It's probably fair to say this September hasn't been as exciting as the past few, or the very least, not nearly as dramatic. Sure, there have been swoons, injuries, hitting droughts, bullpen issues, and plenty of interesting discussions about the potential makeup of the playoff roster. That's kind of the point though. We've been talking about the Phillies playoff roster, particularly the pitching staff, since July. There really hasn't been any doubt all summer about who was going to win the division.
Now it's time to make it official. Following their 2-1 series victory over the Braves this weekend, the Phillies look to continue pushing the race out of reach in tonight's double header versus the Marlins. That's if it isn't out of reach already.
For starters, the Fish haven't beaten the Phillies at home once this year in six tries. The good guys have scored a total of 41 runs at Land Shark Stadium while allowing a meager 14. It's not surprising there isn't much of a home field advantage in all those vacant seats, but the numbers are staggering. Clearly this is a very comfortable setting for the Fightins.
They are going against Josh Johnson in game one, who has had a fantastic season, sporting a 15-4 record with a 3.01 ERA. In two '09 starts against the Phils, he is 1-0 with one earned run allowed in 13 innings of work and 14 strikeouts. As always he'll be tough to solve. He's 4-1 with a 3.38 ERA in his career versus the Fightins.
Joe Blanton takes the mound, and he looks to continue a stellar season of his own. He rebounded from a poor outing in Washington on Septmber 10 (first time he had allowed more than 3 ER since June 18) to throw six shutout innings and pick up the win against the same Nats six days later. His jump in performance this year is a good sign as the Phils look to repeat.
Game one starts at 4:10. Time to put things away.
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.