Consecutive playoff series won by Penguins

With Jimmy Watson being inducted in the Flyers Hall of Fame on Monday, we thought this was a good time to revisit our list of the Top 10 defensemen in Flyers history. No, Shayne Gostisbehere is not on the list — yet.

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Eric Fisher’s weekly column about a variety of topics. This week Eric serves up opinions on the Sixers’ pursuit of the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, why this should also be a good draft week for the Flyers, and reports that Nelson Agholor had a good minicamp.

Archive for the ‘76ers’ Category

Fight to the finish

Posted by Eric Fisher On April - 21 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

The 76ers answered a lot of questions during Saturday’s 106-102 triumph over the Heat.

Can they win a tight, playoff-style game? Yes. The Heat took it to them in a physical, knockdown affair that went down to the wire. The Sixers absorbed the Heat’s best punches before pulling out the victory in the fourth quarter.

Can the Sixers overcome their own mistakes? That’s a question the Sixers weren’t particularly eager to answer, but Saturday they answered it affirmatively, which is why they have a 3-1 series lead and an opportunity to reach the second round Tuesday at Wells Fargo Center.

“I’m shocked that we won this game,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. “We didn’t really have right to win this game.”

Brown gave his team a “C-minus” for defense and an “F” for turnovers during the first three quarters. If you think that’s too harsh, consider that the Sixers committed 17 turnovers during the first half.

Things didn’t get much better for the Sixers during the first half of the third quarter. They found themselves trailing by 12 points, 74-62, nearly midway through the quarter. The lead was still 10 points with 2 minutes remaining in the third quarter, but the Sixers went on a 16-2 to take control. The Sixers’ lead reached 92-85 just beyond the midpoint of the fourth quarter, with the Heat limited to two points during the first half of the fourth quarter.

“It was all about defense,” said Sixers center Joel Embiid, playing his second game with a mask to protect his left orbital bone. “We got stops.”

Embiid was a big part of that defense. His blocked a shot early in the fourth quarter, gained control of the ball and then found Ben Simmons for a breakaway. Simmons missed the initial layup, but followed his own shot to tie the score at 83-83 with 10:07 remaining in the fourth quarter.

“(Embiid) did struggle offensively,” Brown said, “but he was massive defensively.”

Embiid, who said “I thought I had a really (crappy game),” made just 2 of 11 shots from the field, but made 10 of 13 free throws to finish with 14 points. He grabbed 12 rebounds, blocked five shots and altered many more, particularly during the fourth quarter.

“I feel like I’m the best defensive player in the league,” Embiid said, “and I showed that tonight.”

Simmons makes history

If Embiid was the key to the Sixers’ defensive resurgence during the second half, Simmons was the key to the offense. Simmons had just two points, and twice as many turnovers, entering halftime, but he was much more aggressive driving to the basket during the second half. Although he turned the ball over early in the third quarter, he committed just one more the rest of the game.

Simmons finished with 17 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists, earning the distinction of being the first rookie to post a triple-double during a playoff game since Magic Johnson in 1980. The other players to accomplish that feat are Lew Alcindor (Kareem-Abdul Jabbar), Jerry Lucas and La Salle legend Tom Gola.

“It’s not anything new for me or the team,” Simmons said. “As long as we win, I’m happy.”

Simmons’ actions speak louder than his words. But there was one time when words were the preferred course of action.

Fighting words

With a little less than five minutes remaining in the first half, Embiid dived for a loose ball. Miami’s Josh Richardson was injured by Embiid’s dive. Simmons quickly fouled the Heat’s Goron Dragic as he pushed the ball. Robert Covington, however, pushed Dragic to the floor as he continued toward the Sixers basket. James Johnson pushed Covington toward the basket standard. As other players, referees and assistant coaches raced to break up the altercation, Johnson turned his attention to Simmons. Rather than let his emotions get the better of him, Simmons remained calm and poised, two qualities he displayed again during the Sixers’ comeback.

The Sixers weren’t surprised by the physical nature of Saturday’s game. After all, the Heat played the same way during Game 3.

“Going into this game, you knew you were going to get their best,” Brown said. “They jumped us, and we didn’t handle it well.”

Ilyasova takes over

But the resilient Sixers bounced back during the fourth quarter. The run actually started during the latter stages of the third quarter. The Sixers trailed by 10 points with less than 1½ minutes remaining in the third quarter when Ersan Ilyasova briefly took over the game.

Ilyasova made a basket and free throw with 1:16 remaining in the third quarter to reduce the Sixers’ deficit to 83-76. He won a battle for an offensive rebound with 33.2 seconds remaining, but missed both free throws. After taking a charge from Wayne Ellington at the defensive end, Ilyasova (10 points, 8 rebounds) drilled a 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds remaining in the third quarter to pull the Sixers within four points.

This marked the second straight game in which the Sixers took over during the fourth quarter.

“They fight for each other,” Brown said. “They really fight for each other, and we saw that in the fourth quarter.”

Heat don’t give up

The Sixers took control with their defense. Unlike in Game 3, though, the Sixers couldn’t pull away for a double-digit victory. The proud Heat battled back to pull within one point during the final minute. But JJ Redick (24 points) had the answers, sinking a shot from the right corner with 30.1 seconds remaining to push the Sixers’ lead to 104-101. After Dwyane Wade (25 points) made 1 of 2 free throws with 17.6 seconds remaining, Redick made two free throws to give the Sixers a 106-102 lead, which turned out to be the final score in a hard-fought victory.

The Sixers won despite committing 26 turnovers. Embiid said it seemed like 50 turnovers.

“That fact that you can win a playoff game with that many turnovers is mind-boggling,” Brown said.

Many teams can’t win a game with that many turnovers. But the Sixers proved that they can win a game with that many turnovers. That’s why they’ll have an opportunity Tuesday night to close out this series at home.

“We have to go home and finish it,” Embiid said.

Happy returns for Sixers’ Embiid

Posted by Eric Fisher On April - 19 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

Joel Embiid made the decision to allow him to play in Game 3 look like a good one.

After missing 10 games, including the first two playoff games, Embiid returned Thursday night, scoring 23 points in his playoff debut as the Sixers defeated the host Heat, 128-108. The Sixers take a 2-1 series edge.

After the Sixers’ loss to the Heat in Game 2, Embiid complained on Instagram that he was being “babied” and wanted to get back on the court. Although listed as doubtful on Wednesday, Embiid’s request was granted Thursday. Embiid wore a protective mask and goggles to protect the left orbital bone that was broken during a collision with rookie guard Markelle Fultz.

Game 3 wasn’t a one-man show, though. Defeating the Heat required a team effort. Dario Saric and Marco Belinelli contributed 21 points apiece. Ben Simmons added 19 points, 12 rebounds and 7 assists.

And that was barely enough.

Despite the 20-point margin, the game was close until the fourth quarter. The Sixers led, 37-33, after one quarter, trailed at the end of the first half, 64-63, and then regained the lead after three quarters, 96-94. The Sixers were finally able to shake the Heat during the fourth quarter, when the Sixers posted a 32-14 advantage.

Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow pace Heat with 23 and 19 points, respectively.

The Sixers will try to take a 3-1 series advantage in Game 4 on Saturday (2:30 p.m.). And there should be no doubt that Embiid will be available to help the Sixers take command of the series.

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