1 seed Bulls one loss away from elimination

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1 seed Bulls one loss away from elimination

From Comcast SportsNet
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- His coach called Jrue Holiday's slump "0 for the world." Even as the misses piled up, Holiday never felt the weight of it on his 21-year-old shoulders. All he could do in a thorny Game 4 was laugh about his struggles with teammate Evan Turner. "You've got to be happy when you play," Holiday said. "It really helps." Boy, did it help Philadelphia in the final minutes against Chicago. Holiday busted out of a game-long slump with consecutive 3-pointers that stretched a one-point lead into seven and helped the 76ers beat the Chicago Bulls 89-82 on Sunday and take a 3-1 lead in their Eastern Conference playoff series. "Don't fear the consequences," 76ers coach Doug Collins said. It's the top-seeded Bulls who suddenly fear elimination. Spencer Hawes scored 22 points and Holiday had 20 to put the Sixers one win away from joining the short list of eighth-seeded teams that have won a series against a No. 1 seed. Andre Iguodala had 14 points and 12 rebounds for the Sixers, who have won the last three games after losing Game 1. Game 5 is Tuesday in Chicago. The short-handed Bulls played without Derrick Rose (torn ACL) and Joakim Noah (sprained ankle). Rose is out for the season and Noah is day to day for the rest of the series. In NBA postseason history, the eighth seed has won a first-round series against the No. 1 seed four times, including last season when Memphis eliminated San Antonio. Golden State (2007), New York (1999) and Denver (1994) also pulled off the rare feat. "I'm not worried about it," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "I'm just worried about the next game. We do have more than enough to win with." The Sixers won three straight playoff games for the first time since Allen Iverson fueled their run to the 2001 NBA finals. Holiday was sensational down the stretch after a rocky first 3 quarters. He missed his first five 3-point attempts until he nailed one to make it 77-73. He hit another the next time down for a seven-point lead to the delight of a roaring sellout crowd. They were easily his biggest shots on a 7-of-23 night. He expects to hear the same noise in the next round. "We have to play like it's Game 7," Holiday said. "We want to win in Chicago." The undermanned Bulls kept at it and refused to use playing without their two biggest impact players as an excuse. C.J. Watson, who scored 17 points, hit a step-back jumper to make it a two-point game. In a whistle-happy game, Holiday went to the line with 51 seconds left and made both for an 84-80 lead. Suddenly -- and shockingly -- the Sixers are a win away from taking a playoff series for the first time since 2003. Carlos Boozer had 23 points and 11 rebounds for the Bulls. Taj Gibson chipped in 14 points and 12 rebounds. Without a full roster, the Bulls barked at the refs, talked trash on the court and used every self-motivational tactic they knew to gain an edge on the Sixers. Noah, injured in Game 3, took charge on the bench as head cheerleader. Wearing a protective walking boot, he clapped, cheered and offered instruction in the timeout huddle. Noah was needed more on the court than as a de facto assistant coach. Boozer actively did his best to keep the Bulls in the game. He played through foul trouble to score 18 points through three quarters (matching his combined total for the first two games) and he fought for some of the tough rebounds Noah would grab. It wasn't enough. The Sixers made 22 of 31 free throws to Chicago's 11-for-14 effort. The Sixers only averaged 18.2 free-throw attempts this season. "Bottom line, we've got to play better defense without fouling," Boozer said. "You can't cry about the referees. It's the playoffs. If we could hold them to 17, 18 points in the fourth quarter, maybe we win that game." Iguodala played through right Achilles' tendinitis to make so many impact plays for the Sixers. He halted a Bulls run in the third with a 3 for a 57-56 lead. Bad leg and all, he still soared for a thunderous dunk on the break in the first half for an eight-point lead. One of the worst fourth-quarter foul shooters in the NBA, Iguodala even made both with 26.6 seconds left. "I think the adrenaline carried me through the game," Iguodala said. "It's hard to get on your toes, that's the hardest thing." Game 4 lacked the electric atmosphere early that accompanies a postseason game because the Broad Street Run was routed in front of the sports complex. The Wells Fargo Center was barely half full by tip and the announced crowd of 20,142 needed time to warm up. By the time Holiday hit his 3s, the arena was going wild. His sharp shooting in clutch time came at the right time after a slow start. Holiday and Turner continue to befuddle Collins with their inconsistency. The under-25 starting backcourt followed a solid Game 3 with a combined 3 for 22 for eight points in the first half. Lou Williams, perhaps the league's top reserve, failed to bail them out with a 2-for-10 effort in the game. Their struggles were a key reason the depleted Bulls kept the score tight even without their two stars. The Sixers crashed the boards early without Noah in the lineup and had 15 second-chance points in the half to grab a 10-point lead. Hawes hit the go-ahead 20-footer late in the fourth for the Game 3 winner and he continued his hot hand into Sunday. He had made seven of his first eight shots, including a 3-pointer right before the second quarter buzzer to send the Sixers into halftime with 44-42 lead. Notes: Boxer Bernard Hopkins, former NBA great Dolph Schayes, former Sixers great Julius Erving and actor Bill Murray attended the game. ... Philadelphia last won a playoff series when it beat New Orleans in 2003. ... The Sixers hold a 3-1 lead in a best-of-seven series for the first time since the 1984 East semifinals. ... 76ers CEO Adam Aron said there was nothing the team could do about the start time.

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First Redskins player cracks top half of 2017 NFL Top 100 list

First Redskins player cracks top half of 2017 NFL Top 100 list

Watch a lot of football and few would argue Trent Williams is the best player on the Redskins. As a tackle, his position does not lend itself to many statistics, but listen to players inside and outside of the Redskins locker room and it's easy to understand just how good Williams is.

The proof came when Williams landed 47 on the NFL's Top 100 list, as voted by NFL players.

Named to the Pro Bowl the last five seasons, Williams missed four games due to suspension in 2016 but was rated as the best left tackle in football by Pro Football Focus. 

Williams joins Kirk Cousins, Jordan Reed and Josh Norman on the Top 100 list. Cousins landed 70th on the list, Reed at 65 and Norman at 59.

Last week, Jay Gruden explained that Williams was not present at Redskins OTAs but the head coach expected his tackle was working out on his own.

<<<NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT>>>

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ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

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20 offseason Caps questions: Should the Capitals re-sign Karl Alzner?

20 offseason Caps questions: Should the Capitals re-sign Karl Alzner?

Another playoff disappointment—as well as a host of expiring player contracts—has left the Capitals with a ton of questions to answer this offseason. Over the next month, Jill Sorenson, JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir will take a close look at the 20 biggest issues facing the team as the business of hockey kicks into high gear.

Karl Alzner has been a rock on the Capitals’ blue line since 2010, appearing in a franchise record 540 consecutive regular season games. He’s been a good player and a good soldier, often suiting up despite injuries that might have sidelined someone else because, well, he knew his steady presence on the blue line was needed that night. And now, after everything he’s been through in Washington, the Caps’ fifth overall pick in 2007 is set to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time. And although he recently said that he’d like to stay, he also acknowledged that he’s not sure what outcome to expect. Which brings us to today’s debate: Is there a deal to be had? Or do both sides need a fresh start?

Today’s question: Should the Caps re-sign Karl Alzner?

Sorenson: I think this question really depends on money. I would absolutely want to sign him to return to Washington. The problem is, how high are the Capitals willing to go, and how low is Karl Alzner willing to go?  If there is a way to make re-signing Alzner work within the confines of building around a core, then the Caps should make this a priority. I believe Alzner will get more than a few offers with some good money, and the potential of being a part of a shutdown top pair. As evidenced by his Ironman streak, his overall attitude, his winning of the media’s “Good Guy Dave Fay” award last year, and his stability on defense, Alzner is a no-brainer for any roster. He is open to growing his game and we saw some increased offensive output from him, especially two years ago, and I believe he has not reached his ceiling in that regard. I don’t think the question is whether or not the Caps should sign Alzner- I believe they should. I believe the question is, whether or not Alzner would be willing to take less money to stay for the possibility of winning a Cup with the Caps.

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El-Bashir: Like most tough business decisions, it’s important to separate what the heart wants and what the head knows is necessary. The heart wants Alzner to finish his career as a Capital. The head knows that No. 27 will be able to get more money and term on the open market. Let’s look at the pros and cons of what figures to be another difficult decision for GM Brian MacLellan and Co. First, the pros: Alzner is a pro’s pro. He logged top-4 minutes on the NHL’s stingiest team this season, anchored the league’s seventh best penalty kill and blocked more shots than any other Cap. Now, the cons: Alzner acknowledged that he’s still working his way back to full health from the groin and sport hernia injuries that plagued him at the end of the 2015-16 season. The negative effects of that protracted recovery were, at times, evident in his play this year. That, to me, is a bigger red flag than the subpar analytics. You’ve also got to consider fit vs. cost. If the top-four next season is, as some expect, Matt Niskanen, Dmitry Orlov, John Carlson and Nate Schmidt, where does Alzner factor into that equation? That fit becomes even harder to find when you consider the fact that he’s likely to command significantly more than the $2.8 million he earned this season and potentially a long-term commitment, as well. My take: I never expect players to take less than market value, and I don’t expect Alzner to do so, either, no matter how much he likes it here. I suspect he’ll find his fit (and significant payday) elsewhere and the cap-strapped Caps will use the space saved to retain other free agents who are in need of raises.

Regan: The reality of today’s NHL means the Caps can’t sign Karl Alzner to a big money deal, it means they can no longer give him a top-four role and it means they can’t bring him back unless they move Brooks Orpik. Alzner is a stay at home defenseman and great shot blocker, but in today’s NHL puck moving defensemen are more important. Alzner will be 29 at the start of next season, the age when players look for their “big deal,” but Alzner was frank at breakdown day saying he was not looking forward to free agency. Maybe he saw what happened to Kris Russell, another stay at home defenseman who wanted to get his big deal last summer. Instead of cashing in, Russell had to settle for a one-year contract for $3.1 million from the Edmonton Oilers. Maybe Alzner would be willing to sign for cheap to stay in Washington. That brings us to the second sticking point. If you want to have a stay at home defenseman on your team, fine, but I am not comfortable going into next season with two spots in the top six committed to Alzner and Orpik. I also am not comfortable with Alzner taking playing time away from players more suited to today’s NHL like Dmitry Orlov and Nate Schmidt. I am only considering re-signing Alzner if two things happen: First, he would have to take a very team friendly contract and second, the team would have to move Orpik.

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