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Sixers fans deserved a blowout win

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Sixers fans deserved a blowout win

Nearly halfway through the NBA season, we finally got it: the win easy enough to (almost) make up for all the hard ones. The Philadelphia 76ers got out to an early lead against the Detroit Pistons in the first quarter, which grew to a sizable lead in the second, which ballooned to blowout proportions in the third, which stayed as such during a fourth quarter in which the Sixers' stars didn't play a second.

Final score: Sixers 114, Pistons 78. How sweet it is. 

And the best part? Well, the best part of owning the Pistons by 36 is always just owning the Pistons by 36 — any more of a beating and we'd require a guest solo from Eddie Van Halen at halftime — but the second-best part was that all of the starters played well. 

J.J. Redick continued his hot streak, scoring 21 on just 11 shots, with a team-high +34 for the night. Robert Covington shook off a shaky start to hit three big second-half threes to ensure that this one would be a laugher in the fourth. Dario Saric had a casually effective 11-6-3, with another solid night from deep (2 of 4). And Joel Embiid, playing against old foe Andre Drummond, anchored an ironclad Sixers D in the first half, and put up 23 and nine in just 25 minutes — seemingly scoring at will at the end of the third, just so he could be sure to get his numbers before an inevitably inactive fourth. 

But the story from this one was, of course, Ben Simmons. The Fresh Prince was dominant early in this one, hitting his first five shots on a variety of creative and aggressive moves, not exactly hitting or even testing jumpers, but expanding his repertoire to include the little push shots, floaters and bankers that Simmons needs in his arsenal to be an effective scorer without a proper working jump shot. His offensive forcefulness also opened passing opportunities that had been largely closed to him in recent games, ending with 19 and nine on 9 of 13 shooting, with a pair of blocks and steals each. It's been a while since we'd seen Ben look as intimidating as he did in the season's first month, but with the point guard averaging a 22-6-6-3-2 on 57 percent shooting over his last three, Scary Simmons appears to have returned.

And look man, we were owed a game like this. We haven't gotten a win that could accurately be described as "comfortable" since Thanksgiving. The Sixers aren't the Warriors, but they aren't go-months-without-relaxing bad, either. Eventually the Ballers were gonna break loose for a win that was never in doubt, and finally on Friday, we got to close this one out with Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, James Michael McAdoo and Justin Anderson (welcome back!) hoisting triples. About friggin’ time. 

So the Sixers have won four in a row, battled back to .500, and are finally back in the playoff picture, sitting at eighth in the East with their 19-19 record. What do they earn for their achievement? Five days of rest and a ticket to London, where they'll play the Celtics next Thursday afternoon. 

Maybe not the best timing for the suddenly gelling Sixers to go most of a week without playing, but five days off to rest Joel's aching limbs — and give Markelle Fultz the practice reps to hopefully get him back in the fold shortly after the team's return Stateside — won't be the worst thing. The Sixers have righted the ship on their seemingly adrift season, but the waters stay rocky from here, with four straight against the cream of the East: Boston (twice), Toronto and Milwaukee. Then again, this is Sixers January — the month of utmost Process invincibility — so perhaps it's the rest of the East that should be fearful at the moment. 

The Roots rocked, peak Pederson, and marvelous Merrill

The Roots rocked, peak Pederson, and marvelous Merrill

The Eagles are going to the Super Bowl.

Again, that's really fun to type. And there was so much fun to be had on Sunday when the Birds beat up on the Vikings to win the NFC Championship.

In the spirit of truly having a blast watching yesterday's game and partying on Broad Street after, here's some of the killer content the Eagles shared on their social media. Their social team was as red hot as Nick Foles. Tough to beat good access. This stuff is just fun to relive.

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Doug Pederson's postgame speech. The look on his face after he says it! Goosebumps.

The Roots! Many fans at home were bummed that the FOX telecast did not show The Roots halftime performance. Thankfully, you can watch it in full below. It ends with a fantastic rendition of the Eagles' fight song.

The Merrill Reese Cam. Needs no description.

Nick Foles just one more thing Chip Kelly got wrong

Nick Foles just one more thing Chip Kelly got wrong

Imagine having ever doubted Nick Foles. Well, OK, that puts you in a group with roughly 99 percent of the general public. But imagine having ever traded Foles away, thinking he wasn’t good enough to get the Eagles to the Super Bowl.

There are a select few talent evaluators on the face of this earth who have gone so far as to actually get rid of Foles, and just one man who swapped him for another quarterback. Take a bow, Chip Kelly. Your brief tenure as coach of the Eagles and even briefer stint as personnel czar only continue to look worse with time.

It’s not news Kelly was a failure as an NFL head coach or that his one year as the Eagles’ general manager was disastrous. Fans had to relive one mistake after another as vice president of football operations Howie Roseman spent the last two years undoing the damage, move by move.

Yet, little else was thought of Kelly’s call to send Foles packing, until now. To the contrary, it was one of the few decisions where the disgraced coach appeared justified. It took Foles less than one season to flame out with the Rams and wind up a journeyman backup. Anybody who thought it might be a bad idea at the time had no room to talk.

Now that Foles has done his part to guide the Eagles to a conference championship, it’s time to revisit that decision. And at the time Kelly traded Foles, he had a 14-4 record in his previous 18 starts. He had set an NFL record with a 27-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio in 2013 (since broken by Tom Brady). He walked off the field with the lead in a wild-card playoff game.

Maybe Foles was a victim of playing behind a patchwork offensive line in 2014 when he turned the ball over 13 times in eight games and suffered a season-ending injury. Maybe he seemed like a flash in the pan with the Rams because there was no talent around him in an offense that finished no better than 21st in the league from 2007 to 2016.

Maybe Foles has been pretty good all along, and Kelly and all the doubters were simply wrong. Actually, that’s a fact.

Not only did Kelly send Foles packing, he dealt him for Sam Bradford, who, ironically, was sitting on the opposite sideline in the NFC Championship Game. Bradford may, in fact, be more talented but was coming off consecutive ACL tears and hadn’t played competitive football in nearly two years. Bradford, who was on the Vikings’ sideline because he got hurt again.

It wasn’t even Foles for Bradford straight-up. Kelly agreed to send second- and fourth-round draft picks in the deal, too, getting only a fifth in return. Like almost all of his moves, this has not aged well.

Kelly traded a potential franchise quarterback, a guy who had won him a lot of games, who looked like he could win in the postseason. A perfectly safe, reliable option, if not exactly oozing greatness — all for a glorified lottery ticket.

Bradford was fine. If he could stay healthy, he would probably prove, like Foles, he never had a shot while playing for those awful Rams teams.

But was Bradford worth the gamble? Opinions were mixed at the time, but that’s because, like Kelly, there were a lot of folks who were ready to give up on Foles. Three years later, it was just one more needless, horrendous decision.

Fortunately, the universe has a way of correcting itself sometimes. Or maybe that’s just Roseman hard at work, the other enormous mistake in Kelly’s NFL tenure that went largely glossed over. Whatever. The Eagles are going to the Super Bowl, with Foles at the helm, and Kelly is back to coaching college football — which is the way it always should’ve been.