Grantland: Sixers are ‘tanking artists’, last two losses their ‘masterpiece’

Grantland: Sixers are ‘tanking artists’, last two losses their ‘masterpiece’

Since winning four straight on the road against the Western Conference to ring in the New Year, the Philadelphia 76ers have a 3-17 record and are currently embroiled in a seven-game losing streak. That puts them at 15-38 for the season, the second-worst mark in the NBA.

It’s glorious.

Nobody was under any illusions about the Sixers heading into this season, so you won’t find many people who are particularly upset over these developments—even after historic back-to-back losses the past two nights. According to Andrew Sharp for Grantland, this was the franchise’s Symphony No. 9, its Mona Lisa, its Hamlet.

The Sixers authored a tanking masterpiece, perhaps one of many to come. Per Sharp:

What we’ve seen the past two nights is really just scratching the surface, too. If this team trades Turner, Hawes, and Young, suddenly the team revolves around Michael Carter-Williams, James Anderson, and Lavoy Allen. Fear the tank.

Tanking at its finest. Get on board. Buy a T-shirt with the logo up above. Have fun with it, because this is something epic in its own, sad way.

>> Ten thoughts on Sixers’ last 48 hours [Grantland]

Flyers Notes: Ivan Provorov bounces back with help from Shayne Gostisbehere

Flyers Notes: Ivan Provorov bounces back with help from Shayne Gostisbehere

Shayne Gostisbehere has been through it before.
The ups and downs of a rookie season. Although his season a year ago was mostly up and up as a Calder Trophy finalist.
Nonetheless, Gostisbehere felt badly for 19-year-old Ivan Provorov following that minus-5 performance in Chicago on Tuesday and then another minus effort in the home-opening loss to Anaheim on Thursday.
So "Ghost" had a talk with his Russian counterpart about life on the blue line.
“He was down after a few games,” Gostisbehere said. “I didn’t really tell him much other than, ‘Hey, we’ve got 79 more of these.’ I told him to keep his head up and he’ll get over it. 
“He’s a hell of a player and sometimes you don’t get all of the bounces. He’s a great player as you guys could see. He had a great bounce-back game tonight.”
Indeed he did during Saturday’s 6-3 win over Carolina (see story).
Provorov says when the play seems slow to him, he knows he’s focused on what has to be done.

“Once you get comfortable, you get used to the speed and the game slows down for you,” he said. “With every game, I’m getting more comfortable and trying to make more plays.”
Provorov set up two critical early Flyers goals with two assists during a plus-2 outing that led to a 3-2 lead in the second period. The Flyers didn’t trail thereafter.
Both his shots went right to the net. Several other times this week, he had his point shots blocked.
“You try to read off how much time you have and stuff like that, how fast the player is coming at you,” he said. “You’re trying to [decide] what kind of shot to take.”
Provorov admitted some of his teammates were giving him encouragement.
“I think everyone is going to have tough games, it’s only his third game,” Gostisbehere said. “You have to give the guy a break. It’s tough to be in that position, he’s 19 years old.  
“He’s a kid, it’s tough. I was 22 so it was a little different, I’m a little older and everyone is going to have those tough games, but it’s how you bounce back.”
Provorov also had two hits and four blocked shots.
Scoring streaks
Matt Read and Wayne Simmonds both extended their goal-scoring streaks to four games. They are each one shy of their career-high — five games.
The last Flyer to have a four-game goal-scoring streak was Claude Giroux, who did so from March 19 to 28, 2015, with five goals.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, the last time the Flyers had two players concurrently on goal-scoring streaks of four games or more was 1993, when Josef Beranek had an eight-game streak from Oct. 9 to 23 and Eric Lindros had a six-game streak from Oct. 12 to 26.
Read is truly enjoying the best start of his career.
“It made hockey a little bit more fun,” he said. “The last couple of years have been frustrating. You are battling as much as you can out there to try and get better.
“Scoring a couple of goals here early gets the confidence high. I enjoy going on the ice every shift and giving it your all and trying to make this team better every shift.”

Eagles-Vikings: 5 matchups to watch

Eagles-Vikings: 5 matchups to watch

The Eagles (3-2) have an extremely tough game against Sam Bradford and the Vikings (5-0) on Sunday at the Linc.

The Vikings come out of their bye week as the NFL's only undefeated team, while the Eagles have lost to Detroit and Washington following their bye.

Here are five matchups to watch:

Sam Bradford vs. Eagles' defense
The big storyline all week has been the return of Sam Bradford to Philadelphia, where he spent the 2015 season and most of the 2016 offseason.

How much will familiarity play a role on Sunday?

Bradford clearly knows the Eagles' defensive personnel and scheme, having played against the defense throughout training camp. But on the flip side, the defense knows all of Bradford's tendencies. We dove into this in depth earlier in the week (see story).

What has made Bradford so good through his first four games with the Vikings (he didn't play in the opener) has been the way he's protected the football. He hasn't thrown an interception yet and the Vikings' offense hasn't yet turned the football over.

Stefon Diggs vs. Leodis McKelvin
Diggs might be a little banged up, but as long as he's on the field, the Eagles will need to keep an eye on him. Diggs is an absolute burner, so it's a good thing the Eagles will likely have their fastest corner, McKelvin back this week.

But McKelvin is coming off a hamstring injury that has bothered him since early in the season, so we'll need to see if he can make it through this game. If he can't, rookie Jalen Mills will get in the game. Without blazing speed, Mills had trouble containing DeSean Jackson last week.

Halapoulivaati Vaitai vs. Danielle Hunter/Brian Robinson
Big V's NFL debut wasn't a good one. He gave up five quarterback hurries and two sacks against Washington. This week, he'll have to deal with Robinson and Hunter on that right side of the offensive line.

Robinson and Hunter are each tied for the Vikings' lead with four sacks this season. They're likely salivating at the idea of seeing Vaitai on Sunday.

Kyle Rudolph vs. Malcolm Jenkins
While Diggs has been the Vikings' leading receiver, Rudolph is a dangerous component to the team's passing attack. Through five games, Rudolph has 21 catches for 236 yards and three touchdowns.

It will be a team effort to stop him Sunday. At times, he'll be covered with a linebacker and at times a safety. We'll list Jenkins here because he gave up a touchdown to 32-year-old Vernon Davis last week.

Vikings' run game vs. Eagles' run defense
The Vikings have the worst run game in the NFL. They've average a league-low 2.45 yards per attempt. They’re the first team since the 2010 Broncos to have a rushing average of 2.5 or worse through five games. And they’re just the 11th team since 1940 to do it.

But the Vikings are going to try to run the ball against the Eagles. Why wouldn't they?

The Eagles were absolutely gashed for 230 yards by Washington. They had 10 missed tackles and gave up 156 yards after contact. Something's gotta give here.