The700Level

No more blown leads this weekend, please

usa-tj-mcconnell-dive.jpg
USA Today Images

No more blown leads this weekend, please

Every Philly fan's greatest fear for this Sunday should be the following: The Eagles take a one-TD lead into halftime of Super Bowl LII, then score again in the third to go up, say, 21-7. The Eagles D is dominant, and Tom Brady and the Patriots can't seem to develop any rhythm on offense. 

Then, with a couple minutes to go in the quarter, maybe Jay Ajayi fumbles on the Pats' 35. Brady drives New England down the field, converts a couple tough third downs, and connects with Rob Gronkowski in the end zone early in the fourth to cut it to 21-14. Then Nick Foles, consistent all night, suddenly starts missing throws in a quick Philly three-and-out. And from there, it's only a matter of time. 

Feels frighteningly likely, doesn't it? Especially if you've been watching the Sixers this season. 

I should probably start by mentioning that in fact, the Philadelphia 76ers won their basketball game last night, 103-97. It was an important win for the Ballers, snapping a three-game losing streak, moving them back over. 500 and gaining them ground in the crowded East, where Miami now sits at 5th, but just two and a half games ahead of Philly. 

However, if the tone of this game recap is slightly less than triumphant, it's because I had basically written an entirely different one in my head by the beginning of the fourth quarter — about how great Friday nights have been for the Sixers this season, with the Detroit smashing, the San Antonio road beatdown, and now this laugher against Miami, where we were up as many as 26 deep into the fourth quarter. The Sixers weren't even playing uncharacteristically well — Joel Embiid was in the midst of a brutal shooting night from the field — but the defense was stout, the shooters were hitting at a decent clip, and the Heat just didn't appear to have the juice. It looked like even the Sixers would have a tough time blowing this one. 

Well, never let it be said that Brett Brown's crew isn't up for a challenge. With garbage time seemingly approaching, the Sixers quickly let up a 12-0 Miami run that forced Brown to bring back his starters. That slowed the bleeding, but didn't stop it, as the Heat chopped the lead down to single digits with five minutes to go. A couple times, the Sixers looked to have restored order with a bucket or two, only for Miami to surge back even further, cutting the deficit all the way down to four with a half-minute to go — right before the Sixers inbounded the ball right off Robert Covington's fingers, out of bounds. By that point, the sellout crowd of 20,000 had to be taking it personally .

By the grace of Moses Malone, the Sixers managed to hold on from there, largely thanks to Ben Simmons (brilliant most of the night) playing cornerback on the Heat's ensuing inbounds lob and getting the clean pick. Even then, WFC attendees had to sweat Justin Anderson missing two free throws at the other end and Kelly Olynyk getting a tough-but-not-impossible shot at three to cut it to one, which thankfully rimmed out and essentially ended the game. But by then ... yeah. 

The especially annoying thing about the Sixers (and their bench in particular) not being able to hold the line in this one is that we really could've used a fourth quarter off for our starters — namely Joel Embiid, who plans to play in Indiana tonight, the first back-to-back of his still-young NBA career. He played 31 minutes against Miami, which isn't horrible, but if the reserves could've protected the Sixers' considerable lead for just a couple of minutes, he could've ended with just 24, and been daisy-fresh for the Pacers tonight — which, by the way, is a pretty big game for Philly, since Indy currently sits two games above them at 7th in the East, and the Sixers could clinch the season series from 'em with a W tonight.

Look, a win with a mostly blown lead at the end of it is still better than any kind of loss, probably. At season's end, when it comes to figuring out who has to face the Celtics or Cavs in the playoffs and who gets to face the Wizards or this Heat team — and who's outside the playoffs altogether, still a consideration for the Sixers with the Pistons suddenly surging — it won't matter how the wins and losses were accrued. This was still a good outcome for the Sixers to start their February with, especially in comparison to Wednesday's embarrassing showing in Brooklyn. 

But man. Though this Sunday is gonna be a trying one for Philly fans no matter what happens, the one outcome that I will be personally unable to stomach is the one I outlined up top, where we let ourselves believe this is really gonna happen and then the Patriots pull out their usual Indiana Jones-like escape. I'd rather the Eagles lose as badly as the Vikings did two Sundays ago than have them go Full Sixers in their first Super Bowl of the post-Process era. 

If the Birds only go 90% Sixers, as they did last night? I suppose we'd survive. But let's not push it, huh? Let's let this be the karmic flushing of all our city's lead-blowing from its system for the whole weekend. Nothing but straight-line progress and success from here, please. 

Philly won weird Super Bowl bet with Brockton, Massachusetts

kenney-rocky.jpg
Mayors of Philly/Brockton

Philly won weird Super Bowl bet with Brockton, Massachusetts

Mayor Jim Kenney doesn't seem to fully understand the concept of a sports wager.

The general rule I like to follow: if you win a bet, you GET SOMETHING OF VALUE in return.

Now, the Mayor of Philadelphia won a bet with the city of Brockton, Massachusetts, and he has to SEND THEM STUFF.

Makes no sense.

Anyway, I guess the city of Brockton now has to dress their Rocky Marciano statue up in Eagles gear. Lulz. So Mr. Kenney is shipping them some goods. I hope the people of New England had to pay for it.

As Eagles fans know all too well, the official Eagles gear is not cheap.

Did the Sixers Really Win That Game II: The Portis vs. The Process

Did the Sixers Really Win That Game II: The Portis vs. The Process

Geez, if you only watched the ends of the last two Philadelphia 76ers games, you'd think they were owed years' worth of good karma from getting perpetually screwed in the fourth quarter or something. That's right, the basketball gods may have finally approved the Sixers' line of credit: One game (and eight days) after Brett Brown's squad came back from 20-plus down to squeak one past the Miami Heat, the team again pulled out a miracle last night in Chicago, coming from five down in the final minute against the Bulls to win 116-115. 

And boy, did this one feel like a loss, too. After surging out to a 25-7 lead in the first, the Sixers quickly relinquished the majority of their lead to the Bulls, who pulled even in the third and kept the Sixers from ever running away with it. They hit an absurd 18 threes, tying a season high, and two role players posted career highs: starting wing David Nwaba (21 points on 9-14 shooting) and bench forward Bobby Portis (38 points on 15-26 shooting, including a stupefying 6-9 from three). 

Meanwhile, the Sixers went cold down the stretch; Robert Covington missed a clean look at a three, Ben Simmons missed two of two from the line, Joel Embiid dribbled the ball off his foot. When Zach LaVine hit a tough pull-up three to put Chicago up five with a minute to go, and then Cov missed an open baseline two, it almost felt a merciful end to our suffering. 

But somehow, that wasn't it. Portis shot a long two a little too quickly at the other end and missed, and Simmons put back his own miss at the other end for a quick two to cut it to three. LaVine bricked a tough jumper with 17 to go, and J.J. got fouled at the other end to prevent a possible tying three. He made both, and then good ball denial on the ensuing Chicago inbounds led to an Embiid steal and pass to Simmons, who got fouled. 

After going just 4-9 from the line to that point, Simmons calmly nailed both his free throws to put Philly up one. Embiid stonewalled a Portis attempt near the basket at the other end with seconds to go, Denzel Valentine's putback attempt missed, and the game was over, with the Philly outscoring Chicago 6-0 in the final minute to seal the W. 

It was beautiful, man. There aren't going to be many games in this life where you give up 18 threes, allow two opposing players to go for career highs, miss 14 free throws and go down five with 60 seconds to go and still somehow manage to win the damn thing. 

But there also aren't gonna be many teams in this life with a one-two punch as potent as Simmons and Embiid. The latter picked up where he left off at the All-Star Game, scoring 30 (on 11-17 shooting, including 3-3 from deep) with 13 boards, five assists, three steals and two blocks -- just a few box score tallies away from his first 5x5 game. And the former picked up where he left off before the All-Star Game, scoring a career-high 32 (13-18 shooting) to go with seven boards, 11 assists a steal and a block. And maybe most impressive of all? The two had just three turnovers between them in 69 combined minutes. 

Ben and Jo were nothing less than dominant on offense all night. They couldn't turn the faucet off on the Bulls defensively for most of the game -- though aside from a couple slow-ish rotations in the first half, I'm not even sure they played all that badly, rather just paying the three-point defense regression to the mean that Liberty Ballers writer Sean O'Connor had long been warning fans about

But in any event, Embiid finally got the best of Portis in the final minutes, shutting him down on a couple crucial possessions (including the final one), and he made the play of the night on that inbounds steal. When you have two transcendent talents -- as Embiid and Simmons undoubtedly have proven they are, even this early in their careers -- you win a lot of games you probably shouldn't, and gravity was finally on the Sixers' side tonight. 

Of course, the Sixers might not've needed such combined brilliance from their two best players if their supporting cast was able to pick up the slack a little. But no one else was really cooking for Philly last night, and as is becoming a distressingly frequent occurrence this season, Covington hit a couple shots early and then went flat for the rest of the game. Even on the Bulls broadcast, they were talking about how Cov was gonna have to hit shots in the playoffs for the Sixers to have a chance, and they're probably right: We need Rock's defense and smarts out there, but if he's gonna routinely brick open looks in big moments, he's gonna be a liability -- and he's now 6 of his last 29 from deep. 

But that's a concern for another day -- one that seems more and more likely to actually be upcoming at this point. In the meantime, Philly is 31-25, having won six in a row, and with a creampuff game coming up next at home against Orlando, before a three-game roadie against East playoff teams (Washington, Miami and Cleveland) that represents the only really tough swing remaining on the Sixers' schedule. The playoffs seem increasingly probable, and with Simmons and Embiid playing at this level, just about anything seems possible if we get there. Pity the foolish rival execs who still don't trust the process at this point.