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Sixers Get Huge Moral Victory in Tough Actual Loss to Streaking Hawks.

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I think all of us Sixers fans came in to this season thinking we’d settle for moral victories in the absence of actual victories. Well, this game was the most moral-victoryest moral victory of the season.

The Sixers battled back from a 21pt first half deficit behind a barrage of 3s, taking a 2pt lead with 3 minutes to go in the game. Ultimately the Hawks poise down the stretch won out as the Sixers fell 91-85. It was the Hawks 19th win in a row, while the Sixers bid for their first 3-game winning streak of the season fell short. Al Horford led the way for the Hawks with a 23pts and 11 boards, including 11pts in the 4th and a huge bucket down the stretch to seal the game. The Sixers had 6 players in double figure scoring and Nerlens Noel had his 7th double double of the season with 11pts and 10rebs.

If the Eastern Conference weren’t so damn bad, the Hawks would undoubtedly be the best team in the NBA. They become the first team in the league to notch 40 victories, and their passing and defense was on display all night. Which is exactly why Malik, towards the end of the game, said that he considered this game a win for the Sixers simply because “they got so much better just playing this game.” The Sixers spotted the Hawks a nice 12 pt lead in the first quarter after committing 9 TOs leading to 10 Atlanta points. They only managed 10 pts in the first quarter, and the Hawks seemed to be toying with the Sixers, getting to the rack at will, trapping MCW at the 3pt line, and generally wreaking havoc with the Sixers on both ends of the court. After playing the Hawks close to even in the 2nd quarter, Brett Brown alluded at the half to the idea that the Sixers needed confidence in their game plan and had to take the shots they like.

Well ... we know Hinkie, Brown, analytics, et al all like the 3 ball, and thus the Sixers fired up 22 3s in the 2nd half. Ultimately they shot 14-35 from downtown (40%), both their most made and attempted 3s of the season. Hollis Thompson, who hasn’t made more than 2 3-pointers since Dec 12th, went 4-6 from the 3pt line tonight. McDubs and LMAM both dropped two from downtown. But the guy with ice in his veins tonight was Jerami Grant, who went a career best 3-3 from downtown and looked way more confident than he should’ve been. This is a guy who was not rated as a good shooter coming out of Syracuse, but has been silencing the naysayers of late shooting 43% from downtown over his last 10 games to go with some impressive defensive performances. KJ McDaniels was the darling of the drafts  2nd round early this year, but it really is looking like Hinkie got 2 keepers in the second as Jerami’s game comes on.

Brett Brown and Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer share a friendship dating back to their shared time as Spurs assistant coaches, and one has to imagine they have a shared philosophy on what the “right way” to play the game is (The Tree of Pop is strong). Watching the Hawks, it’s obvious to see the value they place on playing D and moving the ball. The Hawks are 5th in the league in defensive rating (pace adjusted defense), and lead the league in assisted field goals from both 2pt and 3pt range. Well, those plucky Sixers rank 12th in defensive rating, 11th in assisted 2pt field goals and 2nd in assisted 3pt field goals. Perhaps given a bit more talent and a lot more experience, the Sixers could become a team like the Hawks. Going from 26-straight losses last year to 19-straight wins in the next few years would be quite the feat.

For the time being however, the boys from Philly have to settle for a front row seat to one of the best shows in the league. They can take pride in knowing they hung in there with the best. But more important than taking pride is taking notes so that some day soon, we can turn those moral victories into actual victories.


Sixers to Unveil New Mascot on February 10th

It has been quite sometime since we have seen a team mascot roaming around Sixers games. Hip Hop has been gone since 2011 and it finally looks like the Sixers are prepared to reveal their new mascot. According to the press release on Sixers.com, the unveiling will happen at the Franklin Institute on Tuesday, February 10th at 1pm.  

“From the start, our mantra for choosing a new mascot has been ‘For Kids, By Kids,’ and they have been integral to this entire process,” said Sixers Chief Marketing & Innovation Officer Tim McDermott. “We met with, interviewed and listened to more than 1,000 children in the greater Philadelphia region through focus groups and surveys to bring to life the mascot they wanted. We look forward to introducing the newest member of our team to the public on February 10." 

The public ceremony will be co-hosted by Sixers CEO Scott O’Neil and In-Arena Host Christian Crosby, who will welcome the new mascot along with hundreds of area children, the Sixers Dancers and Sixers Phlight Squad.

During last night's game against Minnesota, the Sixers released a teaser of the new character and he may resemble their old mascot, Big Shot, who has been an after thought since 1996.

 


Trio of Phillies Prospects Included in MLB.com Top 100

Earlier this week, ESPN's Keith Law not only released his top 100 prospect list, but also the top ten for each organization. Only J.P. Crawford and Aaron Nola made Law's list, with Crawford coming in at number 7 overall and Aaron Nola slotted further down in the number 57 slot. Last night, MLB.com Pipeline unveiled their Top 100 list and three Phillies prospects were included.

While Crawford was in the top ten on ESPN's list, he is slightly further down in MLB.com's rankings, finding himself at number 21. After an impressive year last season between Clearwater and Lakewood, Crawford has made himself one of the top position guys in the Phillies organization. Here's MLB.com's latest scouting report on the shortstop.

The Phillies drafted Crawford 16th overall in 2013 and he excelled in his professional debut, winning the Gulf Coast League batting title. He built on that success in his first year of full-season ball and earned a spot in the All-Star Futures Game.

Crawford has an impressive all-around skill set and can impact the game on both sides of the ball. There is no question about his ability to stay at shortstop, as he is a smooth fielder with sure hands, a plus arm and good range. He is a disciplined hitter with good on-base skills and the speed to steal bases.

Crawford had been viewed as Jimmy Rollins' heir apparent from the time he was drafted. Though Rollins is now gone, traded to the Dodgers in the offseason, Crawford still needs a bit more development time before he is ready for the Major Leagues.

Meanwhile, top pick Aaron Nola was in the 50's on ESPN's rankings, but he was slotted much higher on MLB.com at number 37. In his first professional season, Nola went 4-3 with a 2.93 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP. Nola projects to begin the season where he concluded things in 2014, with Double-A Reading. Here's MLB.com's updated scouting report on the LSU alum.

Scouts considered Nola to be the most advanced college pitcher in the 2014 Draft class and the Phillies were happy to be able to take him with the seventh overall pick. They put him on the fast track during his professional debut and he advanced to Double-A less than two months after he was drafted.

Nola has tremendous command of his three-pitch arsenal. He spots his low-90s fastball to both sides of the plate and his three-quarters arm slot adds plenty of action to the pitch. His changeup is a plus offering at times and his slider has improved to give him a third quality offering.

While Nola lacks the ideal size for a right-hander, he has all the necessary tools to succeed as a big league starter.

Maikel Franco didn't make Keith Law's list, but he can be found right around the middle of MLB's rankings at number 55. Franco got limited big league experience at the end of last season with the Phillies and many project him to start the year in Triple-A, putting off his free agency one more year. Franco's Dominican League team clinches the Winter League title last week thanks to his performance. Franco hit two homers and drove in seven runs. He hit .337 with four homers and 16 RBIs in 20 postseason games for Gigantes del Cibio. Here's what MLB.com had to say about him.

After surging through the lower levels of the Minors and leading all Phillies Minor Leaguers in all three Triple Crown categories in 2013 (.320, 31 home runs and 103 RBIs), Franco stumbled at the outset of 2014 in Triple-A before finding his footing in the second half of the season and making his Major League debut in September.

Franco's best tool is his power and he can drive balls out to all fields. He is very aggressive and his swing is a bit long, but he still makes contact at a reasonably high rate thanks to his quick hands.

Despite his bottom-of-the-scale speed, Franco is a capable defender at third base. He has a good first step and plus arm strength. He also has experience at first base and the Phillies used him in both positions during his first taste of the big leagues.

None of the players that the Phillies acquired in trades made the list. Two of the teams that have been linked to Cole Hamels, the Dodgers and Cubs, both have two prospects in the top ten of MLB.com's rankings. Though interest in the Phillies ace has calmed, the chance that he is dealt prior to 2015's trade deadline is still good. 


Game 50 Preview: Flyers look to make it four in row as they battle Maple Leafs

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The Philadelphia Flyers (21-22-7) look to win their fourth straight game and get back to .500 on the season as they play host to the Toronto Maple Leafs (22-24-4) tonight at the Wells Fargo Center. This is the second of three meetings between the two clubs and the lone game in Philadelphia. Game time is 7:00.

Continue reading "Game 50 Preview: Flyers look to make it four in row as they battle Maple Leafs" »


Game 48 Preview: Sixers Look to Continue Momentum, Halt Hawks' 18-Game Win Streak

The Atlanta Hawks (39-8) and the Philadelphia 76ers (10-37) will go head-to-head tonight for the third of four overall meetings this season.

Looking Back:

First Meeting - December 10, 2014 - L 79-95:

The two teams first met back in Atlanta, where Paul Millsap and former Sixer Kyle Korver led the Hawks with 17 points each to help them to victory. Only one Sixer starter reached double digits in points that game, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute with 12. Michael-Carter Williams nearly had a triple-double, however with 8 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists.

Second Meeting - January 13, 2015 - L 87-105:

Losing 49-37 at the half, the Sixers were never able to make a comeback as they trailed by double-digits the entire second half home at the Wells Fargo Center. Atlanta center Al Horford recorded a triple-double with 21 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Philadelphia was both out-shot and out-rebounded in the game, 48.3% to 40.8%, and 47-35 respectively. Sixers forward Robert Covington struggled, shooting 0-7 from three-point range, and just 2-13 overall. Michael Carter-Williams led the team with 20 points and 9 rebounds. 

What to Watch For:

  • The Sixers will be looking for their third consecutive win, which would be a season-high. They previously had won two consecutive games against the Nets and Pacers on January 9-10, and against both of Florida's basketball teams, the Magic and Heat, on December 21-23.
  • Philadelphia is coming off of defeating the Detroit Pistons 89-69 on Wednesday, as well as the Timberwolves last night, 103-94, where point guard Michael Carter-Williams recorded his fifth career triple-double (third of season) with 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
  • The Hawks have won 18 consecutive games. With a win tonight against Brett Brown's team, their 19-game winning streak would be the fifth-longest in NBA history.
  • Atlanta has won against Philadelphia in six consecutive meetings, where they scored 100+ points in five of the six. This comes after the Hawks lost seven of their previous eight against the Sixers. All-time, the Sixers are 62-107 while playing in the Peach State.
  • Kyle Korver: Shooting 53.4% beyond-the-arc this season, averaging 13.1 points per game and 3.1 three-point field goals in 46 starts.
  • Elton Brand: The former Sixer from 2008-2012 is averaging 3.1 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 12.6 minutes over 16 games this season. 

Game Information:

Atlantic Division Standings:

  1. Toronto Raptors (32-15)
  2. Brooklyn Nets (18-28, 13.5 GB)
  3. Boston Celtics (16-29, 15 GB)
  4. Philadelphia 76ers (10-37, 22 GB)
  5. New York Knicks (9-38, 23 GB)

Matt Rappa (@mattrappa) is a contributor to Sixerdelphia.com.


Confirmed: Yoan Moncada to be Granted Full Free Agency

MoncadaPhoto Courtesy: mlb.com

As a confirmation of my piece earlier this week, Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada has received word that he will be granted unrestricted MLB free agency. A report from Jesse Sanchez of mlb.com details a message sent from the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control to Moncada's agent, David Hastings. As was previously noted, Moncada's residency in Guatemala before moving to Miami, Florida, has allowed him to become an unblocked national, and therefore opens him up to conversation with any interested team.

Just exactly when negotiations will begin remains to be seen. However, Moncada is widely expected to become a hot commodity among most major league organizations. To get a sense of just what Yoan Moncada could mean for the Phillies, check out this piece on the response to his first workout and the general feeling about his potential. As his story develops, we will continue to update you with as much information as possible. 

Andrew Gillen, Managing Editor of Philliedelphia.com


Brewers Assistant GM Gord Ash on Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon Talks: "I don't think it's dead"

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The Phillies' talks with the Milwaukee Brewers over Jonathan Papelbon this offseason are no real secret to the baseball world.  But after several ups and downs in trade talks, Papelbon is still on the Phillies, 20 days before Phillies Spring Training camp breaks in Clearwater, Florida.  But talks are not dead, according to a high-ranking Brewers official.

Assistant general manager Gord Ash of the Milwaukee Brewers  said on Friday in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Tom Haudricourt that the deal is still possible:

"I don't think it's dead," said Ash. "I don't think anything is imminent. We've got a number of things going. It's just a matter of trying to ascertain the best approach and what makes the best sense from a lineup point of view and financial point of view."

Money seems to be a big consideration.  But what about other names still available?

As for the possibility of re-signing closer Francisco Rodriguez, Ash said, "Everyone knows what relievers are left out there. That's one of the balls we're looking at but there are a number of other pitchers out there, whether it's by trade or free-agent acquistion. It kind of changes on a daily basis because there's something to be said for all of them but there's probably a hiccup or two on all of them."

Ash said the Brewers have not shown interest in free-agent closer Rafael Soriano, who is still on the market. He said there were conversations about Joba Chamberlain but he doesn't really fit the plan either.

The Brewers seem lukewarm on other options, which is a good thing for the Phillies.

As for the Phillies, if they deal Papelbon to the Brewers, one of the aforementioned arms might be a good option for the Phillies.  Having a veteran arm around to mentor future closer Kenny Giles would be a bonus for the future of the Phillies.  Further, someone such as Rodriguez, Soriano, or Chamberlain could be a backup closer should Giles falter.  

Ash also said that he would prefer that  deal be done before the Brewers break camp on February 20.  The Phillies break camp the day before, and I am sure they would like to do the same.   It sounds like money is all that is holding up the deal.  Whatever money the Phillies have to eat to make it happen and turn the page, it is worth it.

 


MCW grabs 5th career triple-double as Sixers outlast T'Wolves: Game Recap 1/30

Coming into tonight the Sixers were fresh off a win against the recently hot Detroit Pistons. I'm not sure if anybody predicted a Sixers win, let alone a win by 20. Minnesota came into WFC with an 8-37 record making them one win behind the Sixers. After what was a true back and forth game for the most part, the Sixers pulled away towards the end and got win number 10 on the year beating Minnesota 103-94.

 

Michael Carter-Williams played his heart out, coming up with his 5th career triple-double to the tune of 17 points,10 rebounds and 10 assists. That stat right there is impressive for anyone, and all the more impressive when you’re only midway through your second year. The offense started with him tonight as he facilitated scoring opportunities for all of the players around him including none other than Nerlens Noel. Whether it was driving to the rim hard and kicking it out to the wing for an open three or finding Noel lurking near the rim, MCW was indeed the spark that the Sixers used to get it done tonight. MCW also showed he could score in a hurry when he received an inbounds pass at halfcourt with seconds left, split two defenders, dribbled past another and laid the ball into the hoop all before the buzzer sounded. It was all around one of the best performances to date for the young point guard from Syracuse.

 

Nerlens also made his presence felt by racking up a career high 6 blocks. Not only was he making moves on the defensive end, but he also was finishing off possessions with many baskets near the rim often in the form of dunks. He finished the night off with 14 points, 6 rebounds and 6 blocks. Luc Mbah a Moute led the way with 18 points and Robert Covington was right behind him with 14. K.J. McDaniels came off the bench to score 11 points as well.

 

It was awesome to see the youngsters finish off the game in the fourth quarter after being on a see-saw the entire time with the T’Wolves. This has probably been the biggest issue in terms of winning and losing for the team this year. The ability of a young team to finish off and put games away is a crucial part to the future success of the team. Its also a little crazy to see double digit wins already. We still have a little while to go before the end of the season so Hinkie might have to start making sure that win column is more to his liking come the season’s end.


The Sixers get right back at it tomorrow as they play the eastern conference leading Hawks at WFC. Tip-off is set for 7:30.