Sixers Go For Season's Best Fourth Straight Against Memphis

Sixers Go For Season's Best Fourth Straight Against Memphis

The curse of two finally broken, the Sixers have officially matched their season-high winning streak, of, uh, three. The win in Toronto did not come easy (not as easy as I'd have liked, anyway), but thanks to another strong bench effort, the Sixers were able to finally get separation in the fourth quarter, and ended up winning by a comfortable 107-94 final. Marreese Speights broke through from another underwhelming season with a season-and-team-high 23 points on 10-12 shooting, and Jrue Holiday had his ninth double-double of the year with 15 points and 11 assists.

Philly can really send this streak into the stratosphere with an unprecedent fourth consecutive victory tonight, against the visiting Memphis Grizzlies. Is it feeling like 2008 again in here or what??

The Grizz, who are 20-22 and currently scrapping for the largely-available 8th seed in the Western Conference, come to the Wells Fargo Center with a fair amount of baggage. Third-year guard O.J. Mayo has capped what has already been something of a nightmare season--getting moved to a sixth-man role on the bench, making headlines with a card-game-fight with a teammate on the team plane, being involved in countless trade rumors--with a ten-game suspension for testing positive for steroid DHEA, which Mayo claims he didn't know was illegal when he took in an over-the-counter supplement. Go figure.

The loss of Mayo is a harsh blow to an already highly undermanned Grizzlies bench. Luckily, this is a problem the Sixers have needed not concern themselves with this year, as their second unit has emerged not only as a team strength, but likely one of the best in the league. All four players off the bench scored in double-digits against the Raptors, including Speights's 23, 15 from Lou Williams, and Evan Turner's second-straight strong all-around effort (ten points, five boards, three dimes, including the game-highlight oop to Speights). It's at the point now where I've learned to be patient with the team's performance until that bench unit comes in--especially against a hurting bench like the Raptors' or Grizzlies'--and have the confidence that they'll either get us back in the game or create some much-needed separation.

7:00 tip from the WFC. And happy birthday to our own Andre Iguodala, who turns 27 years old today. Take it away, Evan:

Evan Turner, now available for weddings and bar mitzvahs.

(From Twitvid)

Vince Velasquez feels the heat in Phillies' Sunday loss to Pirates

Vince Velasquez feels the heat in Phillies' Sunday loss to Pirates

PITTSBURGH --- Vince Velasquez wasn’t able to stand the heat Sunday afternoon.

The game-time temperature was 89 degrees with humidity to match at PNC Park. The Philadelphia Phillies right-hander admitted he didn’t handle the weather well.

"You're going to go through various conditions, and it's something that you've got to really take into consideration --- to really lock in, stay hydrated because it can mentally drain you,” Velasquez said. “It kind of took a toll on me but I have to make the best of what I've got.”

Velasquez wound up pitching six innings in the blistering heat but did not factor in the decision as the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Phillies 5-4 on pinch-hitter Adam Frazier’s leadoff home run in the seventh inning, his first in the major leagues, off fellow rookie Edubray Ramos.

Velasquez had his worst of his five starts since coming off the disabled list June 26, allowing four runs and seven hits while walking four and striking out five. He threw 107 pitches, 64 for strikes.

In his first four outings after begin activated, he was 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA to raise his record to 8-2.

“Just looking at his body language, he showed that he was struggling to find the strike zone,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “He didn't have his best location. He did a good job; he just made a couple bad pitches when they scored the two runs. Obviously, he wasn't at his best, but he kept us in the game.”

While that kind of outing can breed confidence in a 24-year-old pitcher, Velasquez took no consolation in it. He was bothered about not being able to hold a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, giving up a tying two-run home run to Matt Joyce.

“I knew it was my last inning when I went out there and I have to be able to close it out there,” Velasquez said. “I’m disappointed in that. I need to better in that situation.”

Joyce’s blast came on pitch after Starling Marte doubled on an 0-2 pitch. That, too, annoyed Velasquez.

“That's just a matter of finishing at-bats,” Velasquez said. “You've got to lock in on 0-2 counts when you're ahead. You've got to finish the at-bat. Knowing that that was my last inning, that's where you have to bear down and give it all you've got.”

Ramos then gave up the game-winning homer to Frazier an inning later, the first long ball given up by the 23-year-old right-hander in 14 career outings. The Phillies wound up losing two of three games in the series and are 3-7 since the All-Star break to drop to 10 games under .500 at 45-55 through 100 games.

“It’s a game we should have won but I put us in position to lose it,” Velasquez said.

Dallas Cowboys bus involved in fatal crash in Arizona

Dallas Cowboys bus involved in fatal crash in Arizona

KINGMAN, Ariz. -- The Latest on a fatal traffic crash in Arizona involving a Dallas Cowboys bus (all times local):

6:55 p.m.

Four people were killed when a Dallas Cowboys bus collided with a van in Arizona.

Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman Quentin Mehr says all the fatalities in the Sunday crash were passengers in the van.

Mehr didn't say what led to the crash on U.S. Highway 93 in western Arizona.

Dallas Cowboys spokesman Rich Dalrymple says the bus had no players, only staff members on board. They suffered "bumps and bruises."

According to the Department of Public Safety, the collision occurred about 30 miles north of the city of Kingman.

The bus was en route to Las Vegas for an afternoon fan event where organizers say the team's mascot was expected to appear.

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6:30 p.m.

A spokesman for the Dallas Cowboys says passengers on a team-owned bus escaped serious injury in a collision with another vehicle that killed at least one person in Arizona.

Team spokesman Rich Dalrymple says people on the bus suffered only "bumps and bruises" in the Sunday crash on U.S. Highway 93.

Dalrymple didn't say if any players or staff were onboard the bus.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety says the collision occurred about 30 miles north of the city of Kingman, in western Arizona.

The agency said it was a fatal crash but couldn't immediately confirm the number of people killed.

The bus was heading to an afternoon fan event in Las Vegas where organizers say the team's mascot was expected to appear.

Report: Phillies preparing for possible Jeremy Hellickson trade to Marlins

Report: Phillies preparing for possible Jeremy Hellickson trade to Marlins

Jeremy Hellickson may be staying in the NL East past the trade deadline. 

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that the Phillies are scouting the Marlins' minor league teams in advance of a possible Hellickson deal. 

This comes on the heels of a report from a radio host in Miami that Marlins starter Wei-Yin Chen may need Tommy John surgery. Chen left with an elbow sprain during Wednesday's loss to the Phillies and was placed on the disabled list. Ironically, Chen was starting against Hellickson, who will face Jarred Cosart in place of Chen on Monday.

Hellickson's value rebounded significantly this season after struggling in Arizona and Tampa Bay the last few seasons. After dealing with a shoulder injury, Hellickson pitched to ERAs above 4.50 in each season from 2013-15, leading to the Diamondbacks trading him to the Phillies for limited value. 

However, in 20 starts, Hellickson, who will be a free agent after the year, has anchored the Phillies' rotation, bringing a 3.84 ERA over 119 ⅔ innings into Monday's scheduled start. He also has a nearly career-best strikeout rate and has regained his signature command that made him a strong performer with the Rays.

The Phillies are aided this trade deadline by a lack of starting pitching options available on the market. With many teams in contention looking for an additional starter, Hellickson is an attractive piece who could help a team in a pennant race.