The700Level

Life is so much easier with three-point shooting

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USA Today Images

Life is so much easier with three-point shooting

Feels like a pretty long time ago that the Sixers were shooting 40 percent from three, one of the league's best marks. The team has now slumped down to 35.7 — which in past years would still at least be decent on NBA average, but in the sharpshooting days of 2017, leaves the Ballers in the league's bottom third. When things were going right beyond the arc for Philly, they had five regulars shooting over 40 percent themselves. These days, it's down to two: T.J. McConnell, who's only shot 16 triples this season, and Robert Covington.

The Sixers nearly stole their biggest upset win of the season last night in Cleveland, and Covington was one of the biggest reasons why. Aside from playing his typical lockdown D, combining with Ben Simmons to limit LeBron James to 9-23 shooting (LeBron still posted a 30-13-13 triple-double, natch) and picking up four steals in the process, he kept Philly in this one with his shooting, hitting 5 of 7 beyond the arc. But when he dove for a loose ball with the game on the line in the fourth and ended up hurting his back, he headed to the locker room and the game slipped away from Philly — 105-98 final, in favor of the Cavs. 

Philly better hope he's back soon. After a six-game slump in late November that saw him shoot just 23 percent from deep, Cov has been back on target since the calendar flipped to December, hitting 17 of 36 over the team's four games. Rock is essential to the Sixers' lineup even when he's not hitting, but when he is, he's as dangerous a weapon as anyone on the team -- and with the Sixers in the midst of a three-game slide, and a tough Western Conference mini-swing coming up on the schedule, we need all the munitions we can manage. 

RoCo seems likely out for today's game against the Pelicans, so it'll be on the Sixers' other range-lifers to help provide space Simmons (third triple-double last night against LeBron, NBD) and a returning Joel Embiid. JJ Redick had a bounce-back half in Cleveland, finishing 4 of 9 on the night from deep, but the rest of the team struggled, going just 2 of 17 from range between them. (Dario Saric, otherwise sparkling last night, went just 1-6, including a couple late clankers that could've put the game close to out of reach for the Cavs if they'd dropped.) Philly's shot just 31 percent overall from three over their last seven games, and they've lost five of those, despite Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons being mostly brilliant. This team largely goes as their shooting goes. 

So yeah, rest that back up and come back soon, Cov. We're in danger of falling back to .500 with a loss today — which still feels a funny thing to complain about for a team that hasn't even sniffed .500 this late in the season in a half-decade, but c'mon, the Sixers are good now. Let's not let our record start to reflect otherwise.

Yo! Rocky Balboa has a message for Eagles fans

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Stallone/IG

Yo! Rocky Balboa has a message for Eagles fans

If anyone knows about an underdog from Philadelphia finding that storybook ending, it's Sylvester Stallone.

The man who personified the Philly attitude as Rocky Balboa posted a message to Eagles fans on his social media.

Sly is wearing a custom "Stallone" Eagles jersey in the video and tells viewers he's a diehard Birds fan. He shouts out the great Timmy Brown as his favorite player as a kid. 

"I got the ring, I got the jersey, I got the will, I've got the optimism that the Birds are going to fly triumphant over Philly tonight!" Stallone says.

"Keep punching, Philly."

​The original Rock also shared an image of the Rocky Statue near the Art Museum decked out in Eagles gear.

"Now here is a statue that REALLY knows how to dress like a WINNER!!!!! I have tremendous respect for Tom Brady and the Patriots, but “… It’s about how much you can TAKE and keep moving forward! That’s how WINNIN’ is done!!!!” EAGLES BY KNOCKOUT!!!," the caption says.

Reminder — Jay Cutler beat the Patriots this season

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USA Today Images

Reminder — Jay Cutler beat the Patriots this season

At this point, Eagles fans probably don’t need much convincing that their team is going to beat the Patriots in Super Bowl LII. But just in case anybody out there thinks the Eagles have no chance at knocking off the greatest dynasty in NFL history, I would like to introduce Exhibit A into evidence.

A Jay Cutler-led Dolphins squad defeated the Patriots, and not even all that long ago. It happened in December.

Allow me to speak to the skeptics here for a moment. You see, I was once like you. My initial reaction upon learning Carson Wentz had suffered a season-ending injury was something along the lines of, “Well, I still think the Eagles can get to the Super Bowl, but I don’t think they could beat the Patriots.”

The very next day, on Monday Night Football, with Cutler at the helm, the Dolphins went on to upset the Patriots, which should put to rest any notion that it can’t be done.

If Cutler can do it, Nick Foles can.

The Patriots lost only three games all season, and the other two were to playoff teams — the Chiefs and the Panthers — both within the first four weeks of the season. Since then, the Patriots have amassed a 13-1 record, the lone blip in the schedule a 27-20 defeat in Week 14 at Miami.

And in case there is any disagreement over how bad Cutler and the Dolphins are, it was one of only two wins the club had in its final 10 games of the season. The other victory was against the 5-11 Broncos. The Dolphins went on to finish only marginally better at 6-10.

Sure, the Patriots’ loss to the Dolphins is just one game, and it took Tom Brady’s worst performance since they were eliminated from the 2015 postseason to make it happen. In fact, Brady has posted a passer rating worse than his 59.5 against the Dolphins only 21 times in an 18-year career, including playoffs, and just five times this decade.

The Eagles can’t necessarily count on Brady to blink. But it can happen, and their defense is certainly capable of making it happen.

Of course, that was the regular season. This is the playoffs — the Super Bowl, to be exact. Brady is 5-2 in the big game and 27-9 in postseason play overall. He led the Patriots back from a 25-point second-half deficit to win a world championship last year. It’s an entirely different stage.

And yet, Cutler beat them. This team. This season. A guy who literally hopped off his couch in August, whose 6.2 yards per pass attempt ranked 28th out of 32 qualifying quarterbacks, who finished tied for fourth with 14 interceptions in 14 games.

None of which is to say the Eagles will definitely accomplish the same. However, they’re a far better team than the Dolphins, and Foles is a better quarterback than Cutler.

Based on that evidence alone, the Eagles’ chances of upsetting the Patriots in the Super Bowl are a whole lot greater than slim or none.