The700Level

Now can the Sixers try not blowing the lead in the first place?

usat-jj-redick-spurs.jpg

Now can the Sixers try not blowing the lead in the first place?

Three straight wins for the Philadelphia 76ers! This one came against Brett Brown's old club, the San Antonio Spurs -- his first. Not as impressive considering Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Rudy Gay were all sitting in this one, but the Spurs are the Spurs, and you had to imagine this wasn't going to be an easy one regardless.

Still, wouldn't you know it? The Sixers lured us into think it might be that simple, getting up to a 16-point lead in the third quarter -- maybe this time they could just kinda lean on the Spurs until coach Gregg Popovich pulled the plug and we could coast to our first easy W since Thanksgiving? LOL nah. The Spurs came back to tie and even creep ahead, but Ben Simmons hit some big free throws down the stretch, J.J. Redick hit a crucial wing jumper with under a minute to go, and Philly was able to just barely hang on for the 112-106 victory. 

Good stuff, and the defense was particularly stout down the stretch -- anchored as always by Joel Embiid, who was gonna miss this one with a sprained hand, until he wasn't -- but man, these late third-quarter swoons have just gotta stop if this team is gonna do anything of value this season. 

Part of it is a lack of depth, as once Embiid and Redick go to the bench, it's remarkably difficult for this team to score right now -- especially with defenses figuring out how to deny Ben Simmons easy half-court looks and Robert Covington still slumping badly beyond the arc. Maybe it's on Brett Brown to figure out a way to stagger minutes more effectively, or maybe we just badly need Markelle Fultz in the rotation. But something's gotta change with the Sixers' inability to hold leads if it wants to still have a non-deceased fanbase by the time they get in or near the playoffs. 

But again, cant be too upset, because they actually did hold onto this one. Though LaMarcus Aldridge was seemingly having his way with the Philly defense after being largely shut down in the first half, the Sixers held San Antonio without a field goal for the game's final two minutes, as they were able to get some light separation and maintain for the victory. Perhaps most importantly, the Sixers took care of the ball late, without a turnover in the final seven and a half minutes, and just 13 for the game -- well under the team's average. Much easier not to give the game away when you're not giving the ball away first. 

And also, shout out to J.J. Redick. Our hired sharpshooter has become something of a punching bag for Sixers fans, due to his seeming proclivity for missing shots and/or fumbling the ball in critical situations, but he hit the biggest shot in this one -- that final-minute long two to put Philly up two buckets -- and was generally aces, scoring 20 on 6-12 shooting, with four assists and just one turnover. His defense is still occasionally lacking, but offensively, he's been pretty much as advertised -- since missing two games with a hamstring injury, he's averaged 21 a game on 49% shooting from the field and from three with under a TO a game, and now leads the Sixers in 3PT% (40.2) and ranks second in scoring (17.2 PPG).

Ultimately a good win, though we'll see if it ends up costing us Embiid for any further length of time: Our star center was initially ruled out of the game with a sprained hand, saying he couldn't shoot with it, but after warmups changed his tune and was suddenly active for the contest, putting up a typically spectacular 21-11-4-4 (with a +16 for the game) and even hitting a couple jumpers, even if he occasionally looked a tad reluctant to shoot from the outside. 

Will the short-term push have long-term detriment for JoJo? Certainly hope not, as the schedule stays tough for Philly from here (Detroit, Boston, Toronto, at Boston, Milwaukee), and the Sixers still have work cut out for them climbing back into the playoff picture at 18-19. ("Just got to keep tabs on it and hope that gets better," was Embiid's comment on the hand post-game, saying that blocks and rebounds were mildly painful.) 

Still, three wins in a row is nothing to take for granted for a team that just dropped five straight and is still ailing a little. Thanks to Pop for giving us the head start in this one -- I'm sure his old protege will owe him a nice bottle of red in appreciation. 

The Process is ready for primetime

The Process is ready for primetime

Basically, you saw everything you'd want to see from Ben Simmons, Dario Saric and Joel Embiid during the Rising Stars Challenge on All-Star Friday night, as they kept doing what they've basically done all February: winning. 

Ben Simmons was electric all over the court, ending with 11 points (5-5 FG, mostly dunks), six boards, a game-high 13 assists and a team-high four steals. A still-locked-in Dario Saric was the beneficiary of a handful of those dimes, ending with 18 points (7-11 FG, 4-7 3PT), three boards and five assists. 

Joel Embiid had an underwhelming stat line in his thankfully clipped playing time (just eight minutes after sitting out Wednesday's game — we'll see him more on Sunday), ending with just five points and two boards, and not exactly displaying the defensive dominance we're accustomed to from our big man. But the five points came on back-to-back possessions in the third, where JoJo nailed a top-of-the-break three and then scored on a dunk following a Fultzian spin move to the basket, showing the range of his skills in an appropriately breathtaking (and Internet-slaying) manner. 

And of course, the Sixers — I mean, Team World — won handily, outscoring Team USA in every quarter and ultimately triumphing 155-124. Even though Sacramento's Bogdan Bogdanovic took home MVP honors on the night for his white-hot shooting night (26 points on 9-16 FG, including a handful of Steph Curry-esque extended pull-up triples), I thought Simmons was the best all-around player on the floor, another thumb in the eye of the All-Star committee that snubbed him (four times!) for the proper game on Sunday night. 

Perhaps more importantly, the Sixers' presence just dominated the game altogether. Hell, they made up 3/5 of Team World's starting lineup — no other team had more than two representatives, across both squads, though the Lakers would have were Lonzo Ball available — and in the broadcast booth, the TNT guys couldn't stop talking about Embiid all night, comparing him to Hakeem and debating whether they'd ever seen a big man of his versatility before. 

And to think, this year they'll actually be represented on Saturday and Sunday, too. Hopefully Ben and Dario get a nice, relaxing All-Star break from here — they've certainly earned it — and now, it's Embiid's spotlight. The Process is ready for primetime, baby, and longtime Trusters should make sure to enjoy this moment as much as JoJo himself undoubtedly will. 

Chris Long defends LeBron James after attack from Fox News host

ap-chris-long.jpg
AP Images

Chris Long defends LeBron James after attack from Fox News host

Chris Long is beloved by Philadelphians for much more than rocking a full-lenghth faux fur during the Eagles' Super Bowl championship parade. Most in Philly respect Long because he is one to speak his mind on whatever topic he sees fit. He's also a man of action, not just talk.

So when Fox News host Laura Ingraham attacked LeBron James and Kevin Durant for expressing their views on Donald Trump, Long stood up for his fellow athletes.

"Keep the political commentary to yourself, or as someone once said, 'shut up and dribble,'" Ingraham said.

As someone who hears "stick to sports" on a regular basis, this commentary hit close to home for the Eagles defensive end.

Long took exception and wanted to point out some of the people Ingraham's own network has on for their own political commentary. He launched into a Twitter thread pointing out some of the political experts.