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.

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