before we could even process what was happening. 

Of course, you can't blame Embiid for this one. Though JoJo was a little out of sorts defensively on this one -- and personally, I really wish he'd stop trapping five feet outside the arc, it may cause panic in the Magic's ball-handlers but it really seems to compromise our own half-court D -- he still finished with a resounding 25-10-4 with three triples, and for the first time in his young career, 0 turnovers. (I coulda swore I saw at least one, but so says the box score, anyway.) Just another game for the Process, though the Sixers (for some reason) needed him to be immaculate last night, and he was merely phenomenal. 

Less phenomenal were the rest of the Sixers' shooters. Our bench in particular was absolutely putrid, going a combined 0-12 from three, with Nik Stauskas's streak of consecutive games with a three snapped at 15 after his scoreless, 0-6 performance. (Five assists for Sauce, at least.) Jahlil posted a dominant stat line of 16 and 13 (on 8-10 shooting) but was again hapless on defense, ending a team-worst -19 for the night. And Dario Saric's slumping continued with a 1-5 shooting outing with no rebounds or assists, likely his worst game of the season. 

It was a surprisingly listless effort from a team that should have looked much sharper, and the most positive non-Joel-related thing to be said about it is that it's (sort of) nice to finally have expectations high enough to have them let down. It'll be a lot harder for Philly to let down tonight against the Celtics, without JoJo, against a pretty good and mostly healthy Boston team. But that's five losses in a row already for the improving Sixers, and it'd be nice to cut off that streak soon, before it starts threatening double digits -- we could certainly do with being done with those for the forseeable future.