It was a very good night to be a Sixers fan. Starting with the obvious, they beat the Memphis Grizzlies in a wire-to-wire 119-105 win to start a back-to-back. Robert Covington, Dario Saric, JJ Redick, and Marco Belinelli each had 15 points, while Joel Embiid added 14 and Ben Simmons put up 13. The team led by 30 after the third and the starters were able to sit out the entire fourth quarter. And we saw James Young and Demetrius Jackson play.
And this too:
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) March 22, 2018
What else? For the first time since the 2010-2011 season, the Sixers earned their 40th win:
Covington: "If you ain't with us you against us. With this city behind us, anything is possible."
— Drew Corrigan (@Dcorrigan50) March 22, 2018
What else? Joel Embiid roasted Colin Cowherd after Cowherd said the Sixers weren’t going to win 40 games this season back in October:
— Chris Jastrzembski (@CFJastrzembski) March 22, 2018
Cowherd also made a bet with a fan that if it did happen, he would have to wear a Sixers jersey. He’s chickening out like the guy he is:
Looking everywhere in LA for Sixers jersey. Can’t find one. So frustrating. Really wanted to pay off the bet. Well, maybe next time.
— Colin Cowherd (@ColinCowherd) March 22, 2018
— Ben Simmons (@BenSimmons25) March 22, 2018
— Did the Sixers WWWWin? (@DidTheSixersWin) March 22, 2018
Ben Simmons also confirmed he’s dating singer Tinashe:
Some are already calling it “Benashe.” You can call them whatever you want.
But there was another important thing in this game: Thanks to losses from Indiana and Washington, the Sixers currently sit as the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. That means they would have home court advantage in the first round if the playoffs began today. It’s close to happening.
There’s plenty of work still to be done. The Sixers are in Orlando to take on the Magic tonight at 7 PM on NBC Sports Philadelphia +. A win can solidify their first .500 or above season since 2011-2012, when they went 35-31 in a strike-shortened campaign. 2010-2011 was the last full season they went .500 at 41-41, but you would have to go all the way back to 2004-2005 to find the most recent above-.500 record in an 82-game season.
Good news: The Eagles rewarded defensive end Chris Long with a restructured contract with more guaranteed money.
With the addition of Michael Bennett, could the Eagles really have the greatest defensive line ever?
Stats-wise, trading Torrey Smith and replacing him with Mack Hollins appears to be an upgrade.
Football Outsiders uses a formula it calls DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) to measure a players’ per-snap value compared to the average performer at his position, and Hollins finished with a plus-24.8 percent DVOA in 2017. Smith, meanwhile, finished with a mark of minus-15.7.
Another way to look at this is through Football Outsiders’ DYAR (defense-adjusted yards above replacement), which measures the overall performance of players against a typical backup at their positions. Hollins, according to this stat, gained 59 more yards last season than a typical receiver would have playing in his exact role. Smith gained 19 yards less than an average replacement player.
One of the biggest reasons for Hollins’ edge in these metrics is his catch rate. The rookie out of North Carolina hauled in 16 receptions out of 22 targets (73 percent) during the regular season, while Smith pulled down just 36 of 63 (53.7 percent) passes thrown his way and had a knack for dropping catchable balls.
Could the Eagles be looking at wide receiver in the first round of the NFL Draft?
Insiders believe the Eagles will make an effort to add an impact WR in the draft this year. The Eagles re-signed Nigel Bradham, but Jordan Hicks has struggled with injuries, so the Eagles should be looking to at least add depth at LB. The departure of Trey Burton opens up a spot for a combination tight end via the draft. While trading for Jay Ajayi strengthened the RB spot, there is room for more depth at the position.
And just a quick reminder:
— Bill Anderson (@BillAFox29) March 21, 2018
In Spring Training, the Phillies tied the Blue Jays with a 7-7 score. Rhys Hoskins hit two dingers on the day, while Aaron Altherr and Scott Kingery also hit homers of their own. They play the Tigers today at 1:05 PM on NBC Sports Philadelphia +. It’ll be the first time we see Jake Arrieta on the mound.
“I’m looking for him to be healthy, first and foremost,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “I would love to see him come out just like he has in his live batting practice sessions and in his bullpens, which is strong, ball looking like a lead fastball, featuring that great cutter and a lot of that great deception.
“We’re looking for him to be Jake Arrieta. Most importantly, most critically and most consequentially, I’m looking for him to be healthy and strong.”
Could Jake Thompson be better off in the bullpen?
Thompson only needs to look at teammate Adam Morgan as an example for why this might be a good move. Morgan resurrected his career after moving to the bullpen. Former closer Ryan Madson came through the Phillies’ system as a starter, but he’s pitched 12 seasons and made over $30 million as a reliever.
The Phillies believe Thompson’s slider and splitter will perform better in the bullpen. Interestingly, a look at the numbers over the past two seasons indicate both pitches’ performances have mirrored MLB averages. Thompson’s slider had a ground-ball rate of 43.1 percent (MLB average 45.3 percent) the past two seasons, according to Statcast™. His splitter, which has been classified as a changeup, had a ground-ball rate of 45.9 percent (MLB average 49.4 percent).
His slider’s whiff-per-swing rate was 34.3 percent (MLB average 35 percent), while his splitter’s whiff-per-swing rate was 29 percent (MLB average 31.3 percent).
“He’s thrown a lot of sliders in the zone,” Kapler said. “So I think we’ll see some more chase and some more swing-and-miss when he throws it out of the zone a little bit more. But again, it’s a work in progress and there’s a lot more homework to be done in that regard.”
The Flyers made a notable move, trading Michigan forward and former sixth round pick Cooper Marody to the Edmonton Oilers for the 2019 third round pick. It’s a good move.
Speaking of prospects, goalie prospect Carter Hart was named the WHL’s Western Conference Player and Goaltender of the Year:
— The WHL (@TheWHL) March 21, 2018
As for the current team, we could see Michal Neuvirth on the next road trip:
Neuvirth looked sharp Wednesday, and his teammates tapped the ice with their sticks to show their appreciation after he made a diving save to deny Dale Weise during two-on-nothing drills.
“It was my best day, definitely,” said Neuvirth, who has been on the ice four straight days. “I’m getting my timing and my conditioning back. I’m improving every day and I’m really excited to get back into the lineup. But at the same time, when I get back, I want to be 100 percent.”
Neuvirth, who turns 30 on Friday, has been doing lots of off-ice workouts, including time spent on the exercise bike. “But when you step on the ice, it’s totally different,” he said. “Timing and conditioning are the main things right now.”
Brian Elliott is close too.
The Flyers take on the New York Rangers tonight at 7 PM on NBC Sports Philadelphia. Catch up with Anthony’s observations from Tuesday’s loss to the Detroit Red Wings.
Villanova had some trouble with their bus on their way to a chartered flight to Boston:
GO? CATS: Villanova’s team bus is stymied by the snow on campus as the players and coaches head to Boston for the Sweet 16 pic.twitter.com/I0npP4v013
— Ian Bush (@ianthebush) March 21, 2018
They made it out fine.
Kevin has some early observations on the Union’s season.
In other sports news, the NFL’s catch rule is getting changed for the better. Or we hope.
Dwight Howard had the first 30-30 game in eight years:
Dwight Howard finished with 32 points & 30 rebounds.
The first 30-30 game in nearly EIGHT years 👏 pic.twitter.com/LaTHRyTmK3
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 22, 2018
ESPN has unveiled their NFL Draft plans. It includes the following:
- College GameDay shows on the first two nights of the draft
- A college-themed viewing option for Round 1 on ESPN2
- Day 3 simulcasted on ABC (Fox is doing that for the first three rounds with NFL Network’s coverage)
- A 26-hours marathon of draft coverage leading into Round 1
Rhode Island’s Dan Hurley is heading to UConn to coach the Huskies.
I hate Sidney Crosby, but he is very good at hockey:
Mind. Blown. 🤯 pic.twitter.com/ESCm4n6Ghc
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 22, 2018
The Big East wants to replace the 1-and-done rule with a 2-or-none rule. Either play at least two years of college or go straight to the NBA after high school.
The Dallas Cowboys didn’t have the best free agency for a franchise.
NBA players really love Fortnite.
In the news, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg apologized for their role in allowing Cambridge Analytica access to information of 50 million users.
Austin police have discovered a 25-minute cell phone recording from bombing suspect Mark Conditt and consider it a “confession.”
A federal appeals court sided with Marvin Gaye’s family over a legal fight where Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” copied one of Gaye’s songs.
Frank Avruch, known for his role as “Bozo the Clown,” has died at the age of 89.
An airline worker was arrested after trying to smuggle nine pounds of cocaine into the United States. The man taped four packages to his legs.