Unanswered points by Eagles after Vikings take 7-0 lead in NFC Championship Game

The 76ers became the first franchise in the four major North American sports leagues to sell advertising on their uniforms. While the Sixers celebrate this “first,” Eric Fisher worries that NBA players — and fans who buy their jerseys — are going to become walking billboards.

Eric Fisher’s weekly column on a variety of topics. This week Eric serves up opinions on honoring the Taney Dragons, the Eagles’ kicker situation and the difficult road ahead for the Union.

The Greek God of Wrestling says the uncertainty surrounding Bound for Glory reveals the depths of TNA’s financial difficulties. Achilles Heel also praises Clash of Champions, tells you which Ring of Honor title changed hands in an incredible match, and lists some interesting teams competing in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic.

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Sixers Notebook: Measuring sticks

Posted by Eric Fisher On January - 15 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

As the Sixers reach the midpoint of their schedule, this week will provide an important mid-term assessment of where the Sixers stand.

The Sixers’ opponents this week are the Raptors (Monday, 1 p.m.), Celtics (Thursday, 7 p.m.) and Bucks (Saturday, 7:30 p.m.). The Celtics (34-10) and Raptors (29-12) are in first and second place, respectively, in the Atlantic Division. The Sixers (19-20) are a distant third. In  terms of the overall playoff race, the Sixers are one spot behind the Bucks (22-20), who occupy the eighth and final playoff position in the Eastern Conference.

Although definitive conclusions shouldn’t be drawn from two games, it will be interesting to see how the Sixers fare against the Raptors and Celtics. Sixers are 0-3 against both teams this season.

They faced the Celtics and Raptors in their second and third games of this season. They lost to the Celtics by 10 points in their home opener and were blown out by the Raptors on the road. The Sixers lost back-to-back games to the Raptors on Dec. 21 and 23, blowing a 22-point lead in a 114-109 defeat at Wells Fargo Center in the first half of that home-and-home series before losing the second game by 16 in Toronto. The Celtics beat the Sixers by 11 points in Boston on Nov. 3, and then won by 11 again last Thursday in London, with the Celtics erasing a 22-point lead.

One thing is certain. Nobody should feel comfortable if the Sixers open up a 22-point lead on the Celtics or Raptors.

The Celtics and Raptors are measuring sticks for the Sixers. Not only have the Sixers loss all six meetings with those two teams this season, but they’ve lost by double-digits in five of those games. This week could provide an indication of whether the Sixers have started to close the gap with the Atlantic Division’s elite.

The Sixers are still far behind the Celtics and Raptors. A more realistic goal is being as good as the Bucks – if not better. Saturday’s home game against the Bucks is the first of two meetings between the teams in a 10-day span.

If the Sixers can’t beat the Bucks, concerns should shift from closing the gap with the Celtics and Raptors to beating the middle-of-the-road teams in order to make the playoffs.


NO LEAD IS SAFE: As was demonstrated yet again in London, no lead is safe when the Sixers are on the court. No lead is safe when they’re behind, and no lead is safe when they’re ahead.

The 22-point lead they lost to the Celtics in London was reminiscent of the big leads they lost in December.

The Sixers lost a 9-point lead during the fourth quarter of a 117-105 loss to the Bulls, a 16-point loss to the visiting Kings and a 22-point lead to the visiting Raptors. A major factor in these defeats is turnovers. As Ben Simmons’ game matures, he should learn to control the tempo down the stretch, which would help avoid these major collapses.


EAGLES TOWN: It’s a shame that the Sixers’ trip to London was largely overshadowed by the hype surrounding the Eagles’ first playoff game.


STOP TALKING THE TALK: After remaining in the game against the Sun on New Year’s Eve after spraining his right hand, Joel Embiid described himself as “a warrior.” My advice to Embiid, as it was when he declared himself the NBA’s best defensive player, is to let others heap praise on you rather than do it yourself. When other people describe you as a warrior, it’s an honor. When you toot your own horn for being tough, the praise loses much of its impact.


BABY STEPS: Apparently, we’re supposed to be excited because Markelle Fultz took part in a 5-on-5 drill at practice. Fultz was the first overall pick in the NBA Draft. It will take a lot more than having him scrimmage 5-on-5 to get me excited, especially when Fultz reportedly still has some discomfort in his shoulder and, according to head coach Brett Brown, hasn’t regained his shooting form.


BALLOT UPDATE: When the second round of results from All-Star voting were revealed last Thursday, Joel Embiid was third among frontcourt players in the Eastern Conference, triling only LeBron James and the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo. Ben Simmons had moved up to third place among Eastern Conference guards, behind the Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving and the Raptors’ DeMar DeRozan. Voting ends tonight (Monday) at 11:59 p.m.


STREAKING: The Celtics and Heat have won seven straight games. The Magic have lost seven straight games.


Sixers Notebook: Searching for answers

Posted by Eric Fisher On December - 23 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

The 76ers are collapsing faster than one of their second-half leads. The Sixers enter Saturday’s game against the Raptors with a four-game losing streak and having lost eight of their last nine games.

The Sixers (14-17) are not in playoff position right now. The Sixers are only ahead of the Nets (12-19) in the Atlantic Division. They trail the third-place Knicks (17-15), whom the Sixers face on Christmas, and are far behind the division-leading Celtics (26-9) and Raptors (22-8). In terms of the Eastern Conference standings, the Sixers are in 10th place, behind a three-way tie involving the Heat, Knicks and Wizards.

The collapse has been epitomized by the Sixers’ blown leads this week. They held a nine-point lead during the fourth quarter of Monday’s 117-115 loss to the Bulls in Chicago. One night later, they blew a 16-point lead during a loss to the visiting Kings. Topping off the week of collapses, the Sixers squandered a 22-point third-quarter lead during Friday’s 114-109 loss to the visiting Raptors.

Injuries have definitely played a role in the Sixers’ struggles. Center Joel Embiid has missed the past three games. Robert Covington missed two games after injuring his back during a hustle play against the Cavaliers. Guard T.J. McConnell has been in and out of the lineup due to shoulder issues, and J.J. Redick missed Friday’s loss to the Raptors with a sore hamstring.

But injuries can’t explain the blown leads. When a team is ahead by double digits in the second half, it should win.

Turnovers are part of the problem. The Sixers are turning the ball over far too frequently. Another factor is that teams seem to be limiting the scoring opportunities of point guard Ben Simmons. During the past 10 games, the rookie has been limited to single digits twice and managed just six shots from the field during Tuesday’s loss to the Kings. Simmons has also had seven turnovers in three of those 10 games.

The Sixers need to find a way to turn their fortunes around before this snowball grows too large.

However, this recent collapse might also indicated the Sixers are nearly as good as they – and a significant portion of the fan based – seemed to believe they were.


CONCERN FOR EMBIID: The health of center Joel Embiid, the cornerstone of the Sixers’ rebuilding process, if you’ll excuse the use of the word, continues to be a concern. Although there was joy that Embiid played a career-high 48 minutes, 39 seconds during a triple-overtime loss to the Thunder, the young center hasn’t played in the past three games due to back soreness.

Embiid has missed five of the past seven games. The uncertainty as to whether or not he can play is something that has to go away if the Sixers are truly going to develop into a title contender.


NOT ALL THE WAY ‘BACK’: Robert Covington still seems to be struggling with back issues stemming from a fall off the court while saving a loose ball during a loss to the Cavaliers on Dec 9. Covington missed two games after sustain the injury. He’s played the last four games, but his shot doesn’t seem to have returned with him.

Covington made only 4 of 21 shots during the triple-overtime loss to the Thunder. He shot a better percentage, but only took five shots (making three) during Monday’s loss to the Bulls. He only made 5 of 19 shots Tuesday against the Kings and 6 of 16 Friday against the Raptors.

Covington hasn’t blamed his shooting woes on the back injury, but it’s an educated guess to think that the injury is having a detrimental effect on his accuracy.


LONG ROAD BACK: Jahlil Okafor isn’t receiving much of an opportunity to play with his new team, either. After only playing two games with the Sixers this season, the former third overall pick in the NBA Draft has only played once in his first six games with the Nets. The Nets want Okafor to get into better game shape after barely playing with the Sixers.


AREA 51: James Harden lit up Los Angeles with 51 points in back-to-back games – and the Rockets lost both games. They dropped a 122-116 decision to the Lakers on Wednesday, and then lost to the Clippers, 128-118, on Friday. The Rockets had only lost four games this season before losing in both of Harden’s 51-point performances.


WARRIORS ARE GOLDEN: Until losing both Los Angeles games despite James Harden’s consecutive 51-point performances, the Rockets had the best record in the NBA. But the Warriors have won 11 games in a row to improve to 26-6, a half-game better than the Rockets (25-6).


TOUGH ROAD AHEAD: Saturday’s game (5 p.m.) at Toronto, wrapping up a home-and-home series, begins a five-game road trip for the Sixers. They will meet the Knicks on Chrstmas (noon) at Madison Square Garden before heading west for games against the Trail Blazers (Thursday, 10:30 p.m.), the Nuggets (Saturday, 9 p.m.) and Suns (8 p.m.). Although only the Raptors are more than two games above .500, road trips are never easy, and the Sixers have already lost to the Suns (12-22).

The schedule doesn’t get much easier when the Sixers return home for the start of 2018. They begin the new year with home games against the Spurs (22-11) and Pistons (18-14) before going to London to face the Celtics on Jan. 11. That game is followed by games against the Raptors, Celtics and Bucks (17-13).

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