Under new PWNERSHIP... FlyersPens Preview

Under new PWNERSHIP... FlyersPens Preview

He has twenty goals and twenty six assists in twenty six regular season games against the Flyers.  His team has eliminated Philadelphia from the post season two years in a row.  He has successfully surpassed Martin Brodeur as one of the most hated and feared Flyers' opponents of all time.  I'm going to ask you a very simple question... and I'll give you a hint.  The answer is not Ed Snider.  Who pwns the Philadelphia Flyers?

I've written before about our hatred for Sidney Crosby.  This was long before I watched his performance against the Flyers in the opening round last year and continued to watch him on the way to the Cup.  During said elimination, I wrote about the quickly widening gap between our interstate franchises.  Crosby and Malkin have reached an all new level in their game.  The team they play for followed suit last summer and now they have their names permanently etched on Lord Stanley's Cup.  Before Mike Richards.  Before Jeff Carter.  Before any of the Philadelphia Flyers that have taken to the ice post-1975. 

It was a sickening feeling, watching the Penguins win last year, but not in a "he doesn't deserve this" sort of way.  Crosby did things to our team in that opening round that I still can't believe.  In the following games against opponents like the Caps and the Hurricanes, his tenacity around the net was unmatched.  It seemed that anytime another player took their game to a new level... he or Malkin ramped their game up just one notch higher.'

In evaluation of the matchup for tonight's game, I came to the conclusion that Jeff Carter and Mike Richards will never be as talented as Sid the Kid.  He's all world/all universe.  They will also never win the cup BEFORE Crosby or Malkin.  The time for that oppurtunity has passed.  What they can do, is try to outwork the dynamic duo from Western Pa for the rest of their careers and hope that a solid team effort added to whatever greatness they can achieve on a personal basis will be enough to get them a Cup.  And in doing that, keep it from 87 and 71 till they're eventually split up or traded out of the East.

The trade for Chris Pronger was a blatant move to close that widening gap between our two Pa franchises.  Holmgren hopes that Pronger/Carle and Timonen/Coburn can negate the Crosby/Malkin effect.  Tonight is our first look at this defensive experiment.  So the mission, if the Flyers' young (and old) leaders choose to accept it... is to shut down the Pens and take game 1 in the season series.  Baby steps... if you will, to reclaiming the pwnership of this franchise. 

Injuries: Betts is out with a dislocated shoulder, one that's keeping him from raising his arm to get an MRI.  Homer says one month... sounds pretty bad.  JVR might miss this first  matchup against the Pens for precautionary reasons.  It wasn't a concussion and he passed all his tests, but time and time again "head injuries" prove to be as mysterious and unpredictable as how Great White Sharks reproduce.  Look for an injection of tough in the lineup courtesy of Asham, Cote and Tollefson.  I'm expecting a 30% increase in penalties taken, which after losing your top PK man, isn't good.

Sergei Gonchar played just 25 regular season games and was banged up against the Caps in the post season last year.  He's back, and healthy and of major concern to the Flyers.  The Pens lost Scuderi and Gill to higher bidders in the off season.

Best of NBA: Bulls hand Spurs first road loss of season

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Best of NBA: Bulls hand Spurs first road loss of season

CHICAGO -- Dwyane Wade scored 20 points, and the Chicago Bulls handed San Antonio its first road loss after a 13-0 start, hanging on to beat the Spurs 95-91 on Thursday night.

San Antonio fell one win shy of matching the NBA's best road start set by the Golden State Warriors last season. The Spurs cut an 18-point deficit midway through the third quarter to four in the closing minutes, only to come up short.

Kawhi Leonard scored 24 for San Antonio. Patty Mills added 16 points, hitting 4 of 6 3-pointers. Former Bull Pau Gasol had 13 points and 10 rebounds in his first game in Chicago since signing with San Antonio in the summer, but the Spurs lost a road game for the first time since Oklahoma City knocked them out in the Western Conference semifinals last season.

Jimmy Butler scored all of his 13 points for Chicago in the second half. Rajon Rondo added 12 points, nine assists and 10 rebounds, and Chicago picked up the win after dropping three in a row and six of nine.

The Spurs hadn't dropped a regular-season road game since Denver beat them on April 8 (see full recap).

Scoreboard malfunction, quiet crowd don’t stop Wizards’ rally
WASHINGTON -- Overcoming a sluggish start in front of a sparse, silent crowd and with a malfunctioning scoreboard, the Washington Wizards came back to beat the Nuggets 92-85 on Thursday night, thanks mainly to Bradley Beal's 26 points and Denver's season-high 29 turnovers.

John Wall scored only 15 points one game after a career-best 52, but nine came in the fourth quarter for Washington, which trailed by as many as 14 in the first half.

With starting point guard Emmanuel Mudiay inactive because of what the team said was a sprained right ankle, the Nuggets went 5 1/2 minutes without a point in the fourth quarter.

In that final period, they had 10 of their turnovers and shot 1 for 14 on 3-pointers -- including 0 for 4 in one last-minute possession (see full recap).

Gasol, clutch free throws lift Grizzlies over
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Marc Gasol scored 36 points and Toney Douglas made two free throws with less than a second left to give the Memphis Grizzlies an 88-86 comeback victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night.

Douglas finished with 11 points, scoring the game's final six points to seal Memphis' fifth straight victory.

Gasol was 13 of 24 from the field, including 4 of 6 from outside the arc. But Douglas, signed by Memphis this week because of injuries, took over down the stretch. The guard scored on a 19-footer with 34 seconds left, then converted two pairs of free throws in the last 20 seconds.

CJ McCollum led the Trail Blazers with 24 points, and Damian Lillard had 19 on 6-of-18 shooting. Evan Turner had 15 points and 10 rebounds (see full recap).

Sixers beat Pelicans without Joel Embiid leading the way

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USA Today Images

Sixers beat Pelicans without Joel Embiid leading the way

BOX SCORE

NEW ORLEANS -- Joel Embiid shot just 5 for 15 from the field and the Sixers … wait … the Sixers won. 

Surprising? Actually, that’s just how the Sixers envision finding success.

It’s not about Embiid having a relatively quiet night on offense with 14 points, especially going 0 for 5 from three. It’s about other players getting involved and taking the burden off the rookie. Embiid has proved he can do a lot of things, but carrying a team each night in his first season isn’t what the Sixers have in mind. 

“I think that’s when we’re at our best,” Nik Stauskas said after the Sixers beat the Pelicans 99-88 (see Instant Replay). “Obviously there are a few guys in the NBA like a LeBron (James), KD (Kevin Durant) or Steph (Curry) that can single-handedly win a game throughout the entire season. But most of the teams are going to rely on bench players to step up and make shots and make plays. I think that’s when we’re most effective.”

Embiid entered Thursday night averaging 24.3 points and shooting 48.9 percent in Sixers wins (three games played). His 14 points against the Pelicans were his fewest in a victory this season. He also grabbed seven boards with four blocks and three steals. Embiid was a game-high plus-27, which Brett Brown called "massive."

Instead of being powered offensively by their centerpiece, the Sixers received solid efforts from the starters and reserves. Ersan Ilyasova scored 23 points (along with eight rebounds) for the second straight game. Sergio Rodriguez chipped in 16 points and eight assists. Off the bench,  Stauskas hit three treys en route to 14 points while Dario Saric scored 10 points with five rebounds as the team snapped an overall eight-game losing skid and a 23-game road losing streak. 

Embiid’s teammates attribute their success to the fact he is such a focal point of the opponents’ defense. In comparison to the beginning of the season when Embiid was getting stifled by double-teams, he has been learning how to pass out of them. Embiid expects to see two defenders every game and has been making adjustments to create opportunities for others to shoot rather than committing turnovers. 

“We’re not standing around a lot and just focusing on what Jo can do,” Robert Covington said. “Jo is making great moves to find guys that are open. He’s willing to pass. We’re starting to build the chemistry that everyone’s been looking for.”

Ilyasova has noticed a change in the flow of the offense and has capitalized on defensive mismatches when opponents swarm Embiid. 

“We just share the ball well,” Ilyasova said. “I find myself open. Obviously Joel does a great job of as far as when there is a double-team, just kicking out. When I see the open look, I try to knock that shot down.” 

This style of play is mutually beneficial for both Embiid and his teammates. Just because Embiid is passing out doesn't mean he's not getting his looks. Oftentimes, dishing out of a double-team allows him to get a better look on the next touch. 

“It’s a team effort," Covington said. "We’re doing so much as a unit that we’re not just focusing on just get Jo the ball and let him do his thing. He’s getting the ball, he’s surveying the floor and then he’s making his moves. He’s reading the defense really well. He’s doing a lot of [kicking out]. Then we find him a lot of re-posts and finding the open shot and making it easy for him to find the easy bucket.” 

Embiid is capable of scoring 20-plus in spite of his 28-minute restriction. The Sixers are making strides, though, by finding ways to win when he isn’t the running up the scoreboard. 

“I think there’s no doubt Jo is our best player and our offense is going to revolve around him most of the time,” Stauskas said. “But we’re playing our best when he’s posting up and kicking out to guys and they’re hitting threes or we’re taking pressure off him by making plays and the defense can’t just be solely focused on him. In a game like tonight, that’s kind of what you saw.”