The Sixers playoff hopes are already in critical condition and are quickly approaching life support with each and every loss. To be honest, the next ten games could ultimately paint the picture of our 2010-2011 Philadelphia 76ers and determine the succcess of this season.
Can this team win seven out of ten games and motor closer to .500? Or will they lose seven out of the ten, dooming this season before Christmas Eve, pretty much guaranteeing another top five draft pick and making Doug Collins wish he had never left his announcing chair?
Will the players start believing in Doug Collins message and step up during this vital stretch? Can Iguodala and Brand play like All-Stars, TOGETHER. Will Jrue Holiday who is hardly 20 years of age and has been wildly inconsistent through the first twelve games, grow up over night and become a solid floor general? Is it possible that the Sixers staff can squeeze some production — wait make that any production — out of the center position? Could Joide Meeks finally be the answer to the Sixers 3-point shooting woes?
Unfortunately the answer to all of these questions will have to be “yes”if the Sixers are going to get this season back on track in the next ten games. So we’d better hope the “team message” President Rod Thorn gave to the squad today in their meeting before practice hits home.
Here’s a look at the upcoming ten games on the schedule for the 7-6.
Milwaukee Bucks (5-6)
Strengths – As of this post, the Milwaukee Bucks are first in the entire league in scoring defense, surrendering just 89.4 points per game. Forwards Carlos Delfino and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute have been defensive catalysts under Coach Scott Skiles. And Center Andrew Bogut (12.8 points and 10.6 boards) might be the best all-around big man the Sixers play in the next ten games.
Weaknesses – The Bucks are dead last in the NBA in scoring and are relying on Brandon Jennings jumper way too much. John Salmons is only averaging 12 points a game. That number needs to turn closer to 18 for the Bucks to have a big year. Keep in mind Salmons was the guy who put the Bucks over the edge and into the playoffs just a few months ago.
Prediction – Milwaukee by 11. Bogut is going to be too much defensively and will control the paint. Watch out for sharpshooter Corey Maggette
@ Washington Wizards (3-7)
Strengths – A rookie from the 2010 draft class who is actually living up to the hype. How refreshing. Offensively Wall cannot be denied in transition and is posting a team high 18.1 points and 9.8 assists, not to mention he’s leading the NBA in steals. Why isn’t guard Nic Young getting any minutes? The former USC Trojan stroked 20 points off the bench against us earlier this season and I expect him to play a similar role.
Weaknesses – As much as we complain about our frontcourt issues, the Wizards might be worse off. Washington is dead last in the NBA in cleaning the glass. Andray Blatche should be a very good rebounder. Instead, the 6’11” big man prefers to play along the wing and shoot jumpers. He’s a tuxedo player that Flip Saunders used heavily against Philly earlier in the month and it surprisingly worked.
Prediction – Washington by 1. John Wall will be the best player on the court. What if Evan Turner was already a polished NBA player like Wall? The 76ers could be 5-5 right now. What if.. What if…
@ Toronto Raptors (3-9)
Strengths – Bargnani, Evans and Weems (see last night’s recap).
Prediction – Toronto by 6. Bargnani and Weems again!
@ Miami Heat (7-4)
Strengths – Not much. Ha-Ha, I kid, I kid. As of today the Miami Heat are in third place of the Southeast Division. When Miami wins, they usually are clicking on all cylinders. Their 9.2 point differential and 13 turnoversper game are both tops in the League. The Heat boast the number five scoring defense in the NBA, honestly thanks to LBJ’s animalistic instincts.
Weaknesses – Sharing the ball in the fourth quarter. LeBron, Bosh and Wade are all used to toting the rock when the game is on the line. Somehow backup guard Eddie House has attempted two game winning shots, both misses. Miami is 15th in the NBA in free throw percentage. That number needs to be improved by April. Opponents with dominant point guards and strong rebounding centers have given the Heat problems.
Prediction – Miami by 22. I can’t envision any scenario in which the 76ers come within 10 on the road.
New Jersey Nets (4-7)
Strengths – Crazy to think New Jersey is in second place of the Atlantic Division after last year’s debacle of a season. A spanking new strengthfor New Jersey has been their improved defense under new head coach Avery Johnson. Newcomers Travis Outlaw, Anthony Morrow and Jordan Farmarhave all embraced their roles and are combining for over 30 points a night. Devin Harris is becoming more of a slasher rather than a shooter and has gotten to the basket with ease in the Nets four wins.
Weaknesses – This team struggles to score and can go cold quickly. Ranking 29thin the NBA in scoring offense and managing four victories is an accomplishment though. As tall and talented as Brook Lopez is, he just can’t rebound the basketball (5.6). Lopez trails teammates Derrick Favors and Kris Humphries; both average more boards and they each play 15 less minutes.
Prediction – Philadelphia by 7. Iguodala and ET type of players can give the Nets problems. New Jersey defends the post and perimeter well but not so much the area right outside the paint.
Portland Trail Blazers (7-5)
Strengths – The Blazers frontcourt length is going to kill the Sixers early and often. Now in his fourth year, LaMarcus Aldridge has developed into a top flight power forward. I’d even strongly argue Aldridge is better than Elton Brand at this point in his career. Brandon Roy continues to play through the pain. Even when he’s injured, he’s more reliable than AI9.
Weaknesses – Point guard Andre Miller lacks the quickness he once had. The 76ers need to put the ball in transition and run the floor against the Blazers. They like to play at their own pace and lull teams to sleep. We cannot fall into that trap early.
Prediction – Portland by 16. Just trust me on this.
@ Atlanta Hawks (8-4)
Strengths – Passing. The Hawks are sixth in the league in assists, the highest ranking team in Philadelphia’s next 9 games. The top two assist leaders for the Hawks aren’t even point guards. Joe Johnson (5.1) and Josh Smith (4.1) have been spreading the wealth adequately. I forgot to mention the Hawks lead the league in field goal percentage at 49.3
Weaknesses – This team has no depth. They rotate a few point guards in (Bibby, Crawford and Teague) but there isn’t really anything else you can count on from the bench warmers. Forward Marvin Williams is constantly banged up. Remind me why was he a top five pick again?
Prediction – It’s a long shot, but Philadelphia by 2. Al Horford does not scare me in the slightest at the center position. I think the Sixerscan sneak one by Atlanta with superior guard and bench play.
Charlotte Bobcats (4-7)
Strengths – Coaching. This team is only going as far as Larry Brown can carry them. D.J. Augustine has fit snuggly into Raymond Felton’spoint guard duties (7.5 assists) but he has to limit his 4.6 turnovers. Charlotte is 11th in the NBA in field goal percentage.
Weaknesses – I like Stephen Jackson as a team’s second or third best player but not its first, and certainly not its leader. Not to mention their frontcourt is actually worse than 76ers. Wow, it feels weird to say that. Gerald Wallace is a great rebounderbut he doesn’t have a post-up game. Elton Brand should take him to school with his short hook shot.
Prediction – Even though this is the second game in a road game, then home game back-to-back set, Philadelphia by 5.
Strengths – JJ Hickson and is a rising player in the NBA. The crafty Mo Williams has always given the 76ers fits and Anderson Varejo seems to excel against the Sixers bigs. Plus the Cavs have already beaten us twice this season. Did I just say that out loud?!?
Weaknesses – No Lebron James.
Prediction – Cleveland by 8. The Cavs simply have the Sixers number this year.
Strengths – Do we really need to list them for you? Additionally, Delonte West is back from his 10 game suspension so they have added firepower on the perimeter.
Weaknesses – They’re old and their starting bigs — Shaq, Perkins and J-O’Neal are missing games left and right. But that won’t be enough for them to lose this one.
Prediction – The C’s by 15. Bet on it.
Bonus Game…because it’s the end of a four game home stand I’ll also preview the Sixers hosting the Hornets…
New Orleans (9-1)
Strengths – The perimeter play of CP3 and Ariza. The interior play of David West, Belinelli and Okafor. As a bonus, they’re currently one of the hottest teams in the ultra competitive West.
Weaknesses – Willie Green is hauling 20+ minutes a game, so they have a weak bench.
Prediction – The NOHs by 1o.
So in summation, over the next eleven games I have the Sixers running up a record of 3-8. Included in that strecth is a 1-3 home stand. That would put the 76ers at 5-18 headed into the Holiday Season.