Today in Philly Sports History: Sixers Beat Bucks to Advance to Finals, 2001

Today in Philly Sports History: Sixers Beat Bucks to Advance to Finals, 2001

After what has been, to say the least, a somewhat trying season for Allen Iverson--a season in which everything from his current abilities, to his desire to win, and even to his overall basketball legacy has been questioned--it's important, as a fictional mobster wiser than myself once said, to remember the times that were good. And it's hard to find a time much better for Sixer fans in the Iverson era than Game 7 of the 2001 NBA Eastern Conference Finals. With the series with the Milwaukee Bucks knotted at 3-3, the 2001 MVP poured in 44 points (three points off Sam Jones's playoff record for a game seven) to go with seven assists, six boards and a pair of steals, leading the Sixers, in front of a riotous First Union Center crowd, to their first trip to the NBA finals since they took home the title in 1983--and somewhat needless to say, their last trip there to date.

Iverson was far from the only important factor in the team's decisive 108-91 victory, however. Mid-season acquisition and Defensive Player of the Year Dikembe Mutombo also had arguably his finest game of the playoffs, going for a near 20-20 with his 23 points and 19 boards, and throwing in seven blocks just for the hell of it. Sixth Man of the Year (and current Sixers assistant coach) Aaron McKie, starting this time out, added a double-double with his ten points and 13 assists, as did veteran forward Tyrone Hill, who went for 11 points and ten rebounds. Most unexpected, however, were the contributions of the then-unknown rookie Raja Bell, who got ten off the bench in the first half--twice as many points as he scored the entire regular season. The Bucks' big three of Ray Allen, Sam Cassell and Glenn Robinson all performed decently, scoring in the 20s, but aside from them and bench scorer Tim Thomas, no one else on the Bucks added more than four points.

Thanks to the impressively dedicated contributions of user Pacho17, Game 7 can now be viewed in its entirety (well, its entirety in 11 separate parts) on YouTube, but some highlights just from watching the last part, embedded above:

  • Iverson doing his trademarked ear-cupping gesture as he gets taken out of the game, then emotionally embracing Larry Brown and Tyrone Hill.
  • Then-Bucks, Now-Nuggets coach George Karl actually having a decent amount of hair and looking remarkably similar to Frasier Crane. 
  • Mama Iverson: "I'm so proud of you!"
  • Matt Cord: "Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together for the Milwaukee Bucks, on a spectacular playoff run!" He might not have intended it to sound so boastfully sarcastic, but no way could he have honestly expected the crowd to cheer.
  • Dike and AI hoisting the Eastern Conference Championship trophy together (despite the six foot difference in height between the two), to "BEAT! L! A!" chants in the background.

Gonna be tough to top that anytime soon.

After 'soul searching,' Jaylen Watkins in line for major role with Eagles

After 'soul searching,' Jaylen Watkins in line for major role with Eagles

Every morning on his way to work, Jaylen Watkins drives down Broad Street toward the NovaCare Complex and thinks back to his three months on the Bills' practice squad.

The former fourth-round pick out of Florida in 2014 joined the Bills' practice squad after the Eagles cut him last Sept. 5 in what he has previously referred to as a “humbling” experience.

“I try to never forget that moment because it was definitely a soul-searching moment,” Watkins said on Wednesday. “Anyone who is released or fired from their job, you have to do some soul-searching.

“Every day that I drive down Broad Street, I think about Buffalo and how far I’ve come and just not wanting to be on a practice squad again. Nothing’s wrong with the practice squad, but my goal is to be on the 53 and making contributions to the team.”

Watkins isn’t just on the Eagles’ 53 after rejoining them late in 2015. For the rest of the 2016 season, he’s also expected to have a major role.

After Ron Brooks was lost for the season when he tore his quad tendon against the Vikings, Malcolm Jenkins is the Eagles’ new slot cornerback. That means that Watkins, 23, will be the second safety on the field in the team’s nickel package.

That meant that he played 46 snaps against the Vikings after Brooks went out. And with how much teams pass in the current NFL, he’ll probably play a considerable amount the rest of the season.

“It’s something that I’ve been waiting for and I’ve just been patient,” Watkins said. “I’ve been waiting for this experience, so I’m just excited. This week was amazing for me. ... It was good for me this past week to be in the game plan and putting yourself in position that this could possibly be me on the first play of the game.”

Jenkins has said multiple times that he enjoys playing as the slot corner, but until Brooks went down, the team thought it was better off with him staying at safety.

With the secondary shuffle, what’s different with Watkins at safety instead of Jenkins?

“Nothing really man,” the Eagles’ other starting safety, Rodney McLeod, said. “It’s been a next-man-up mentality this whole year. ... Guys have a lot of experience back there. I don’t think we’re going to miss a beat. It’s obviously an unfortunate situation with Ron playing great. But Jenkins is ready and so is (Jalen) Mills and Watkins.”

Watkins was drafted by the Eagles in the fourth round in 2014 and played just four games as a rookie before he was cut at the start of his sophomore season. He spent three months in Buffalo, where his younger brother Sammy is a star receiver.

When Jim Schwartz became the Eagles’ defensive coordinator, Watkins was moved to safety. He quickly asserted himself as the first option off the bench at that position.

And just like McLeod and Jenkins, he’s a safety with a history and knowledge of every position in the secondary.

“He’s kind of our Tyrann Mathieu a little bit as far as being able to play safety, being able to play nickel, being able to play corner, being able to play all those positions,” cornerback Nolan Carroll said. “A swiss-army knife if you want to call it that. For him, it’s just about continuing to get reps, continuing to be confident.”

Jenkins, McLeod and Watkins are so interchangeable, Watkins joked that sometimes they get confused because they forget which position they’re playing. According to McLeod, there haven’t been any communication issues between him at Watkins when Jenkins moves down into his role as the nickel corner.

Watkins still thinks about his time in Buffalo, but he also thinks he’s a much better player now than he was before he went there.

“Just more confident player, I would say,” Watkins said. “My coaches believe in me. My teammates believe in me. Now, I’m just confident and relaxed when I go out and play, making plays, doing what I did in college. I think I’m a much better player than before.”

Carson Wentz falls far behind Elliott, Prescott in Rookie of Year odds

Carson Wentz falls far behind Elliott, Prescott in Rookie of Year odds

Carson Wentz's Rookie of the Year odds took a hit, the Eagles' Super Bowl odds shortened and the Vikings' lengthened after Sunday's 21-10 win.

The Eagles are 33/1 to win it all, a week after being listed by Bovada at 50/1. The Vikings, meanwhile, went from 7/1 to 9/1. They still have the third-shortest Super Bowl odds in the NFL and are two spots ahead of the Cowboys (14/1). 

Wentz, who had his worst statistical game against Minnesota, is now 9/1 to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, according to Bovada. Last Wednesday, he was 6/1.

Wentz trails Cowboys studs Ezekiel Elliott (2/5) and Dak Prescott (11/5) on that leaderboard.

As far as this week, Wentz is favored to throw for more yards than Prescott. Wentz is 5/7 to outgain Prescott through the air in Week 8, while Prescott is 1/1 to outgain Wentz.

Elliott's over/under rushing total against the Eagles is 99.5. He's rushed for 130-plus yards in each of his last four games, and the odds are 3/1 that he'll reach that number again this week. 

The Eagles have allowed just one 100-yard rusher this season, Washington's Matt Jones (16 for 135).

Elliott is also now on pace to break Eric Dickerson's rookie rushing record. Dickerson had 1,808 in 1983; Elliott is on pace for 1,875. Will Elliott break that 33-year-old mark? A "yes" bet pays 2/1; a "no" bet pays 1/3.