Two For the Road: Sixers Swipe Another in Sac-Town

Two For the Road: Sixers Swipe Another in Sac-Town

Who's getting excited for a new decade of Sixers basketball? OK, not really: The team we beat last night was a sub-.500 club missing their starting back court, who also happen to be the team's two stars--not exactly a reason to start buying playoff tickets. But two wins in a row is two wins in a row, and the Kings are a good team (especially at home) even without their big guns. And most importantly, like on Monday night, it was a convincing win--not one in which the Sixers barely escaped a late surge, or pushed ahead on a last-minute bucket, but one in which they were control for the entire fourth quarter, and simply looked like the better team on the floor.

It started off inauspiciously enough, with the Sixers making unforced errors early and the Kings getting out to a 14-4 lead that should have actually been much bigger, and then Eddie Jordan compounding issues by  subbing in an entire second unit that proceeded to play even worse (2WJ not exactly killing it this year), minus a few nice layup drives by the Damaja. Things started to click in the second, though, as the Liberty Ballers tied things up for halftime, and officially pulled away in the fourth, scoring 37 points in the quarter. Final Score: Sixers 116, Kings 106--the 116 marking a season-high for the Sixers against a non-D'Antoni-coached opponent.

The offensive heroes last night were numerous, but let's start with an unexpected one--off-season re-acquisition Rodney Carney, who poured in four second-half three-pointers to help the Sixers finally start to achieve a little lift-off. I knew for a fact that Carney was capable of games like this, because he had one of them against us last year as a member of the Timberwolves, but given that his exceptionally shitty shooting (36% from the field, 28% from three) had earned him much-deserved extended bench minutes of late, I was wondering if we were going to get to see any from him this year. Well, you showed up right on time, Rod, and it would be really nice if you could stick around for another game or two.

Credit must also go to Andre Iguodala, who flirted with a triple-double for the second straight game with a 19-7-9 line. Best of all, his scoring came on only ten shots--I had really hoped that the return of Iverson and Williams would help take some of the pressure off 'Dre offensively, and so far, he's really responded, hitting his jumper with a regularity we haven't seen from him all year. Speaking of Sweet Lou and AI, they wasn't too shabby neither, scoring 42 points between the two of them, and grabbing an impressive nine boards as well. A half-dozen Sixers reached double figures last night, a good reflection of how dangerous this team can be when loaded with their full offensive arsenal.

Good as I'm feeling about the last two games, it's important not to overlook something--there's no way this team keeps up their hot shooting. Yes, they're better now with their full roster back, but they're not 59% from the field-type better (as they were on Monday), nor are they 57% from deep-type better (as they were last night). Karma owed them a couple games like this, but it's not going to last--the team will creep back closer to their regular season totals of 45% and 34%, respectively, and when they do, we better hope they're also willing to grind out a couple W's the hard way, too. Those'll be the games that show if this recent stretch is just a pleasant fluke, or the real sign of a team developing some character.

Still, two wins in a row--been a couple of months since we were treated to that, huh? Let's enjoy it while we can, and maybe try to press our luck tomorrow night against the Clips in LA. It is a new year. Hopefully.

Phillies can exhale after bullpen nearly blows 10-0 lead

Phillies can exhale after bullpen nearly blows 10-0 lead

BOX SCORE

The moment when the ball struck first baseman Tommy Joseph’s glove for the final out of the Phillies 10-8 win over the Mets — dealing a major blow to their rival’s wild card hopes in the process — felt more like a collective exhalation than a moment of celebration (see Instant Replay).
 
Two days earlier, the bullpen faltered suddenly. A game-tying two-run homer by Jose Reyes in the ninth was the first body blow. The game-winning three-run homer by Asdrubal Cabrera was the knockout.
 
Saturday, the collapse occurred over the course of five innings as the Phillies let a lead that was once 10-0 slip away, one drawn-out at-bat after another.
 
Missing, of course, was the moment of impact in the proverbial slow-motion car crash, thanks to well-placed sinkers and four-seamers from Michael Mariot.
 
“The bullpen’s been sputtering,” manager Pete Mackanin said in an understatement.
 
Joely Rodriguez entered in the sixth inning with a 10-4 lead to face a string of lefties and it quickly became apparent that he did not have his fastball. A middle-in four-seamer that caught too much of the plate was slapped for a double by Mets shortstop Gavin Cecchini, his first major-league hit and a run. A second run scored when a little dribbler by third baseman T.J. Rivera died on the third base line, leaving Rodriguez with no play.
 
“He just didn’t throw quality strikes,” Mackanin said.
 
Even the normally-reliable Hector Neris struggled on Saturday. In his 77th outing of the season, Neris walked two straight batters and then surrendered an RBI double to Cecchini of his own which narrowed the lead to 10-7 and thrust the uncertainty of a save situation onto Mackanin.
 
Mariot was given first crack at the ninth inning one day after Mackanin said he would give Jeanmar Gomez a break from closing duties.
 
Mariot’s audition got off to a rough start. He gave up a pinch-hit solo home run to Jay Bruce — who had been mired in an 0-15 slump — with one out in the ninth and then walked Eric Campbell and Michael Conforto after a pair of grueling at-bats that lasted a combined 18 pitches.
 
The two hitters fouled off eight of Mariot’s pitches and took several four-seamers that just missed the plate.
 
“I was pretty upset about that,” Mariot said of the four-seamers that missed. “I was hoping to get at least a swing or maybe a call on those. Talking to [catcher] A.J. [Ellis], I think he said that they missed but I was hoping at least one of them to get called a strike.”
 
Gomez was up in the Phillies’ bullpen but Mariot ensured that Mackanin wouldn’t need to throw the recently-struggling closer back into the fire in a high-stress situation.
 
Mariot was able to locate his fastball when he needed to most. He fooled Lucas Duda with a two-seamer that the slugger popped out to Freddy Galvis and got Travis D’Arnaud to ground a four-seamer outside right back to him.
 
“I just told myself: ‘keep throwing strikes and good things will happen,’” Mariot said.
 
He threw just enough strikes to ensure that the Phillies didn’t end up on the wrong end of what would have been the Mets’ biggest comeback in team history.

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College football wrap: Auburn upsets No. 18 LSU with controversial finish

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College football wrap: Auburn upsets No. 18 LSU with controversial finish

AUBURN, Ala. -- Gus Malzahn was ready to try anything to get a win for his Auburn Tigers.

Malzahn relinquished offensive play-calling duties. Following his daughters' advice, he traded his usual game-day visor for a cap. And then, when the clock expired and LSU players were celebrating an apparent last-second win, the Auburn coach put all his faith in a ruling he couldn't control.

Daniel Carlson kicked six field goals and Auburn beat No. 18 LSU 18-13 on Saturday night after officials ruled Danny Etling's apparent last-gasp scoring pass came after time expired.

Malzahn said he knew there were only zeroes on the clock before the snap to Etling.

"I was pretty confident time had expired," Malzahn said. "It was just a matter of going to the booth and confirming it."

Etling rolled to his right and found D.J. Shark in the back of the end zone on a 15-yard pass, setting off a short-lived celebration by LSU players (see full recap).

Hornibrook proves he's ready in Badgers' win over Spartans
EAST LANSING, Mich. -- By the time Alex Hornibrook's first start was over, there wasn't much question about whether he could handle one of the toughest road tests in the Big Ten.

Hornibrook threw for 195 yards and a touchdown, and 11th-ranked Wisconsin turned its early-season showdown with No. 8 Michigan State into a rout, beating the Spartans 30-6 on Saturday.

"You've got to have respect for a guy whose first start is against a Michigan State defense," Wisconsin running back Corey Clement said.

"He's going to come out the next game and do even better. I think he's just getting his feet wet."

The freshman quarterback outplayed fifth-year senior Tyler O'Connor, his Michigan State counterpart. The Badgers (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) were the better team in the first half and then outscored the Spartans 17-0 in the third quarter (see full recap).

No. 23 Rebels find their rhythm, beat No. 12 Georgia 45-14
OXFORD, Miss. -- Mississippi quarterback Chad Kelly faked the handoff and then took off running toward the end zone. A few seconds and 41 yards later, the quarterback had cruised through the middle of the Georgia defense and into the end zone untouched.

It was pretty much that easy for the Rebels all afternoon. Ole Miss finally built a lead it couldn't give away.

No. 23 Ole Miss rolled to a 45-14 victory over No. 12 Georgia on Saturday, building a 31-0 lead by halftime and a 45-0 advantage by midway through the fourth quarter.

Kelly threw for 282 yards and two touchdowns. Ole Miss (2-2, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) broke a 10-game losing streak in the series dating to 1996 (see full recap).

Dobbs rallies No. 14 Vols to 38-28 win over No. 19 Gators
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- This time, Tennessee delivered the comeback.

And in the process, the Volunteers took out 11 years' worth of frustration on Florida.

Joshua Dobbs accounted for five second-half touchdowns Saturday and No. 14 Tennessee erased a 21-point deficit to beat No. 19 Florida 38-28 and end their 11-game losing streak in the annual series.

"I didn't see anybody blink," Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. "Nobody flinched. They just kept playing."

This marks the first time Tennessee (4-0, 1-0 SEC) has beaten Florida (3-1, 1-1) since 2004. The Volunteers had lost to Florida by one point each of the last two years despite leading in the fourth quarter of both games (see full recap).