Ready for Love: Sixers Head Up to Minny Hoping to Cap Really Good Weekend

Ready for Love: Sixers Head Up to Minny Hoping to Cap Really Good Weekend

“What an incredible display by our guys defensively,” said Coach Doug Collins about last night's 77-71 win over the Spurs. "I’ve never been more proud of them. That was a grind-it-out type of game.” "Grind it out" was one way to put it, sure. San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich saw it a ittle differently: “I think it set offensive basketball back a decade or so," quoth Pop. Bad offense or good defense, it was incredibly impressive how the Sixers stuck with the Spurs all game, and that they made the plays necessary down the stretch to escape with a victory--even if you did kind of get the feeling that if they played ten times, San Antonio would've won seven or eight of 'em.

Anyway, visiting the 13-39 Timberwolves in Minnesota, one of the worst defensive teams in the league, one gets the feeling that "grinding it out" will not be particularly necessary on either side. For better or worse, there will be points tonight.

Minnesota has had an interesting season, certainly, mostly notable for their young team's incredible ability to lose close games (putting even the Sixers' early late-game woes to shame) and for the statistically remarkable play of power forward Kevin Love. Now officially an All-Star after being named an injury replacement for David Stern, Love is averaging a league-best 15.9 boards a game while also scoring over 21 a game and shooting an unconscious 44% from beyond the arc. Against a relatively weak-rebounding team like the Sixers, don't be surprised if K-Love runs somewhat amok.

8:00 tip from the Target Center. Props to Jrue Holiday last night for being the one player on the court with the ability to hit shots (9-14 for 27 points)--good to see that he hasn't completely disappeared since being moved off the ball by Doug Collins. Let's keep that up tonight then, Jrue.

Police: Pelicans guard Bryce Dejean-Jones shot and killed in Dallas

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Police: Pelicans guard Bryce Dejean-Jones shot and killed in Dallas

DALLAS -- Police say New Orleans Pelicans guard Bryce Dejean-Jones was fatally shot after breaking down the door to a Dallas apartment.

Sr. Cpl. DeMarquis Black said in a statement that officers were called early Saturday morning and found the 23-year-old player collapsed in an outdoor passageway. He was taken to a hospital where he died.

Black says a person living at the apartment was sleeping when he heard his door kicked open. The man retrieved a handgun and fired when Dejean-Jones began kicking the bedroom door.

Dejean-Jones was a Los Angeles native and it wasn't immediately clear why he was in Dallas.

In his only NBA season, which ended in February because of a broken right wrist, Dejean-Jones started 11 of 14 games and averaged 5.6 points and 3.4 rebounds.

Stanley Cup: Offseason moves send Sharks to final after missing playoffs

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Stanley Cup: Offseason moves send Sharks to final after missing playoffs

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- After watching the San Jose Sharks miss the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade, general manager Doug Wilson set out to remake the team last offseason.

Individually, none of the moves sent shockwaves through the NHL. The Sharks hired a coach who made the playoffs once in seven seasons as an NHL coach, traded a first-round pick for a goalie who had been a backup his entire career, added two playoff-tested veterans for depth at forward and defense and signed an unheralded Finnish rookie.

Together, the additions of Peter DeBoer, Martin Jones, Joel Ward, Paul Martin and Joonas Donskoi to a solid core that had underachieved proved to be the right mix to get the Sharks to their long-awaited first Stanley Cup Final appearance.

"I thought this team has a lot of the pieces of that puzzle," Martin said. "Doug did a great job bringing guys in that he did, to make that push for it. I don't think many people would have guessed that we'd be here right now, but I think we believed."

The players all said the disappointment of blowing a 3-0 series lead to Los Angeles in 2014 and then missing the playoffs entirely last season served as fuel for this season's success.

DeBoer also credited former coach Todd McLellan for helping put the foundation in place that he was able to capitalize on. The Sharks became the second team in the past 10 seasons to make it to the final after missing the playoffs the previous season, joining the 2011-12 Devils that pulled off the same trick in DeBoer's first season in New Jersey.

"Everyone was ready for something a little bit fresher and newer, not anything that much different," DeBoer said. "The additions that Doug made, it just came together. I inherited a similar team in New Jersey when I went in there. First time they missed the playoffs for a long time the year before I got there. I think when you go into that situation, when you have really good people like there was in New Jersey when I went in there, like I was with this group ... they're embarrassed by the year they just had, and they're willing to do and buy into whatever you're selling to get it fixed again. I think I was the benefactor of that."

The transition from McLellan to DeBoer wasn't seamless. As late as Jan. 8, the Sharks were in 13th place in the 14-team Western Conference and seemingly on the way to another missed postseason.

But with Logan Couture finally healthy after being slowed by a broken leg early in the season and the move by DeBoer to put Tomas Hertl on the top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, the Sharks rolled after that and made the playoffs as the third-place team in the Pacific Division.

In-season additions of players like depth forwards Dainius Zubrus and Nick Spaling, physical defenseman Roman Polak and backup goaltender James Reimer helped put the Sharks in the position they are now.

"With the new coaching staff we needed to realize how we needed to play to win," Thornton said. "Once that clicked, and that probably clicked maybe early December, I think after that, we just exploded. I think that's really when we saw the depth of this team. Everybody plays a big part."

That has been especially true in the playoffs when longtime core players like Thornton, Couture, Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau got the support that had often been lacking during past postseason disappointments.

Jones has posted three shutouts in the playoffs, including the Game 7 second-round clincher against Nashville and back-to-back games in the conference final against St. Louis. He has proven more than capable of being an NHL starter after serving an apprenticeship as Jonathan Quick's backup in Los Angeles.

Ward scored two goals in each of the final two games of the conference final and has 11 points this postseason. Donskoi exceeded expectations just to make the team as a rookie and has solidified his spot on the second line with five goals and nine points.

Martin's steady play has allowed offensive-minded defenseman Brent Burns to roam at times and given San Jose a strong second defensive pair that had been missing in previous seasons.

Zubrus and Spaling played a big role as penalty killers and on the fourth line, while Polak has been one of the team's most physical players.

"Doug did a great job this summer, this season," Couture said. "A lot of credit needs to go to him for the guys he brought in."