Saturday, May 26, 2012

They had a chance...

My lack of love for Doug Collins is no mystery. My lack of appreciation for Andre Iguodala has never been hidden.

But in the fourth quarter (and waning seconds of the third) my hatred grew for both.

Two key parts cost the Sixers the game, when they undoubtedly had a great chance to move on to the conference finals. They played in a sloppy, low scoring game, and gave themselves a chance. But were let down by the two most important components- their coach, and their 'high-profile' player.

The first (and secondary) moment was Iguodala's misses at the line at the end of the third quarter. With a chance to take the lead for the first time since their only lead of the game (20-19) in the first quarter, and overcome an eight-point deficit, Iggy misses two free throws and the C's score at the end of the quarter to take a three-point lead into the fourth.

It could have been a one-point Sixers lead.

The second, and much more important moment that caused the loss, came after Paul Pierce fouled out with a lot of time remaining in the fourth (over four minutes.)

Thaddeus Young, who hasn't played big minutes all season, but somehow gets time and the ball in the biggest moment of the Sixers season, passes the ball to Kevin Garnett, who unfortunately, has been playing for the other team all seven games.

Boom, eight straight (and 11 in the last four minutes) for Rondo, and ball game.

Great job Doug.

I understand your intention with Rondo, make him beat you with his jumper. But with the shot clock winding down to two seconds and Rondo having the ball, you have to step up and put a hand in his face. That 27-foot three-pointer capped it.

Why was Young in the game? Who knows. Why did Jodie Meeks hardly play? Good question. Where was Vucevic all series after seeing consistent minutes (and clutch minutes) during the regular season (15 minutes a game regular season, 3 MPG post-season)? I don't know.

Doug Collins did some commendable things with this team this year. They had no business being in game 7 against the Celtics with the chance to go to the conference finals for the first time in 11 years. But they were there. And they blew a great opportunity.

75 points.

And Iggy...well, more of the same.

After hitting a huge three to cut the C's lead to 71-68,  he takes one meaningless shot attempt in the final 4:30. One shot attempt. He came up big in game 6, why not shoot the ball in game 7?

$13,531,750 and a 38% shooting percentage in the playoffs. At least give us a terrible shooting percentage when we need you the most. Show the effort. (By the way, great cutesy layup attempt on the Pierce foul instead of taking it up strong)

Great things were done by the Sixers this season, who had some luck (Rose, Noah, Allen injuries) in their playoff run. But changes still need to be made. Iggy and Collins to name two. The rest looks quite alright for a bright future.

I am not thrilled to be rooting for Boston in the next series, and I give them about a 10% success rate. But seeing LeBron fail is a must. If Bosh is healthy, they won't fail this round. If he's not, and Brandon Bass plays like he did against the Sixers, Boston's odds go up. But I still wouldn't put money on the C's, and I am a betting man.

The worst part is that I get to go back to Boston in a few weeks and see all the people I can't wait to see who will say things I can wait to hear, about how great the Celtics are/were in their win over the Sixers. And what I have experienced over the past 3 years is that you simply cannot talk rationally about sports with the over-biased Boston fan-base (for the most part, I'll give exception to Joel Mode on this one.)

The Celtics, although advancing to their third conference final in five years, are far from a great team. They won this series when D-Rose got hurt. And like watching Tom Brady flop in the Super Bowl and hearing every excuse instead of the truth, Boston sports fans will regard what just happened in the Sixers/Celtics series as something it wasn't- a great accomplishment.

And one last jab at the Boston 'faithful.'

I will not end this mornings blog with an 'at least we have the Phillies,' like I've heard so many times in the past three years, when referring to a Boston franchise's end-of-season failure.

Although glad to have the Phillies, the true failure of the moment is the Sixers loss. It was preventable, but they lost. So yes, Philadelphia, basque in the failure, don't forget it, and hope to grow from it. Because it happened, and it sucks. But please don't go back to being fair-weather Sixers fans. Don't lower yourself to the standards of other sports cities.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Garnett Was Right...

Truer words have never been spoken about the 76ers fans.

The 76ers are Philadelphia's lost professional sports franchise out of the four major sports.

No matter how bad the Eagles and Flyers are, they still sell out every game, or almost every game.

The Phillies, although back on the path to the mid-90's, have escaped the fair-weather fan image for at least the time being.

But the Sixers didn't have many fans until about 10 days ago.

The young and almost talentless, but somehow bring-out-the-worst in opposition Sixers, ranked 18th in capacity attendance all season.

And for some reason I am having a really difficult time finding other game-by-game attendance statistics, but I do know, that I went to a game at home against Boston in early March, and it was no problem paying for $15 seats and walking down to a few rows up from courtside.

The team was nothing special, and the fans treated them as that. And they blew out the Celtics that night.

The point I am trying to make here, is all of a sudden, the Sixers are in the midst of accomplishing some pretty remarkable things, and now they have fans. The Phillies, Flyers and Eagles, regardless of playoff position, would have had fans all year.

So yes, KG was correct.

However...he's and idiot.

Just like Cole Hamels should feel stupid for 'initiating' Bryce Harper. Before last night the Nationals have been initiating the Phillies, winning 13 of the last 16 contests.

Garnett should know better. The veteran is in the midst of a last-ditch NBA title run, and gave the fans and the Sixers unnecessary added energy with his true comments, forcing a winner-take-all game 7.

But you do have to admit, as awful as the Sixers look (and their playoff field goal percentage proves how bad they are) they have a knack for making their opponents play awful as well. The result- a terrible game, but a chance to win.

The Allen Iverson entrance was fantastic, similar to the Sylvester Stallone recognition at Lincoln Financial Field's first game. It got the fans fired up, got the team fired up, and the Sixers landed 82 points...But that's ok, because the Celtics landed just 75.

The verdict for game 7- The Sixers will win if they initiate a sloppy game. Turn the ball over, miss free throws, foul, do whatever it takes to make the Celtics drop to their level.

But know this-if we have learned anything from this playoff run, you can never count the Sixers out-with or without true-fan support.

PS- A good friend of mine and extremely biased Boston sports friend Sean Donahoe said after game 2 the Celtics should have been up 2-0 and the series would be over soon (in Boston's favor). He can join Hamels and Garnett in the idiot bin. The first two games were decided by a point a piece, with the Sixers leading all of game 1 then losing at the end. And although I agree, on paper, the Celtics are the better team. They possess more talent. However, they aren't in 2008 anymore. They aren't that great. Remove yourself from your hometown for a second, then make a comment.

PSS- A bit of an update. I am sorry for the lack of blogs lately. I have been digging holes and tearing down walls, then gracing various gyms with my presence in the evening. Which justifies my monthly student loan payments even more. I will be in Malta the next few days for my first wedding anniversary, and will be hard fought to catch game 7, but I will try my best, of course. If I am successful, I may not be granted a second wedding anniversary. So the Sixers better win.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

So Close Sixers!

They had the Celtics, and much of the sports media, and myself, questioning just how good this 76ers team really is.

Yes, the Bulls didn't have D-Rose, or Noah for a bunch of the series, but still, the Sixers beat the top-seeded Bulls in six games.

Then the athletic bunch of youngsters managed to steal home court advantage from Boston, and very well could have been up 2-0. (Yes, they very well could have been down 2-0, but they have recently improved in close games.)

But that all came crashing down last night. Not only did the Celtics steal back control of the series, but they showed they are the better team. The first two games had people questioning who was actually better, but last night, with a 25 point lead late in the fourth quarter, on the road, and a shooting percentage over 50%, the Celtics showed their dominance.

The Sixers managed to shoot 40%, a respectable number for them, but Brand (1-for-6), Turner (1-for-10) and the near absence (yet again) of Andre Iguodala (six shot attempts) had no answer for a skilled Celtics offensive attack.

Let me point out one more intricate point before moving on.

In my non-expert opinion, an NBA basketball game usually has the better overall team emerge in the second and third quarters. The first quarter is a lot of energy and emotion. The fourth quarter everything changes, foul trouble, free throw shooting, clutch shooting, junk time etc. But the second and third quarters, the game is a bit more settled and structured, and therefore the better team usually shows its teeth at this point. Again, I don't know anything, this is just my opinion.

The Sixers lost the second quarter 32-16 and lost the third quarter 29-17 last night. They lost the middle of the game by 28 points. And lost the whole game by a lot.

In game 1 they lost the middle of the game by six points-and lost the game. In game 2, they won the middle of the game by 12 points, and won the game. Could be a coincidence, but I think there is something to this underdeveloped theory.

And now for a brief Phillies comment.

After winning three games in a row for the first time this season, the Phillies actually managed to make it four games and I must say I am a big impressed.

Still in last place, but only by 4.5 games, the Phillies are once again at .500 and look to have a winning record for the first time since starting the season 1-0.

Carlos Ruiz. What a year so far. And Placido Polanco has stepped it up.

But could this team be good? Yes, they could be good. They are 19-19 with practically a non-existing Jimmy Rollins (.232 BA, .282 OBP), Shane Victorino (.248 BA, .298 OBP) and a partially existing Hunter Pence (.248 BA, only partially because of his nine home runs.) If these guys wake up a bit, and stop making clutch late-game errors (Pence, twice) they could be a 90-win team and earn a playoff position.

But I wanted to examine just one more Phillies point before I go.

This was addressed on my facebook page and ended up involving a banter with Chad Painter (president of the Hunter Pence fan club) and my dad (president of the Rheal Cormier fan club).

My heart goes out to Cliff Lee. He is one of my all time favorite Phillies, based solely on his gritty 2009 playoff performance, and his willingness to go out and pitch in game 6 or 7 of the World Series on extremely short rest.

He is winless this year. His ERA is 1.95. He gets no support and Hunter Pence blew it for him against the Astros two games ago. (Yes, Chad Qualls is an awful pitcher as well and doesn't deserve to step foot on a big league mound and is credited with half of the blown save situation.)

As I battled my 5th or 6th Danish rain storm of the day, Cliff Lee battled his 5th or 6th should-have-won-that-game situation. Finally, a 3-1 lead in the ninth, after eight stellar innings.

And Pence bounces a ball out of his glove while the runner fully intended to stop at third. Add that to a 10-inning 0 run no decision and you have a guy that has to be questioning his move to Philly.

My point-pull Hunter Pence late in the game, like you pulled Pat Burrell late in the game with a lead. There is no need for home run power in the field when your defense is questionable. I don't have the stats or dates in my head, but Pence has looked more than confused at least a few times in right field this year. And you have to love the National League in this situation. The double switch is a beautiful thing.

'But Hunter Pence won the game with a walk-off home run!'


Win the game in nine innings with high percentage baseball.

Then we can start to talk playoff run.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Double Trifecta

A few weeks ago I posted about a Philadelphia trifecta-when the Phillies, Flyers and Sixers all won on the same night.

Now I write about the opposite trifecta, and a second opposite trifecta.

In wake of Tuesday's Flyers, Sixers, Phillies losses, the only team that has given the city of brotherly love any glory in the past 30 years has simply taken an awful plunge to the cellar of the NL East.

I'll start of by saying that the Flyers did what was expected of them-they bowed down gracefully to a better team with better goaltending and better defense. The Giroux suspension didn't help, but there are plenty of goalscorers on that team. Good defense beats good offense, hands down. The Flyers explosive offense from the first round was muted by a solid New Jersey defense and a rock solid playoff goaltender in net.

Anyone who didn't see that coming is an obvious optimist. I'm sure that has gotten you pretty far in life, but in the world of sports, it doesn't do anything unless you are the athlete.

The Sixers. God. I hate watching them. 28% from the field in the first half. 34% on the game...again. How bad are these guys? There is absolutely no skill on the court. But somehow they are still in the drivers seat. All I have to say is good riddance. We are forced to be fans because they are the Philadelphia 76ers. But the inevitable is looming. Beat the Bulls, exceed expectations, then go back to feeding Andre Iguodala loads of undeserved, uncompensated money. Draft another 'athlete' late in the draft and try to make him a scorer, and be a 7/8 seed for the next 5 years. That's what we have seen for the past 10 years, and that's what we will continue to see.

Oh and I am sick of the announcers praising Doug Collins during timeouts for his words to his team. Has anyone ever seen the players during an NBA timeout? They couldn't be further away from what the coach is saying. Most of them don't even look at the coach. Doug Collins points out the obvious and ra-ra's his team, and the commentators praise him for being such a great coach.  He's not. He never has been. I don't understand why he was hired in the first place. Iguodala continues to shoot three's instead of driving, he doesn't shoot any free throws, and the team still settles for off-balance jumpers.

I am no NBA coach, but I don't think I have to be-those aspects obviously don't work for the Sixers, so play to your strengths.

If you can't tell, I am not a Doug Collins fan. And I honestly don't see how commentators, who are paid pretty well to give a good analysis of a game, can think so highly of him. He's a nice guy, he says the right things (which no one listens to) and he sometimes fires up his players. But he's a sub .500 coach, never won a title, and his last two coaching gigs have been slightly below mediocre. Which, fittingly, is what the 76ers organization has settled for the last 10 years.

And finally...the Phils.  After getting swept by the Mets, that's right, the Mets, the Phighting Phils are four games below .500. All three games they were leading in the sixth inning.

Charlie Manuel held a closed door meeting, and I'm glad he did. Unlike Doug Collins, I think Charlie Manuel has a good grasp of how to coach a championship team and how to push the right buttons.

Hunter Pence needs a kick in the ass sometimes to re-gain focus. How do you drop that fly ball in a clutch situation with your team about to get swept? How do you swing at EVERYTHING? It works for Vlad, but you aren't Vlad. (Don't get me wrong, I really like Hunter Pence, but he does need a wake up call.)

Kyle Kendrick should be playing in a beer softball league somewhere.

But the most troubling thing about the start to this teams season is the effort. If Charlie Manuel has a problem with his guys effort, it must be bad. He always praises their effort, but now he's calling them out on it. What a complete 180- and I believe him, they aren't putting forth the effort. There is no urgency. There is no do-or-die attitude. There is no - "let's do this" aspect like there has been in the past.

But realistically, this has been gradually occurring since the 2008 World Series title. One round worse every year. I guess this is the year they don't make it to the playoffs.

It's a sad fall, and there is still time. But there's nothing worse than die hard fans not getting die hard effort from their team. The Phillies won't have three of the best pitchers in the league for long. And if there is a push, this must be the year. But this team isn't nearly good enough to not put forth full effort.

And Cole Hamels is an idiot. Don't be cocky when your team is in last place.

It's so frustrating to be a Philadelphia sports fan. Not just now, but for many many years. Living in Denmark, I am swarmed with soccer. It's on TV, it's the only sport anyone ever talks about, and it's the only sport I can do watch live.

I don't want to be a soccer fan. Please, please, please Philadelphia-give me something to watch!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Sunday Funday

What a Sunday...

The Phillies won-who cares, they lost the series and let the Nationals believe they are the best team in the NL East.

The Sixers won-who cares, both teams are pathetic and they have no chance in the second round, should they make it.

The Flyers lost- and now everyone who thought the style of hockey from the Pittsburgh series would hold up throughout the playoffs feels stupid. And they should.

I am a true believer that pitching wins baseball championships, defense wins football championships, and goaltending wins hockey championships. Sorry, Bryzgalov doesn't fit that mold. When a team jumps to a 2-0 lead early, on the verge of tying the series, you have to come up big in the net, to preserve at least a one-goal lead going into the second period. Give your team a boost. Don't get me wrong, the defense looked awful. And Lilja is a mess. And Carle and Coburn continue to disappoint. And I don't think they're missing much with Pronger being out. But Henrik Lundqvist and Martin Brodeur and whoever the Capitals goalie is (he's good by the way) seem to always be able to make a big play when their teams need it.

The Devils lost game 1, in many opinions, due to fatigue from their first round series. Now the skill of each team is showing. The Devils are better. The Pittsburgh series was a joke, obviously. All the Flyers fans got all emotional saying they are going to win the cup. I even saw some Facebook banners saying the Flyers will win the cup. Then all the thumbs up underneath. Then all the 'ra ra' comments.

Get serious.

If you are judging a cup champion based on the absence of goaltending in the first round, you're an idiot.

I think the Rangers would sweep the Flyers. But they won't get the chance to.

Cole-Good job. Make a 19 year old phenom hate the Phillies, then play him 18 times a year. Great.

Jrue Holliday- start 1-for-13. Then somehow bring your team back to win late in the game because the Bulls are awful too. D-Rose would have had his team up by 20 at that point and your 'heroic' threes would mean nothing.

However, I do like the Sixers making it to the second round and exceeding expectations. What are the chances they make Boston look stupid? Meh.

Friday, May 4, 2012

A tale of two minutes

As I will almost certainly always do, I sacrificed a good nights sleep on the eve of my first real day of work in Denmark to watch the Philadelphia sports games. At 4:51 AM, I am now writing my blog, in the wake of a rather surprising yet unconvincing Sixers win and a Ruben Amaro Jr. Phillies loss.

Within two minutes of the Sixers dramatic win, the Phils let the Nationals fans feel like they accomplished something on Take Back the Ballpark night. Thanks Phils-let the first place Nats feel like they belong there.

But lets start with the Sixers. And please excuse my lack of punctuation, I am typing on my wifes laptop and its a long story but I dont know where the apostrophe is.

This is a terrible team. They are a bunch of great athletes but terrible decision makers, terrible shooters, and terrible rebounders. Fortunately for them, the Bulls without D-Rose are worse. Finishing on a 19-2 run with most of those points coming from the line showed just how stupid the Roseless Bulls are.

The Sixers have a unique combination of unskilled players, led by the most unskilled of all, Andre Iguodala. If you have been reading my blogs at all, you know I cant stand the guy. I swear, when he makes a jump shot it is simply luck. Every shot is missed in a different way from the previous one. The arc, the spin, the release and the  jump are different in every shot. I thought for sure the Sixers ruined their chances when he chose to hoist a 3-pointer just inside of 3 minutes left instead of driving a wide open lane with his team down 1 and on the comeback trail. Of course he missed, but the naive and un-phased youthful Sixers responded by capitalizing on the stupidity of the newfound - ``Baby Bulls.``

The Sixers cant hit a jump shot to save their lives, so the Bulls gave them another way to win: they put them at the line. Philly hit their free throws, no thanks to Iguodala who will-for some reason- always choose to take the open jumper instead of draw a foul driving the lane. ``But he always gets alley oops``. Yes, uncontested. The man is afraid of what all the greats are capable of-driving the lane and making a play.

Somehow, Doug Collins found a way to get his team in position to win the game. And the lifeless without Rose Bulls, complied. Earlier I said the Sixers had no chance against the Bulls even without Rose. I gave Tom Thibodeau too much respect. The series may go 7, but the Sixers do have a legitimate chance. But dont count on 79 points and 34% shooting to win anymore games.

The Phils- Got help em. They kick fight and claw their way back to .500, even with Roy Halladay pitching terrible in his last few starts-even without Jimmy Rollins remembering how to swing a bat. But they just dont have the talent offensively. I think most people watching that game knew that when the Nationals tied it in the 8th, they were going to win the game. If the Phillies desperately need a run, they just wont get it. They didnt even come close.

The blame for that is Ruben Amaro. Not Charlie, not the aging players, but Amaro. You cant cook dinner if you dont have a hot plate. Amaro is providing his organization cold leftover sandwiches from 2008s banquet.

Schwimer did look good until the 11th when he just didnt have the juice left. I give him credit, I think he is awful, but he threw 58 pitches and gave his team a chance. But they never really had a chance when the game became tied in the 8th.

The Phillies fell to 0-4 in extra inning games, and I dont see that trend changing.

But Id like to thank the Sixers. They saved a tough two days for the Philadelphia faithful, after the Flyers overtime loss on Thursday night. The Philly sports teams arent helping my sleep schedule, and Sunday night will certainly kill me, but Ill be awake, entertaining the 3 or 4 of  you that actually read these ramblings of mine. 5:13 AM. Good morning.