Nobody but nobody sweeps the Phillies in July. This has been our month, with a 19-7 record overall, punctuated by sweeps of our own over the Mets, the Pirates and the Marlins. We've gone from a team barely above .500 to one of the league's elite. To finish it on the bad end of the broom, wielded by the team we'd be facing in the playoffs if the season ended today, is simply not acceptable.
How fortuitous, then, that we should be sending our new co-ace--our #1A starter, if you will--to the mound tonight. With the Phillies in a comfortable lead over the Marlins in the NL East, it seems unlikely that Cliff will have to pitch any legitimately pressure-packed games in the oncoming weeks--and hell, we'd certainly prefer it that way. But tonight will be a good fake-test of Mr. Cliff Lee's big game ability--if he can give the Phils the rock-solid start they'll need to emerge victorious in a ballpark and against a pitching staff that's been none too friendly to them this series.
Personally, I'm excited. Perhaps one day 40-50 years from now, we will all tell our grandkids about the time we watched Cliff Lee pitch his first game in a Phillies uniform--his first start in a decade-long tenure with the team, one which involved four Cy Young awards, two World Series MVPs, the first no-hitter ever to be thrown at Citizens Bank Park, a record-setting ten-home-run season at the plate, and a bizarre wild pitch that somehow managed to break three fingers and a thumb on David Wright's left hand, prematurely ending his season. Here's hoping it all starts today.
10:15 tonight at ATT Park. I'm ready for the plunge.
It really felt like we could've gotten this one. The Denver Nuggets are hardly pushovers, but they came into this one a 7-13 team that'd lost their last three games, and even last night they seemed fairly beatable, even for a Philadelphia 76ers team still missing Robert Covington (in additional to our usual mini-roster of absentees). But Philly's energy sagged in the third quarter as Denver caught a second wind, and they spent the final frame hitting shots that the Sixers couldn't answer. Final score: Nuggets 106, 76ers 98.
The most sobering part of the loss was that Joel Embiid finally played what would best be described as "a bad game." Not that bad, of course — even at his worst, Joel still managed 16 points and notched career-high five blocks. But he only shot 5-15 from the field, turned ball over three times, grabbed just four boards and played a large part in the sinkhole offense that the Sixers played in the late third and early fourth that ultimately cost them this one. JoJo still has trouble reading double teams and knowing when not to attack into traffic, and his frustration was extremely evident as he kept trying to do too much and paying the price for it.
Nonetheless, even with an off Embiid night and a still-slumping Sauce — officially down to Left in the Car Overnight temperature after a night of 4 points on 1-7 shooting in 35 minutes — Philly probably still coulda gotten this one. Sergio Rodriguez appears to have swiped Nik's swag at least temporarily, with a season-high 17 points on 7-14 shooting to go with seven dimes and three steals, while Dario Saric and Ersan Ilyasova also poured in 17 and 8 each, and the Nuggets wings were largely kept quiet for two and a half quarters. But even while struggling, the Nuggets paraded their way to free-throw line — 34 FTAs for the night, including 12 for Danilo Gallinari alone — and once they caught fire late, the Sixers just couldn't keep up.
A bummer for a team that's now lost seven in a row, and has to face the Grizzlies tonight in Memphis — their fourth game in five nights, and the first of a three-game road trip — without Embiid and also without Jahlil Okafor, out with illness. Even with the Grizz missing their own big names (no Mike Conley, Chandler Parsons, Zach Randolph or Vince Carter lately) and likely suffering from fatigue of their own after a double-OT road win last night in New Orleans, the 4-17 Sixers are gonna have a tough go matching Memphis' grit and grind tonight. Anytime you feel like Supermanning in and saving the day now would be cool, Nerlens Noel. Just sayin'.
Elton Brand is back with the Sixers, albeit not on the court.
The Sixers agreed with the former NBA forward to name Brand Player Development Consultant. In a press release, the team said Brand will be working with Sixers players in 'every facet of their on- and off-court development' while also working in the front office.
“We are extremely excited to bring Elton Brand back into the organization where he will be a valuable resource to our young and developing team," Bryan Colangelo said in the release. "Elton’s leadership and character displayed throughout his playing career as a player align perfectly with our vision, direction and culture of this basketball team, coaching staff and management group."
Brand retired during training camp after 17 NBA seasons, including five with the Sixers over two stints. The 6-foot-8 forward came out of retirement last season to provide a veteran presence for the Sixers and eventually played in 17 games when the team was snakebitten by injuries.
He will now continue to be an influence on the Sixers' young core thanks to his new role with the basketball operations department.