Flyers-Penguins: Game 20 Preview

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

Despite the lack of their captain in the lineup, the Penguins got the better of the Flyers in the second period and never looked back. That's how this unique three-game series in Pittsburgh started for the Orange and Black.

The second game is set for Thursday night, and the Penguins will remain without their captain due to COVID protocols. Meanwhile, the Flyers get another chance to respond to adversity and to play with a full lineup after their own COVID situation.

Game time is at 7 p.m.

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Rumor Report: Sixers Showing Interest In Kings' Forward

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

As the All-Star break slowly approaches so does another key date, the March 25th trade deadline. Teams have three weeks left to make the necessary moves to upgrade their roster before the playoffs.

The Sixers have been linked to some names in recent weeks, and now a new target has popped up. Shams Charania of The Athletic has reported that the Sixers are among the list of teams expressing interest in Sacramento Kings' forward Nemanja Bjelica. Miami, Boston, Milwaukee, and Golden State are also rumored to be in the mix to acquire him.

Sacramento will likely be sellers as the deadline as they have lost 10 of their last 12 games. Bjelica has spent some time out of the Kings' rotation this season, which should make his price tag low.

In 18 games for the Kings this season he is averaging 8.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG, and 2.3 APG playing around 17 minutes per game. One potential red flag is that Bjelica is currently shooting a career-low 31% from beyond the arc.

Although his poor shooting is something to keep an eye on, it is something that could drastically improve when sharing the floor with players like Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Bjelica has shot over 40% from three for the past three seasons and has a career average of 38.9% from beyond the arc.

Bjelica is the exact type of player archetype that the Sixers should be eyeing at the deadline. Although Mike Scott has played well as of late, he has been riddled with injury this season and has struggled to put together some consistent play.

Adding a guy like Bjelica would give the second unit a reliable knock-down shooter on the outside and someone who can eat into the power forward minutes. That way Tobias Harris and Ben Simmons aren't logging big minutes every night.

This is a rather easy move for Daryl Morey to pull off if he wants to. Bjelica's contract is 7.1 million for this season, which would fit right into the team's trade exception from the Al Horford deal. With him being out of the rotation and having a down year, it would likely only cost a second-round pick to acquire the veteran sharpshooter.

Three-point shooting has been a weakness for the Sixers at times through this first half of the season. Adding a reliable shooter who can play with any lineup would be an instant upgrade for the Sixers. Also, at such a cheap cost, it wouldn't eat into any of the tradeable assets Morey still has at his disposal.

Sixerdelphia


Three-point shooting, more takeaways from win over Jazz

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The Sixers would wrap up the first half of the schedule on Wednesday night in a rematch with the Utah Jazz. This matchup had high expectations with both teams being at full strength this time around, and it did not disappoint. 

Joel Embiid would send the game into overtime after hitting a huge three-pointer in the closing seconds to tie the game. After that, they would take full control in overtime and come away with a 131-123 victory. 

Here are some takeaways from the overtime thriller between the conference leaders. 

Three-point shooting 

Three-point shooting was a major disparity when these teams faced off in Utah, and the same would happen Wednesday night. The Jazz would light it up from three all night while the Sixers couldn't buy a bucket from deep for three quarters. 

Utah would almost hit triple the amount of threes as the Sixers, netting 21 of their 44 attempts. The Sixers would hit just eight threes in the contest, with one of them coming from Dwight Howard. 

Things would change in the second half for the Sixers once they got their second three to fall. This could also be attributed to their increase in attempts. After attempting just eight threes in the first half the Sixers would get up 17 shots from deep in the final two quarters and make seven of them. 

Although the Sixers were able to pull this one out, the struggles and lack of three-point shooting at times are still concerning. Getting consistent attempts from deep should be a major point of emphasis from this team in the second half of the season. 

Up-and-down play from the bench 

The play of the second unit has been another key area for the Sixers in recent weeks. They would struggle early in this game but would start a surge in the second half that would swing the momentum back in the Sixers' favor. 

Doc Rivers continues to roll out all-bench lineups in his rotations despite their struggles. They would continue to struggle to create good looks on offense and it would allow Utah to extend their lead. 

Things would change towards the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarter for this second unit. After an incredible stretch of plays from Dwight Howard where he would record a block, steal, and made three, the bench unit got just the spark they needed. 

After that, Shake Milton and Furkan Korkmaz would hit some shots of their own, and just like that the Sixers were back within striking distance. Rivers would say after the game that this run really turned things around for the team. 

This performance from the second unit should be something to hang their hat on. They finish off the first half of the schedule with back-to-back impressive performances, giving them the momentum they need to hit the ground running in the second half. 

Tobias Harris stepping up when it matters 

Tobias Harris would make his return to the lineup against Utah after missing two games with a right knee contusion. He would be pretty quiet for most of this game but asserted himself when needed most. 

Harris would end the night with 22 points, with 13 of those points coming in the fourth quarter and overtime. His ability to go at mismatches when Joel Embiid was double-teamed was crucial for the Sixers in this win. 

This performance can be added to the multiple instances when Harris has pulled off a big performance in the final quarter to help seal a win. Critics have said this team still needs a closer to be elite, but Harris has shown time and time again this season he can make plays for this team late in games. 

Making plays down the stretch 

Arguably the biggest takeaway from this game is the Sixers' play on both ends down the stretch. Their ability to get clean looks on offense was great, but what stood out the most was just how dominant their defense is when locked in. 

The Jazz shot around 50% from the floor and three for most of this game, but couldn't get anything going in overtime. Between Ben Simmons patrolling the perimeter and Embiid anchoring the defense at the rim, Utah couldn't generate a clean look. They would score only five points in the overtime period, shooting just 1-10.

Before the game, Doc Rivers said he feels this team could be the top team defensively when the season is over, and they showed it in overtime. With Simmons and Embiid playing at this level on defense, this team is going to be able to get stops against anyone. 

 Between Embiid's ability to dominate anywhere on the floor and the defensive ceiling of this group, the Sixers are going to be a very tough team to beat down the stretch in close games. 

Sixerdelphia


2021 Phillies: Girardi’s Motivational Plans

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

The Philadelphia Phillies faithful are enjoying televised games from Clearwater, and manager Joe Girardi has already stated a five-man rotation and a center field platoon are possible. But could Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler exceed doubling their 2020 innings?   

 

The Dugout View: 

For stars, spring training is leisurely getting ready for the long summer ahead, but others without guarantees must be competitive with every pitch on the mound or in the batter’s box. Last year, though, 60 contests led to some Phillies starters recording around 30 innings. A sixth rotation arm?    

IN OTHER WORDS:

“Consistent motivation usually comes from a consuming desire to be able to perform at your best under pressure, namely, the pressure produced by tough competition.” - Coach Bill Walsh

Basic management is to get the most out of each individual, and leaders rely on many approaches. However, it depends on the circumstances and the personnel involved.       

For the rotation, Girardi has established starters, veteran hurlers, a rookie and non-roster invitees. And he believes a five-man staff is doable despite going from 60 to 162 games. That stated, if he can do it, how would he accomplish it?      

If Matt Moore, Chase Anderson and Vince Velasquez believe only two spots are available, they must produce in March to earn one. And they’d also be aware of Spencer Howard as another competitor if he’s having an impressive spring.  

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Flyers 5: Takeaways from Tuesday’s Flyers-Penguins Game

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

For three straight games, the Flyers essentially played a team missing their top player. They took care of business as necessary, picking up six points in three games over the last week since returning from Lake Tahoe.

With their full lineup back on the ice, the Penguins showed the formula that defeats the Flyers, and did it without Sidney Crosby in the lineup. Following a quick response to a Flyers goal off a turnover, they commanded the play from there, and it didn’t seem to matter that the Flyers were throwing plenty of rubber at the Pittsburgh net.

Here are five takeaways from Tuesday’s 5-2 Flyers loss to the Penguins.

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