Posted by: Tim Parker
02/21/12 10:11 am EST

It took just two weeks for the euphoric hysteria that surrounded the surprisingly awesome 2011-2012 edition of the Philadelphia 76ers to turn into the lukewarm realization of what many had known from the beginning. 

The truth is that the Sixers are a middle of the road team in the Eastern Conference that lack the one true spark that could propel them to the upper echelon of the NBA.  Sure, they are well coached and are fundamentally sound but in the end they don’t just have the personnel to contend for a championship. 

Yet, they never were supposed to be considered a contender, were they?

Still, as the all-star break approaches they sit in first place in the Atlantic Division and sit in 3rd place in the East. 

How did they get here?

After all, their leading scorer doesn’t even start, their lone all-star averages less than 13 points a game and their starting point guard doesn’t even lead the team in assists.  They are not the picturesque image of an offensive power by any stretch of the imagination.  But, with this team they don’t have to be.

The Sixers, quite simply, win with defense. Their offense is set up through forcing turnovers and getting out on transition.  They don’t have to outscore anybody because they don’t let anyone else score.  Doug Collins’ bunch has been tops in the league in defense all season, allowing  a little over 87 points per game. 

It also helps to maximize every offensive possession, since don’t the Sixers don’t have Kevin Durant, Lebron James, or Carmelo Anthony at their disposal.  They do just that by protecting the basketball.  They are the best in the NBA in turnovers per game.

Yet, there are signs that Sixers 1st half tease of success is about to be quickly evaporated.  After the 7-6 knocked off the Lakers in a thriller on February 6th, things have gotten a bit ugly.  They have lost 5 out of their last 7, including 3 straight for the first time this season; and the team’s flaws that has caused concern all season long, have come back to bite them.

The only victories during this recent stretch have come against the lowly Bobcats and Cavaliers. 

What’s gone wrong?

A.  Jodie Meeks

Meeks is consistently inconsistent ; which makes him absolutely invaluable as a starter to the team.  The bad shooting/great shooting see-saw must stop.  The Sixers starting unit could use Evan Turner’s offense in the firts five especially if Meeks’ isn’t paying dividends in the starting role. 

B.  Half-Court Issues.

If the Sixers aren’t getting transition opportunities, their offense is inept.  Neither Jrue Holiday or Andre Iguodala can seem to run a half-court offense effectively.  The result is bad shots or nothing but jump shots.  There’s been a tremendous lacking of the inside-out game which ultimately cost them a victory against the Mavericks; in a game in which they had controlled the entire first half.

C.  Soft.

Even before Spencer Hawes had his injury issues, the Sixers had no opposing presence on interior offensively or defensively.  It’s been well documented throughout the season.  Though, Hawes, Nik Vucevic, and even Lavoy Allen have talent, they can’t rebound and dominate the paint against the better big men in the league.  Is anyone else longing for Demarcus Cousins?  Hell, some of us would settle for Jason Thompson at this point.

While the Sixers are having their own issues, the Celtics are somewhat getting themselves together and there is a monster growing in Madison Square Garden.

With Linsanity being the main exponent, the Knicks are looking becoming a force that most thought they would be when the season began.  When Carmelo Anthony returns, they could become an unstoppable force (defense aside).  Also, in an under the radar move, J. R. Smith could be a critical signing to compliment both Lin and Anthony.  Smith is what Jodie Meeks wishes he could be. 

Both the Knicks and Celtics are now only 4 games behind the Sixers in the Atlantic standings.  

With the Sixers play on the decline, and the rising of the competition, the reality of that we all thought about this young, growing team is slowly starting to become true. 

It seems that the Knicks and maybe even the Celtics will pass them by and the Sixers will fall to the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff pack.  But, ultimately that’s where many thought they would be. 

In the end, that’s the question. 

What are these guys?  Are they a legitimate contender who could make noise in the playoffs or a growing team whose accomplishment would simply be winning a round in the playoffs?

Two weeks ago the former, would have been the answer.  Now, though the Sixers will face their toughest challenge to avoid the fate of the latter.

So, who are they?

I guess we’re about to find out.


4 Responses to “WHO ARE THESE GUYS?”

  1. TNT
    21. February 2012 at 11:38

    I don’t dispute any of the weaknesses you document for Sixers limiations. There are accurate for all to see. However, the leap you made from that to the Celtics and Knicks both passing them is absurd … and the characterization of this team as ‘middle of the pack’ team is inaccurate as well.

    Is there a place in Philadelphia for fans who take a reasoned approach to the performance of teams during a 66 game season?

    Neither the Celtics nor the Knicks have the depth to surpass the Sixers. The Knicks will continue to suffer the weakness of all D’Antoni teams — inadequate commitment to play team defense. The Celtics are a shadow of the teams we’ve seen in previous years and haven’t the stamina for any prolonged run. They are too weak offensively.

    A 66 game season doesn’t occur without speed bumps. This team will still win the Altantic and if Hawes is healthy still have a shot at playing in the Eastern Conference Champsionship round. Unless some other team manages to knock off the Heat, there is no way they make the Finals. If you had asked Sixers fans at the beginning of the season if they could be happy with that, they would most certainly have answered yes.

    Such a performance would position them to fare well in free agency this summer.

  2. sixerslover
    21. February 2012 at 13:12

    Very well said TNT, you should start your own blog. although i’m pretty sure we’re not getting past a healthy chicago in a seven game series so a loss in the second round would be a massive success for me.

  3. Kareef Weinerschnitzel
    22. February 2012 at 03:26

    This is quite possibly the best article I’ve ever read about the 76ers this season. This “Tim” fella should win a Pullitzer, for realz. Good work!

  4. nova
    22. February 2012 at 09:30

    i would be so happy if the sixers got Jason Thompson for a bargain price. he’ll give you more than brand right now, hasn’t hit is ceiling on talent, and can play center and pf and be effective at both. with a coach like Doug Collins he could be very valuable come next year and still give a great push in playoffs this year. just make sure you get him for longer than just this year.

    sactown refused to give him an extension so im sure they are open to moving him with chuck Hayes and hickson on the team as well. give up our bad first rounder. if you need to sweeten the pot beyond a guy to make the salaries work throw in lavoy. he’s been good of late but is raw and this team needs to win now after years of losing and with new owners. jt isn’t old either and basically jumps up a couple years of experience.

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