Two Winning Streaks Enter, Only One Survives

Lebron James was the center attraction Wednesday night.

LeBron James was the center attraction at the Wells Fargo Center.

The circus rolled into town Wednesday night, and I’m not talking about Barnum & Bailey.  With the star-studded Miami Heat returning to the Wells Fargo Center, fans packed the arena, standing 10 people deep around the Heat side of the floor during warm-ups.  Flashes popping and IPhones rolling, the masses called out to their adopted heroes.  Cries of ‘LeBron’, ‘D-Wade’, and ‘Ray Ray’ rang out through the arena. There were even plenty of yells for Birdman (which I thought was pretty mean, Chris Bosh can’t help how he runs).

As the action began in earnest, the fans got what they came for.  LeBron James was all over the floor, getting out in transition, setting up teammates, and driving aggressively to the rim, including a breath-taking reverse dunk that drew an audible gasp from the crowd.  Dwayne Wade went about his business with less flair but equal effectiveness, featuring a lethal mid-range game for which the Sixers had no answer.  However, amid all the hoopla, a funny thing was happening: Philadelphia was hanging around.

Following their win against the Hawks in Miami Tuesday night, the Heat arrived in Philadelphia at 4 in the morning.  Although the Heat were getting some good efforts from their stars and recording some highlight-reel plays, signs of tired legs were there.  The Heat’s outside shooting was off the mark, as they finished just 5-20 from behind the arc.  Also, although Miami finished right at their average with 13 turnovers, a lot of them were sloppy passes that seemed to be fatigue-related.  The air was ripe for an upset and a couple of Sixers did everything they could to oblige.

The biggest star for Philadelphia was Thad Young, who played one of the strongest games of his career, finishing with 24 points, 15 rebounds, and countless floor burns diving for loose balls.  Young displayed his usual brand of hustle while also showing a more refined offensive game, attacking a weak Miami front court time and again with mid-range jumpers and drives to the hoop.  The other catalyst was a rejuvenated Jrue Holiday, who finally returned to his all-star form, for really the first time since the Golden State game.  Holiday played a complete floor game with 21 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists, capping his night with a dunk in the face of LeBron James in the final minutes of the game.

However, down the stretch, the Heat had future hall-of-famers and all-stars who have been battle-tested through world championship runs.  After falling behind by 3, the final 16 Heat points were scored by LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and Ray Allen.  In the other corner, down three with 30 seconds left, Doug Collins drew up a perfect play to get his player a wide open lay-up.  Unfortunately for Sixers faithful, that player was not future hall-of-famer Spencer Hawes, and this happened:

Hawes botchAnd so the Miami winning streak reached 20 games as Philadelphia bowed out in a 98-94 defeat.  I’ll say this though, that fourth quarter might have been the best quarter of basketball the team has played all season.  They went toe-to-toe with the world champs and came a hair shy of victory.  Sadly, they still aren’t giving out trophies for coming up just short, as Philadelphia fans know all too well at this point.


Sixers vs. Heat Game Preview (3/13/13)

File:Aerial photo of mountain hayes and mountain Deborah south side.jpg

Climbing a mountain might be an easier task than beating the World Champs.

The Sixers say hello to some familiar faces, as they get ready to host the Miami Heat at the Wells Fargo Center in the teams’ third meeting in the last three weeks.  Philadelphia played reasonably well against the Heat in the first two games, all things considered, actually leading for most of the game last week in Miami before faltering in the fourth quarter to lose by nine.  The Sixers enter play following perhaps their best performance of the season, in an impressive home victory over the Brooklyn Nets.  Philadelphia received key contributions from a number of players in that contest and will need all hands on deck once again facing a Heat team where LeBron James and Dwayne Wade are far more talented than anyone the Sixers can throw on them.  I could throw any number of stats at you but if you don’t know these are two of the top five players in the league right now, you haven’t been watching NBA basketball this season.

Miami’s winning streak now sits at a remarkable 19 games with especially impressive double-digit victories over the playoff-bound Pacers and Hawks in their last two games.  One positive for Philadelphia may be tired legs for Miami, as they will be traveling on the tail end of back-to-back after facing Atlanta last night in Miami.  However, the Heat are playing probably more confident and relaxed than at any point since the ‘Big Three’ was assembled; their Harlem Shake video from two weeks ago has reached over 40 million hits on YouTube, and though it’s utter ridiculousness, you don’t do those sorts of things unless you like where you are at as a team.  Miami has finally perfected its formula for success and the rest of the league should be on its guard.

Keys to the Game:

  • Take advantage of the thin Miami front court.  If there’s one area where the Heat can be exploited, that would be it.  Thad Young had an outstanding game against Miami last week, scoring 25 points on 12-15 shooting.  He should be attacking Udonis Haslem whenever that match-up presents itself.  If Young can maintain his excellent play of late (18.6 ppg and 9.0 rpg in March), and Spencer Hawes can even approach his performance against Brooklyn, the Sixers might have a shot.
  • Get out to an early lead.  First, there should be a larger than normal crowd on hand to watch the best player in the world.  If Philadelphia falls behind early, the fans will (perhaps rightly) expect yet another loss and will be more concerned with cheering for the Lebron and D-Wade high-wire act.  However, if the Sixers can hang around, enough of the crowd remembers the hard-fought playoff series against the Heat two seasons ago and will back their squad.  Philadelphia will need their supporters behind them if they are to pull off the upset.


Philadelphia continues to play tough but there’s just too much talent on the Heat sideline.  Without Iguodala around anymore to limit him, LeBron James nearly goes off for another triple double against the Sixers.  Miami wins fairly easily to stretch their winning streak to an amazing 20 games, while the Sixers streak ends at a more modest one game.  Philly Fast Break will be on hand at the Wells Fargo Center to take in all the action.

Daily Cup of City 6 (3/13/13)

City 6 Cup 2

Yesterday’s Action

In its regular-season finale, Pennsylvania let a win against the Princeton Tigers slip away, much as they let the ball slip out of bounds time and time again over the course of the game. After entering halftime tied, the Quakers continued turning the ball over, totaling 17 turnovers in the game to just 8 for the Tigers, and falling further behind in an eventual 71-58 defeat. As usual, Ian Hummer was the man for Princeton, scoring a team-high 18 points.  For the Quakers, freshman Tony Hicks finished off a strong second half of the season with a game-high 22 points on 9-19 shooting. Leading scorer Miles Cartwright had a disappointing outing, only tallying 6 points on 2-8 shooting and committing 6 turnovers, although he did record a game-high 7 assists.

Pennsylvania finishes the season 6-8 in conference play, its worst record since 2009-10.  Fortunately, the Quakers picked up some good wins along the way, which should provide valuable experience for a team returning every member of its roster next season.

Today’s Action

7:00 PM: Villanova (19-12, 10-8 Big East) vs. St. John’s (16-14, 8-10 Big East) [Big East Tournament 2nd Round] – ESPN2

Following a huge win against Georgetown, Villanova enters the Big East tournament off the bubble and firmly in the NCAA tournament field.  The last thing the team needs is to drop a game against a reeling Red Storm team and make the tournament committee second-guess itself.  Luckily for the Wildcats, they appear to have earned a good initial draw in this contest.

The Wildcats needed overtime to win their lone meeting with St. John’s back in January, 98-86.  Team leading scorers JayVaughn Pinkston and Ryan Arcidiacono were particularly impressive in the game, combining for 58 points on 15-30 shooting, including 8-15 on three-pointers.  Arcidiacono’s 32 points and 7 made threes were both career highs for the freshman.

St. John’s leading scorer D’Angelo Harrison was an absolute monster for the Red Storm in that game, dropping a career and game-high 36 points behind a 6-12 effort from behind the arc.  Fortunately for Villanova, Harrison will not be suiting up for this contest, as he was suspended by the team for the remainder of the season earlier this month.  The Red Storm have gone 0-3 following Harrison’s departure and in his absence, freshman Jakarr Sampson stands as the only player on the roster averaging double digits per game.  If the Wildcats bottle up Sampson and continue to get to the free throw line as they have all season, they should cruise into the quarterfinal match against Louisville.

2013 Kronum Season Preview: Throwbacks

Expect to see plenty more saves from the Throwbacks, but the offensive end will determine their fortune in 2013.

This is part three in an 8-part series leading up to the 2013 Kronum regular season.  You can also check out parts one and two.

2011 Results: 4-5 Regular Season, 0-1 Playoffs, 5th Place

2011 Leaders:

Throwbacks 2011 Stats

Key Losses: Ryan Hoff (Broken Leg), James Thomas (Relocation), Ryan Yaniak (to Work Horses), Ryan Tressler (to Nimble Jacks)

Key Additions: Brian Marron, Kevin Marron, Lou Martin, Nick Piccari

In today’s world of sports, great offenses get all the hype; fans want to see long touchdown passes, highlight reel dunks, and tape-measure home runs.  Teams that grind out low-scoring victories may do well in the standings, but they rarely get the press.  In that sense, the Throwbacks are literally a reversion to an earlier era.  Defense has always been the cornerstone of the Throwbacks team as Captain Joe Ferrigno instills a defensive mindset and sense of accountability unsurpassed by any team in Kronum.  Much like Wisconsin in college basketball, the team plays the game at a slow pace, limiting the number of total possessions and making the opposition work for good shots.  That formula led the Throwbacks to perhaps the biggest upset in Kronum history last season, becoming the first team to defeat the Nimble Jacks since 2009.  Overall, the Throwbacks led the league in least points allowed, and will likely be at or near the top of that category in the upcoming campaign.

The Throwbacks return 11 players, tied for most roster returnees of any team in the league, so the majority of the roster will only be more experienced within the defensive system.  The team features as fine a quartet of wedgebacks as any in Kronum with Jim Bradley, Steve Botta, James Thomas, and Ryan Hoff (7.6 svpg).  Unfortunately for the blue and gold, that wedgeback unit has taken a couple hits in the offseason.  Hoff suffered a broken leg and is not expected to return until midway through the regular season.  Also, James Thomas moved to Massachusetts and while he will be driving down to play with the team on game days, he may be forced to miss games from time to time.  The team has enlisted solid newcomers at wedgeback in Kevin Marron, a former keeper at West Chester University, as well as Lou Martin and Nick Piccari, who have all looked more than capable during preseason action.  Nevertheless, with their back line unit largely intact, their defense system in place, and quick, disciplined defenders like Ferrigno and ranger Nick Ferraro, the Throwbacks should experience no drop-off on the defensive end.

The main problem for the team last season and the biggest question for the upcoming campaign is whether they can keep up with the opposition on the offensive end.  The Throwbacks were next-to-last in the league in shooting percentage at 36.9%, and last in the league in off-goal percentage at 26.1%.  Bradley was their most efficient shooter at 49.3%, only good for 14th best in the league.  Besides the inaccurate shooting, the main problem for the team was their lack of adaptation to shooting from the cross zone.  The change to four points for shots from that area was a powerful weapon for many teams in the Kronum league.  However, the Throwbacks did not have the roster to take advantage of it, finishing last in the league in both cross shots made (only 25 total on the season) and cross zone shooting percentage (20.7%).

Where will the team turn to improve upon those poor offensive numbers from last season?  One key player will be rookie Brian Marron.  The other member of the ‘twin towers’ with brother Kevin, Marron has displayed a big arm and an ability to score from the cross zone in preseason play.  The Throwbacks will also use their incoming depth at wedgeback to allow some of their incumbent net minders to take on more of an offensive role.  We showed this graphic in our Nimble Jacks preview but bring it back here to point out that wedgeback Steve Botta was the 4th most underutilized player in Kronum.


Botta shot a very respectable 46.9% last season, ranking 13th in the league (min. 40 shot attempts), while also showing a proclivity for hitting rings.  He hit 2 8-point Kronums and 3 rings from the flex zone, both tying team-highs.  The team will look to get him and some of his fellow wedgebacks into more of a ranger role when the situation calls for it.

Going into the 2012-13 season, the Throwbacks have added some interesting pieces to build upon their strong defensive foundation.  Ferrigno is as cerebral as any captain in the game and time will tell whether he can put the pieces together and take the Throwbacks to the next level.

Regular Season Prediction: 5-5 (T-3rd place)

The Throwbacks’ defense will keep them within striking distance every game; they are bound to win their fair share of games and pull off one or two upsets along the way.  Despite some improvement on the offensive end though, they are likely still one big-time scoring threat away from moving into the upper crust of the Kronum league.

Daily Cup of City 6 (3/12/13)

City 6 Cup 2

Today’s Action

7:30 PM: Pennsylvania (9-21, 6-7 Ivy) vs. Princeton (16-11, 9-4 Ivy)

Normally, the last home game of the regular season provides a chance for a team’s fans to pay tribute to the seniors on the team for their efforts over the last four years.  However, the Quakers find themselves in an odd situation, without so much as a single senior on the roster.  Instead, Pennsylvania will try to end on a good note in what has been season of growth for this young squad, and finish .500 in conference play.  To do it, they will have to defeat a solid Princeton Tigers team that handily defeated the Quakers, 65-53, back in January.  In that contest, the Tigers’ T.J. Bray did the bulk of the damage for Princeton going 6-11 from downtown en route to a game-high 23 points.  Princeton may come into play tonight a deflated bunch, having lost 2 games last weekend to lose control of 1st place in the Ivy League and the automatic NCAA tournament bid.

The Tigers generally compete in low-scoring affairs due to a pace among the 20 slowest in all of college basketball.  Do not be fooled by the lack of points though, as Princeton actually sports an efficient offense, ranking top 50 in the league in FG% at 46.2%.  The Tigers funnel their offense through big man Ian Hummer who at 16.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game, leads the Tigers in all three categories.  Look for him to have a big performance in what will likely be his last collegiate game.

Pennsylvania has talent on this young team and has shown the capability this season to win some big games in the Ivy League.  With the entire roster returning next season for the Quakers, it would be great to reinforce the idea that they can beat any of their upper-echelon conference foes on a given night.

Free College Tournament Bracket

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Sixers Scorch the Nets

Sources say Mayor Nutter may or may not throw a parade down Broad St for tonight’s Sixers win.

During this recent stretch of losing by the Sixers, there have been games as a fan you went in thinking they could, or even should, come out on top.  Tonight was not one of them.  Traveling off a tough loss the night before and facing a rested Brooklyn team fighting for playoff position, no one could have realistically expected Philadelphia to produce a victory.  I even heard chants of defense from Brooklyn fans in attendance when the Sixers had the ball during the fourth quarter, so it wasn’t as though home court advantage would come into play.  However, in typical Sixers fashion, they flipped convention on its head and broke a five-game losing streak in a 106-97 victory.

The action started out Monday night much as it has gone of late.  Brook Lopez was on fire in the first quarter, delivering 14 points on 7-9 shooting, as Spencer Hawes let him get out-muscle him down low for easy points in the paint.  Getting out-muscled by Brook Lopez is a lot like letting Kanye West be the bigger man in an argument.  To Spencer’s credit though, he brought his A-game on the offensive end, scoring 10 points in the first quarter on his way to a season-high 24 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists.  He even clamped down on Lopez the rest of game as the big man from Stanford finished with only 19 points total.  Hawes was the player of the game for the Sixers and performed to the level of a 6.5 million-dollar man on this night.

Hawes was certainly not alone for the Sixers as the bench unit got the team back into the game during a 10-2 run in the second quarter.  Dorell Wright was the X-factor off the bench for Philadelphia, draining 3 threes on his way to 13 points in the second quarter alone.  Wright nailed a long 29-footer as the shot click expired with under a minute left in the half to put the Sixers up seven.

As the Sixers continued to stay hot from the field in the second half, the one man they didn’t have an answer for was Brooklyn’s Deron Williams.  Looking noticeably slimmer since the all-star break, Williams played more like his former all-star self.  Time and again, Williams relentlessly attacked the basket, either finishing himself for a game-high 27 points or finding open teammates for a game-high 13 assists.  Luckily for the Sixers, Jrue Holiday got out of his funk a little bit, contributing 15 points on 50% shooting and distributing 11 assists himself.  While it would have been nice to see Holiday do a better job stopping Williams defensively, it was an encouraging sign moving forward for him to play a larger role in the offensive success of the team.

Overall, it was a great team win for the Sixers and the type of victory fans had come to expect in better times.  The team took care of the basketball, got balanced production from a lot different players, and generally acted like they cared about the outcome of the contest.  While it remains to be seen whether this is what fans can expect for the rest of the season, for one night at least, it made for an enjoyable basketball game.

Sixers vs. Nets Game Preview (3/11/13)

Brooklyn owner Mikhail Prokhorov threw a lot of money around to build a slightly above average team, more than the Sixers can say though.

Fresh off another loss in Orlando, the Sixers lick their wounds to return home and take on one of the highest-profile teams in the NBA.  Brooklyn comes into town riding a three-game winning streak, and currently jockeying for position in the upper half of the Eastern Conference.  The Nets currently sit in 4th place, 2.5 games back of second-place New York and 2 games ahead of 5th-place Chicago.  Brooklyn obviously wants to remain at least in 4th place and maintain home court advantage in the first round, but also sees the injuries piling up for the Knicks and feels the team can make a push for that second spot.  Having won their first two meetings against the Sixers, including a 20-point laugher in the teams’ last game in January, Brooklyn likely views tonight’s game as nothing more than a bump in the road.

Brooklyn sports the second-highest payroll in the NBA behind Los Angeles, but generally overpaid for free agent talent and there are certainly between 5-10 rosters I would rather have.  However, after a very slow start to the season that had people questioning whether his best days were behind him, former all-star Deron Williams has picked up his play of late, averaging 23.1 points on 47.2% shooting and 6.9 assists in his last 10 games.  Also, surprisingly, Brook Lopez ranks 5th in the NBA in PER at 24.41, as he sports an efficient offensive game, averaging 18.8 ppg on 51.8 FG% and 76.5%.  He’s also raised his level of play on the glass from prior seasons, averaging 7.1 rpg, almost respectable for a 7-footer but a vast improvement from the 5.9 rpg in 2011 and 3.6 rpg in his injury-shortened 2012 season.

Brooklyn sports the third best free throw rate differential in the league, getting to the line nearly seven times more per game than their opponent.  They may benefit from some ‘star’ calls from the officials but it’s also a mentality the team has in getting to and finishing around the basket, led by Williams and Lopez.  That aspect of the game could be a recipe for disaster who rank dead last in the league in that stat by a wide margin, with the opposition shooting almost eight more foul shots per game.

Keys to the Game:

  • Keep Brooklyn off the offensive glass.  Lopez averages 2.7 offensive rebounds per game and the Sixers’ old friend Reggie Evans leads the Nets at 2.9 orpg.  In their last meeting, Evans grabbed 6 offensive boards on his way to a prototypical Reggie Evans line of 2 points, 23 rebounds.  
  • Help out Thad Young on the offensive end.  The Nets don’t have an athletic shot-blocker on defense so I would look for him to have another productive outing, as well as Hawes to a lesser degree.  However, Holiday and Turner need to get their acts together and provide some sort of assistance in the scoring department.


Although Brooklyn is a team of largely overpaid second-tier stars, they still have far more talent than Philadelphia.  With the Nets entering play rested and the Sixers traveling on the second leg of a back-to-back, it’s hard to see Philadelphia pulling it together to earn the victory.  The Sixers lose easily to further extend is losing streak.

Philadelphia Haunted by Its Past in Defeat

There was no magic in the Sixers’ hats in another defeat.

In a back-and-forth game against a woeful Orlando Magic opponent, the Sixers faltered down the stretch in dropping their 5th straight game and and 12th of their last 13, 99-91.  Two guys with Philadelphia ties did in the Sixers on the evening.  Former Sixer Nikola Vucevic recorded his 35th double-double of the season, 35 more than Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson combined, with 14 points and 17 rebounds.  Vucevic has now averaged over 16 rebounds a game in the teams’ three meetings this season, likely a combination of extra motivation to show his former team what they missed out on and the soft Sixers frontcourt.

The Magic player who did the bulk of the damage was St. Joes alum Jameer Nelson.  Nelson drained five threes on his way to 24 points, in addition to 5 rebounds and 10 assists.  The ex-Hawk was huge in the fourth quarter, orchestrating the Magic offense and hitting two huge threes to stave off Philadelphia runs.  Jrue Holiday had another disappointing showing in what has become a disturbing trend for the all-star guard.  Not only was Holiday unable to shut down Nelson, a player with just the 35th-highest PER among point guards, his outside jumper was again consistently falling short, as he shot just 4-16 on the night for 8 points.  The Sixers aren’t going to win many games with production like that from their on-court leader, even against a struggling Orlando squad.

On the bright side, Thad Young did everything in his power to guide the Sixers back into the win column.  He recorded a game-high 26 points on exceptional 13-17 shooting, along with a team-high 12 rebounds and 5 steals.  Young brought his usual brand of defensive hustle and finishing around the rim; it has to be frustrating for him to continually bring a high-level of effort in a losing cause when a number of his teammates aren’t showing the same level of desire on a nightly basis.  Among Young’s teammates, Damien Wilkins earned his first start of the season and found the starting role to his liking.  He finished with 16 points, 6 assists, and 3 blocks, although he did commit a team-high 4 turnovers, including a crucial mistake with just over a minute left that turned the deficit from 4 to 7.  Spencer Hawes also contributed a solid performance with 15 points on 50% shooting and 7 rebounds.

With another loss in the books, the Sixers fly home to take on the Brooklyn Nets Monday night.  It will remain to be seen whether Thaddeus Young can bring the same level of effort on the second night of a back-to-back.  One thing is for sure though, if Jrue Holiday doesn’t get his act together, Brooklyn will likely make it 6 straight losses for Philadelphia.

Owls Soar Behind Huge Effort From Wyatt


The Owls look to be peaking at the right time heading into tournament play.

With a boisterous crowd at the Liacouras Center donning the free white t-shirts the university gave out for Senior Day, the Owls shot right out of the gate against a startled VCU Rams opponent.  With Fran Dunphy starting the five seniors who have been integral to the Owls’ success this season, Temple got out to a 7-0 and then a 12-3 lead.  VCU’s Troy Daniels, the team’s leading three-point shooter, picked up his second foul less than three minutes into the game and everything seemed to be coming up roses for the Owls.  However, the frenetic pace of the Rams’ full court press seemed to wear frazzle Temple; when they weren’t turning the ball over, the Owls were taking quick ill-advised shots on offense, leading to an 18-0 VCU run that saw them take control of the game.  To the Owls’ credit, they regrouped and began taking the ball hard to the rim, as a parade to the free throw line saw them end the first half on an 11-0 run, cutting the lead to five.

In the second half, the efforts of Khalif Wyatt and Jake O’Brien propelled the Owls into the lead and ahead for good, finishing off an 84-76 victory.  O’Brien continued his marksmanship from the outside, hitting 3 three-pointers in the second half, going 5-8 downtown for the game on his way to 19 points.  But the Owls would not have come out on top without their leader Khalif Wyatt, who seemed bound and determined to lose his final game in front of the Liacouras home crowd.  Again and again, Wyatt aggressively attacked the basket, using his size over the smaller VCU guards to convert in the paint and earn trips to the charity stripe.  Wyatt would finish 13-16 from the foul line as he totaled a game-high 30 points.

The win secured the third seed and a first-round bye in the A-10 Tournament for the Owls.  Temple will play Friday night against the winner of Massachusetts and George Washington.  Riding a 7-game winning streak and playing their best ball of the season, I like the Owls’ chances to make some noise in the conference tournament before moving on the Big Dance.