02/14/11 2:05 pm EST
Without even a sniff of an all-star on the roster, Doug Collins has transformed his young team into a squad that plays some of the best fundamental basketball in the League. The 76ers rank near the top in the League in limiting turnovers, bench points and assists.
Rarely are the Sixers able to produce two 20-point scorers together. Rarely (Until recently) are the Sixers able to play consistently on the road. And rarely do the Sixers play their best basketball in the fourth quarter.
For so long on this website we’ve been trying to peg down a player on the Sixers who can time after time become the teams closer. But at the very moment, I would argue that having numerous options — Lou, Andre, Jrue and Elton — will help this team in close games during the fourth.
The team that stands directly in front of the 7-6 just happens to be the slumping New York Knicks, who’ve by the way have lost 11 of their last 16 games. New York peaked too early thanks to fresh legs and a new superstar in Amare Stoudemire. The Knicks strong start had nearly all League experts and bloggers wondering if the Knicks could not only make the playoffs, but push for the second round.
Then January hit. Opposing coaches began to recall ways to beat Mike D’Antoni’s system: slow the game down. And even some of the Knicks players have begun to slow on D’Antoni’s frantic pace. The losing skid has fans begging for a blockbuster trade to land Carmelo Anthony.
Both of these teams are likely to lose in the first round. But as we’ve learned from recent history, gaining a playoff berth is often more valuable for rebuilding than tanking and receiving a lottery pick to waste on a risky rookie.
The Sixers currently trail New York by 1.5 games (2 full games in the loss column), but let’s ignore the current standing for a minute and take a look at when the Sixers will catch the Knicks in the standings because it’s not a matter of “if”, but a question of “when” it will happen.
|Knicks Opponent||Previous Outcome(s)||Predicted Outcome||Sixers Opponent||Previous Outcome(s)||Predicted Outcome|
|vs. Hawks on 2/16||
||W||@Memphis on 2/15||L 99-94||W|
|vs. Bucks on 2/23||L 107-80||L||@Houston on 2/16||N/A||L|
|@Cavs on 2/25||L 109-102 OT||W||vs. Washington on 2/23||
|@Heat on 2/27||
||L||vs. Detroit on 2/25||L 112-109||W|
|@Magic on 3/01||L 112-103||L||@Cleveland on 2/27||
The Sixers upcoming schedule is their easiest stretch of games remaining in the season. The five opponents are a combined 99-175. What’s sad is that the Sixers could already be leading the Knicks if it weren’t for four losses to upcoming opponents the Wizards and Cavs. Who as we all know are two of the worst teams in recent memory.
The Knicks on the other hand are playing three teams (Hawks, Heat & Magic) who will likely be ahead of them in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Knicks also have a run vs. the finally 100% healthy Bucks who play some of the best defense in the League.
These predictions may lean a little towards the wishful thinking section. Some will even call me a “homer”.
Still, the Sixers are hot and the Knicks are not (to say the least) and there is not a single reason why the 76ers should lose any of their first three games back after the NBA all-star break. Thus Philadunkia’s home team will take over 6th place in the East before the end of February.
So with the 6th seed on lock, let’s take aim at reeling in the Hawks (who have lost two in a row) and grabbing the five seed.
(Hey we can dream, can’t we?)