Kapanen, Penguins Down Flyers with Strong 2nd Period

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

For another game, the Flyers were facing an opponent missing their best player. Sidney Crosby was on the COVID list, meaning he would be out for Tuesday's game. It didn't matter for the Penguins.

The Penguins took control in the second period and erased a Flyers third-period goal in short order on their way to a 5-2 result over the Flyers on Tuesday night.

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Phillies Announce an 8,800-Fan Capacity for First 19 Games

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The news is good for Phillies fans who hope to attend games at Citizens Bank Park.   As the State of Pennsylvania increased capacity at outdoor events to 20%, the Phillies were able to make more firm fans for the opening of the 2021 MLB Season at Citizens Bank Park.  The Phillies announced on Tuesday that 8,800 fans may be in attendance for games.

The Phillies announced the following measures beyond the 8,800 fan capacity: 

  • To allow for socially distant seating, fans will be seated in pods of two, three or four people, with limited pods available for five to six people.  
  • All attendees age two years and older must wear a face covering over their nose and mouth at all times on ballpark property, other than when actively eating or drinking at their ticketed seats.   
  • All areas of the ballpark accessed by fans will be cleaned and disinfected before, during and after each game by a newly created “Clean Team” utilizing processes and products approved by the CDC and EPA specifically for use against COVID-19. Hand sanitizing stations will also be widely available.  

Tickets for the first 19 games will be first offered to Season Ticket holders.  The remaining tickets will be put on sale on March 12.  In April, as the COVID atmosphere is a little bit clearer, they will sell games beyond the first 19 games.

The Phillies note that the tickets available could increase or decrease depending upon health protocols at that time.


Flyers-Penguins: Game 19 Preview

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

It took three weeks, but the Flyers are finally back to full strength after getting their final player back from the COVID list on Sunday. It comes at a great time, as they head to Pittsburgh to face the Penguins for three straight games.

The dynamic of this series of games has already changed though. After a weekend sweep in Buffalo, the Flyers were gearing up to face one of the best in the world and get a test from a team right there in the playoff race. But on Tuesday morning, that star player, Sidney Crosby, was ruled out for Tuesday upon his placement on the NHL's COVID list.

Now, the Flyers will face the rest of the Penguins without their captain, as this three-game series begins on Tuesday night. 

Game time is at 7 p.m.

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Phillies World Series Pitching Coach Dubee Returns to Coaching

Former Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee's name was thrown around as the Phillies looked for a pitching coach this past offseason, according to a few reports.  The Phillies ultimately brought Caleb Cotham aboard for the major league most.  But Dubee will be actively working with pitchers as a coach after all.

The Saugerties Stallions Baseball Club announced that Dubee will be a member of the club's coaching staff for the 2021 season, mentoring young players in their quest to make the major leagues.  

The Stallions are part of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League (PGCBL), a league founded in 2010 as a summer league for athletes with NCAA eligibility. The teams across update New York, and include some recent additions to the league from the former New York-Penn League.

Dubee was Phillies pitching coach from 2005 through 2013.  It was during Dubee's tenure, of course, that the Phillies won a World Series ring.  Dubee also has experience as pitching coach of the Florida Marlins (1998-2001) and the Detroit Tigers (2016-2017).


Flyers Prospect Corner: Willman, Wisdom Run Lehigh Valley, NCAA Has Another Winning Weekend

By Siobhan Nolan, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms may have caught their first loss of 2021 this past week, but that couldn’t take away from the clutch offense of Zayde Wisdom and Max Willman. The NCAA prospects all had helping hands in their team’s wins this week as college hockey begins to wind down. Let’s recap.

The Phantoms had a marathon weekend, starting off with a face-off against the Binghamton Devils on Feb. 26. Linus Sandin and Pascal Laberge both recorded their first goals of the season, while Ryan Fitzgerald also got on the scoresheet. Max Willman was the star of the show, however, netting two goals, one of which was the OT winner that kept the Phantoms’ undefeated run alive.

Continue reading "Flyers Prospect Corner: Willman, Wisdom Run Lehigh Valley, NCAA Has Another Winning Weekend" »


Flyers 5: Takeaways from Sunday's Flyers-Sabres Game

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

Sunday’s game may have felt like another case of deja vu or Groundhog Day, but it was indeed a different game for the Flyers, even if they did defeat the Buffalo Sabres for the second straight day and third straight meeting by the same score.

This time, it was Carter Hart’s turn in goal to have an excellent outing in goal to help the Flyers get another two points in the standings. It just happened to involve a three-goal second period that produced another 3-0 victory.

Here are five takeaways from Sunday’s win over the Sabres.

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After Sunday's Road Loss, Phillies Return to Clearwater, Fans, TV

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Spring Training games can get um, interesting.   The Phillies, who sent to Lakeland mostly non-regulars and pitchers on the fringe of the Phillies roster, lost to the Detroit Tigers 10-2 as Grapefruit League action opened.   The Phillies exercised a new provision available to teams and opted out of the first inning with two outs.  Why is that?  Two pitchers in, the Phillies had recorded just two outs, allowing six runs and leaving the bases loaded.  Phillies pitching would issue four bases-loaded walks.

The highlight of the day for the Phillies was Adam Haseley's leadoff home run.  As Todd Zolecki of MLB.com notes, Haseley is 15-pounds heavier and built a home gym this past offseason.   Haseley and fellow first round draft pick Mickey Moniak had two of the four hits for the Phillies.  Ivan Nova, a minor league signee invited to Spring Training, emerged with a 135.00 ERA after getting just one out and giving up five earned runs.

The Phillies will return home on Monday to the newly re-named BayCare Ballpark.  There will be fans in attendance, and the game will be broadcast on television.

Starters such as Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins and J.T. Realmuto are not going to play just yet.  But there should be some more familiar faces in the lineup on Monday afternoon.   Aaron Nola will take the mound first for the Phillies.

Game information: 

  • First Pitch: 1:05 p.m.
  • TV: NBC Sports Philadelphia+
  • Radio: 94 WIP

Phillies Starting Lineup:

  1. Andrew McCutchen, LF
  2. Jean Segura 2B
  3. Andrew Knapp, C
  4. Brad Miller, 1B
  5. Roman Quinn, CF
  6. Matt Joyce, RF
  7. Nick Maton SS
  8. Ronald Torreyes,  3B
  9. Rodolfo Duran, DH

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Takeaways from Sixers' overtime loss to Cavs

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

After a dominant defensive showing against the Mavericks on national television on Thursday, the Sixers would be back in action on Saturday night, hosting the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Sixers would lack energy for a majority of this game, and it would result in the matchup going down to the wire. 

Joel Embiid would get a chance to win the game for the Sixers at the end of regulation but could not get his shot to go. The Cavs would go on to pick up a 112-109 victory in overtime. Cleveland is now 2-0 on the season against the Sixers. 

Here are some takeaways from the Saturday night matchup. 

Supporting cast struggles 

The Sixers' supporting cast has had its struggles in recent weeks, and it would carry on in this game. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons would have good games against the Cavs, but everyone around them would have a tough time scoring. 

Outside of the two All-Stars, only one other Sixer would finish this game in double-figures, Shake Milton who racked up 11 points off the bench. It took until about the seven-minute mark in the third quarter for someone outside of Embiid and Simmons to score more than five points. The stars can only do so much when they are getting such minimal production from the players around them. 

One player in particular who would have major struggles is Seth Curry. Since returning from Covid, Curry's play has been up and down. Saturday's game against Cleveland was arguably his worst in a Sixer uniform. Curry would finish with just four points on 1-13 shooting from the floor. 

The Sixers become much more dynamic when the supporting cast can knock down shots. Hopefully after some much-needed rest over the All-Star break, they can get back to form in the second half of the season. 

Missing Tobias Harris 

Tobias Harris would miss his first game of the season on Saturday after suffering a knee contusion against the Mavericks. The Sixers would miss him greatly against the Cavaliers, especially on the offensive end. 

The Sixers would start slow on offense, and part of it was because of a new starting lineup. With Furkan Korkmaz starting with Curry and Danny Green, they struggled to get their offensive sets going. Not to mention without Harris in the lineup, they lost a pick-and-roll threat and someone who operates a good two man game with Embiid. 

Seeing how the offense looked without Harris speaks volumes to the consistency he has brought to the team this year. It showed how crucial he has been to the Sixers' success in the first half of the season and might enhance his case for being an All-Star snub.  

Simmons and Embiid leading the charge 

With the supporting cast struggling the way they did, it was on Simmons and Embiid to carry this team to the finish line. The All-Star duo would do just that, both would dominate the Cavs in an attempt to steal this game. 

Simmons would start this game getting downhill and putting pressure on the Cavs in transition. He would then switch to working in the post, a part of his game that has continued to grow this season. By the end of the game, Simmons would have 24 points, seven rebounds, and eight assists. 

Embiid has had some minor struggles in recent games, but he would get back to his dominant self against the Cavs. The MVP favorite would erupt for 42 points and come down with 13 rebounds. On top of his huge scoring outburst, he would also dish six assists. 

Although it resulted in a loss, it was good to see Simmons and Embiid dominate together. This team is only going to go as far as they can take them, so seeing them continue to figure out how to put up big showings in the same game is a major positive. 

Playing down to an opponent 

This has been a bad habit for the Sixers for multiple years now. They continue to drop games against teams that they should not. 

Looking at this game, there was no reason for the Sixers to drop this game. At home against a struggling team who was missing multiple players should have been an easy win to keep the momentum going. But sleepwalking through the first half resulted in the Cavs being able to swing the game in their favor. 

The Cavaliers are not a good team this season, and they should not be 2-0 against the Sixers, who have finals aspirations. Now although it is not something to go rushing for the panic button for, it is something to monitor. If the Sixers want to remain at the top of the Eastern Conference, they cannot have these lapses and drop unnecessary games like this.  

Sixerdelphia


Ben Simmons's Defense Does Not Rest

     We are going to start this out by bringing back a very old game: Two Truths And A Lie (see answer below)

Ben Simmons is the best perimeter defender in the NBA.
Ben Simmons once dunked on a giraffe.
Ben Simmons’s defensive on/off split in 2021 is a negative.

76ers fans have been watching Ben Simmons display a combination of power, speed and athleticism not seen in the city of Philadelphia since the days of Reggie White and Charles Barkley. He has the court vision of LeBron and Magic, could rebound in traffic, and if opponents allowed him to get out in the open floor with the ball, opponents were certain to regret it.

Unfortunately, despite these strengths, Ben Simmons also arrived in Philadelphia with one minor flaw.

He refused to shoot from more than five feet away from the rim.

This flaw became the overwhelming narrative for the first three seasons of his career, after having to sit out the year he was drafted with a foot injury.

In the 2019-2020 preseason, he hit the first three-pointer of his professional career in a pre-season game against the Guangzhao Loong Lions. He hit the first official three of his NBA career about six weeks later against the New York Knicks. Sadly, these shots, and the ongoing conversation surrounding his general unwillingness to launch more attempts from behind the arc, overshadowed a development in Ben Simmons’s game.

He was slowly becoming one of the best defenders in the NBA.

This should not have been such a surprising development. After all, he’d received 11 votes for All-Defense (5 first team) in his rookie season. And he was still unlearning many of the terrible defensive habits he developed during a disappointing season playing at LSU.

In the ensuing seasons, Simmons was getting more and more acclimated to the speed and intricate nature of defending NBA players, learning how to be physical without fouling and how to use his size to frustrate smaller, quicker guards.

As the 2020 season ended, Simmons was out with a knee injury suffered in the seeding games after the NBA’s five-month Covid-19 shutdown. As the 76ers were unceremoniously dismissed from the playoffs in four straight games by the Boston Celtics, the conversation about Simmons’s defense, ball handling and vision grew smaller and smaller in favor of complaints about his lack of shooting. Seemingly every NBA blog presented trades where Simmons would be dealt for James Harden, Bradley Beal and others.

Finally, in January, a failed trade negotiation with the Houston Rockets in which Simmons would be traded, with draft picks for the aforementioned Harden was one of the biggest trending topics as Harden was eventually dealt to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for virtually every first-round pick the Nets have until 2027. Suddenly, it appeared that Simmons had been experimenting with Bruce Banner’s gamma radiation, because he was angry…and 76ers’ opponents were not going to like it when he was angry.

He began to show more aggression on the offensive end, but even more on the defensive end. He appeared to take pleasure in making miserable the lives of prolific scorers like Kemba Walker (just nine points in the 2nd half of two games), Jerami Grant (11 points on 3-19 shooting, ending a 14-game 20-point scoring streak), De’Aaron Fox (11 points on 4-17 shooting in the 2nd half after a 23-point first-half outburst) and, finally, Damian Lillard (9 points on 2-13 in the 2nd half after a 21-point first half)

All of this led to a nationally televised showdown against Luka Doncic on February 26th. Doncic came in red-hot, averaging 31.1 points, 7.4 rebounds and 8.9 assists over his last 16 games, and leading Dallas to seven wins in nine games. This included a thriller over Boston in which Doncic hit two step-back three-pointers that could only be described as soul-crushing to Boston fans.

Ben Simmons decided to make Doncic his personal cause. Not only was he not going to let him score, but he also was not going to let him shoot. He stalked Doncic like a lion stalking a hornbill. Per The Athletic’s Derrick Bodner, Doncic shot 3 for 9 in attempts when Simmons was defending him, including just 1-5 on three-point attempts.

But there was one play in the Dallas game that truly defined the defensive genius of Ben Simmons. Simmons is checking Doncic as Willie Cauley-Stein dribbles to the left for a dribble handoff action, I think with either Burke or Brunson. Simmons leaves Doncic and steals the ball from behind. Normally, you would say it is insane to leave your man in any situation to go for a steal, especially when the man you are leaving is a world-class offensive player. The scramble to recover is most likely to result in a bucket, a foul or both. However, Simmons's route to the play was so perfect that even if Cauley-Stein picked up the ball, he will not be getting a pass back to Doncic (as his back is turned), plus the screen action is getting blown up (with the presence of Simmons, who would now be on the front side of the action) AND the fact it was close enough to the sideline to use it as a defender. Simmons stole the ball from Cauley-Stein, picked his head up and led Joel Embiid with a perfect pass for a dunk.

Ben Simmons was named third-team All-NBA in 2020. He started out the 2020-2021 season in an offensive funk but has rebounded in a serious way since the proposed Harden trade fell through, averaging 17.8 points with 7.8 rebounds and 7.8 assists in 17 games. If he continues his upward trajectory, he could be looking at not only another All-NBA nod, but a Defensive Player of The Year trophy for his mantle as well.

For the record – Simmons IS widely acknowledged as the best perimeter defender in the NBA, but his defensive on-off split in 2021 is -.4 points/100 possessions. Much of this is likely due to a few early attempts at using Simmons as a rim-protecting small-ball 5 that did not go well.

Finally, Ben Simmons has never dunked on a giraffe. At least, not that I am aware of. If you have video of this happening, please hit me up on Twitter @Drfunkenstein24.


Hart Gets Shutout as Flyers Sweep Sabres

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

In his first start since the Lake Tahoe game a week ago, perhaps Carter Hart showed Brian Elliott that anything you can do, I can do better. One day after Elliott backstopped the Flyers to a 23-save shutout performance, Hart bested it with 28 saves.

Hart's performance plus three second-period goals were the difference, as the Flyers once again defeated the Sabres, 3-0, on Sunday afternoon to complete the weekend sweep.

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