Everyone is to blame for Sixers' loss in Portland

Everyone is to blame for Sixers' loss in Portland

Well, Christmas is over. The Sixers seemed to have turned a corner of some sort against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden, holding on in a tight one to emerge with a road victory, but they returned to their old ways in Portland, building leads back up only to have 'em topple down the stretch. More than even the bad Sixers teams of recent years, once this team starts to let the game slip away, the points just start gushing out until the team capsizes altogether. So an 18-point lead late in the third turned into a ten-point deficit a quarter later, and an eventual four-point loss to a Blazers team missing Damian Lillard.  

We don't have enough fingers to point them at all the people responsible. I guess we can start with the refs, since they essentially built an electric fence around Blazers point guard Shabazz Napier and allowed Jusuf Nurkic free reign to manhandle Joel Embiid once Nurk picked up his fifth foul early in the fourth. Portland ending the game shooting 47 free throws (!!!) to Philly's 14, and the most pivotal two for PDX were probably on an absurd flagrant that Embiid was assessed in the fourth on a light shove of his new big-man nemesis. (Nurkic missed both, but Philly's momentum had been officially sapped.) 

And then of course, there's Brett Brown, who continues to play Embiid too many minutes while playing Richaun Holmes zero, and who seems unable to know what levers to pull when the Sixers fall into total late-game disassembly — possibly because no such levers exist. I don't think Brett's mostly to blame here, but the more games like this the Sixers lose — against a middling opponent down their best player, with a big lead late — it's gonna get harder and harder to protect him.

Then there's, you know, the players. Though the final box score line isn't nasty — 29 and 9, with a career-high six threes — this was one of Embiid's weaker games on the season, as he failed to find his groove in the post and was beaten too often by the Blazers' interior passing. I don't mind JoJo shooting threes when that's what he's given, but I don't quite understand why he was perched behind the arc for so much of his game, and it seemed to affect his rhythm late. (Though again, Nurkic's seeming diplomatic immunity in the fourth was also a factor.) 

Everyone else was a letdown late. J.J. Redick hit big shots for three quarters and dissolved in the fourth. Ben Simmons missed a bunch of looks around the rim. T.J. McConnell missed all three of his open looks from deep. Robert Covington left halfway through with a finger injury, which may have ended up a huge factor in this one as the Blazers' perimeter guys went wild in the late third and early fourth. Dario Saric was close to perfect for 47 minutes — 25 points on 10-12 shooting, making up for his Knicks brickiness in spectacular fashion — but then sealed the Sixers' fate on a thoughtless out-of-bounds violation with ten seconds to go. No one was innocent last night. 

So, back to four games under .500, with a bunch of road games still to go, most of which will be harder this one. It might still be too early to talk about any games as must-wins for these Sixers, but at the very least, we're gonna have to have some must-not-blow-in-spectacular-fashions. This one's gonna be tough to get over before 2018.

Is Joel Embiid actually over Rihanna?


Is Joel Embiid actually over Rihanna?

Joel Embiid is officially an All-Star.

Maybe Rihanna is now interested?

Even if so, sorry, RiRi … "The Process" has moved on.

In a postgame interview Thursday night with NBA on TNT's Kristen Ledlow, Embiid was asked about his old crush (a topic which resurfaced that evening).

Any words for the national audience, Mr. All-Star?

"She denied me back then, so why go with her again?" Embiid said with a smile after the Sixers' 89-80 win over the Celtics (see game story). "Might have to pass that and move on to the next one."

Ben Simmons wasn't so sure.

"Shoot for the stars," Simmons said to ESPN. "Shoot his shot."

So, anything else, JoJo?

"Trust the process," Embiid said.

Now that's an All-Star.

Watch Eric Lindros' heartfelt speech

Watch Eric Lindros' heartfelt speech

As the Flyers honored Eric Lindros on Thursday night, raising his iconic No. 88 to the Wells Fargo Center rafters, Paul Holmgren delivered a fitting salute to "Big E."

"You are back where you belong," the Flyers' president said during the pregame festivities. "This time, it's forever."

The crowd erupted before giving way to Lindros.

Just hours before his jersey retirement ceremony, the hockey Hall of Famer was taken aback by the calm before the storm.

"I just walked the concourse and this morning I went for a stroll to see all the shirts in the seats, it’s unbelievable," Lindros said. "This is one of those days that you take for the rest of your life. It's a special moment and you really feel lucky."

Then, Lindros was in awe when he took the podium.

"Wow, ha ha!" Lindros said as the fans roared. "This is crazy. Thank you, so much."

Lindros thanked his family, the organization and, of course, the fans.

Here was the touching finish to his speech, which you can watch in its entirety in the video above, along with the jersey being hoisted above the ice.

Flyers players are lucky to play in a city where the fans truly know the game of hockey, appreciate the little things and are of course rowdy, but also show heart. Like you showed the night that Mario Lemieux returned from his battle with cancer — a standing ovation, very classy and I won't forget it.

It's no secret that when I left Philadelphia, it was under less-than-ideal circumstances. I believe I'm here today, hockey aside, because of two people: my wife, Kina, and Paul Holmgren. Both, in their own ways, have taught me to move on, put in the past any differences of opinion, any hard feelings. It was time to remember the great moments I experienced here in Philadelphia, the friendships I have built in this great city and the respect I have for the fans of this team.

(AP Images)

(AP Images)

(AP Images)