THE FINAL 14

Posted by: Philadunkia
04/01/12 9:00 pm EST

The win over Atlanta on Saturday night brought the 76ers record to 29-23, which currently has them sitting in 2nd place in the Atlantic Division — one game behind the Boston Celtics.  The 7-6 are 4-4 in their last eight games and they have not won two in a row since early March.  Collins & Co. are 9-14 since Valentine’s Day and 9-9 since the All-Star break. 

To say that the Sixers have been hard to figure out of late is an understatement.  But here at Philadunkia.com we’re going to give it the old college try and attempt to predict what kind of results this roller coaster team will produce over the last fourteen games of the season.

If you have been watching the Sixers over the last two months, you realize that this is no easy task. 

After the jump, here we go…

 

Tom Sunnergren:

The 2012 76ers are one of the flat weirdest teams in NBA history.  They’re on pace to commit the fewest turnovers per game ever. If they continue as they have, they’ll attempt the fewest free throws per game in 60 years.  They’re 3-14 in games decided by seven points or fewer and 26-8 in everything else.  According to John Hollinger, every team in NBA history with a scoring margin of over +5 ppg has won at least 60 percent of their games.  The Sixers have a scoring margin of +6.4 ppg and a .560 winning percentage.

So my prediction?  I have none.  There’s no way to predict what’s going to happen with this team because there’s never really been a team like this.  They have no point of comparison, no analog. They could miss the playoffs. They could make the Eastern Conference finals.  Anything and everything is in play.

My instinct though is this: Spencer Hawes will continue to round into form, Iguodala’s knee will heal, Collins will figure out a way to intelligently, consistently deploy both Turner and Holiday—look for more Jrue at the 2—and the 7-6 will take advantage of the weak slate of teams they close with to finish 11-4.

And they’ll lose to the Pacers 4-2 in the first round.

 
Nabeel Ahmadieh:
 
At 29-23 and seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, the Sixers have a rather taxing slate to close out the year.   Nine out of their 11 games will be on the road, including the final five away from the Wells Fargo Center. 
 
The current standings shape up for a highly entertaining end with the fourth to the final eighth seed in the East all within four games of each other.  Meaning the Sixers, will likely finish anywhere from the fourth to eighth seed but we know they will be outside the lottery range.  Here are some scenarios to close out the year:
 
Best-case scenario: They close out the year 9-5, remain in the fourth seed and face either Indiana or Atlanta.  Two teams that are far from scary and home-court advantage.
 
Worst-case scenario: Finish the last 14 with a 5-9 record, struggle against below-average teams like Cleveland, Milwaukee and New Jersey on the road, and finish in the 7th or 8th seed slot.  Either seed would give you a match-up against Miami or Chicago in the first round and an automatic first round exit.  Plus if you struggle that mightily against crappy teams, you’ll likely have zero momentum heading in the playoffs. 
 
Average, feasible scenario:  7-7 finish, get beat out down the stretch by Indiana and Boston, and face Orlando as a 6th seed.  While Dwight Howard causes nightmare match-up problems, the Magic lack athletes on the perimeter to run with Jrue, ET and AI9. 
 
So what scenario will likely play out?  Considering the Sixers are 10-12 on the road thus far, I’m leaning towards the two less appealing scenarios occurring.  However, the Sixers have beatable teams on their roster for each contest with the exception of Miami on April 3rd.  Let’s see if this team can take care of business verse inferior opponents on the road to gain steam for a postseason push.  
 

Jeff McMenamin:

It’s time to mail it in.  The Sixers are the team who I thought they were after all to start the season.  I predicted the Sixers to go 36-30, good enough for the sixth spot in the East and it looks right now as if that’s exactly where the Sixers will end up.  The team currently stands at 29-23 and sit one game behind the Boston Celtics are atop the Atlantic Division.  The Knicks who were a team in turmoil to start the season have also played their way back into relevance as they hold the eighth playoff spot in the East at 27-26.  These are not good signs for the Sixers.

Teams have exploited the Sixers lack of a post presence as they’ve gone 9-9 since the ASB.  Seven of the nine losses were against teams who held winning records, while five of the nine wins came against teams with losing records.  Not exactly good numbers for a team who expects to win a playoff series.  I expect the Celtics to win the division again, the Sixers to drop to the sixth or seventh seed in the East by seasons end, and for the team to be competitive in the playoffs but ultimately fall in the first round again. 

I don’t know how many more times I have to say that the Sixers need a true big man.  Their best bet is to tank the rest of the year to get a shot at either Jared Sullinger or John Henson in the draft.  If they don’t tank then enjoy watching the team choke in big moments, consistently lack consistency, not figure out playing time, get overpowered offensively and defensively in the paint, give owner Josh Harris a full head of gray hair, sit productive players such as Nik Vucevic and Lavoy Allen for a slow/ineffective Spencer Hawes, and come draft day take another unpolished shooting guard or big man who will prove to be nothing more than a role player in the NBA.  The love affair with this team is over.  It was good while it lasted.

C. Smith:
 
In our 2011-12 season preview I predicted that the 76ers would win 40 games this year.  After the Sixers jumped out to a 20-9 record I was feeling very, very good about my forecast.  Even after the 5-game losing streak that led into the ASB, I still had confidence that Collins & Co. would make me look like a genius.  Now however, the Sixers would need to win 11 of their last 14 games to make my prediction come true.  That ain’t happenin’. 
 
They’re 4-4 in their last 8 overall.  6-5 in their last 11 at home and 3-8 in their last 11 on the road.  To say this team has lost it’s way is an understatement and I don’t see them rediscovering the right path down the stretch of this crazy season.  The “haters” would say that they have simply come back to earth and that their recent play represents who the Sixers really are as a team.  I politely disagree, but it really doesn’t matter. 
 
Either way you look at it, the road the 76ers have to haul over the last 14 game is brutal and it’s become apparent that they just don’t have what it takes to finish strong.  I predict a 7-7 finish over the final 14 games and a revised win total of 36 on the season.  However looking at what lies ahead for the Celtics and Knicks, I believe a 7-7 record in the final weeks may be enough for a 1st place finish in the Atlantic.  Still, winning the Atlantic will mean a first round match-up with the Pacers in the NBA Playoffs and elimination in 7 games for the Sixers.     

 
 
 

5 Responses to “THE FINAL 14”

  1. Gary
    2. April 2012 at 12:59

    I’m going to say they go 10-4 and one of those wins will be tomorrow against the Heat.

    I think the team will finally begin playing with a sense of urgency. I also think they will begin to play more of a team game instead of the HERO ball that they started to do in the 5 game losing streak until their last win.

    Against the Hawks I think the team played more like they did in the beginning of the season. They passed the ball to the open man, and in a close game there were no Lou Will Iso’s.

  2. Henry
    2. April 2012 at 16:47

    Jeff McMenamin – Little harsh maybe? Yes, this team has been very frustrating for a while, but if you have given up on them then you probably shouldn’t write it on a 76ers fan site. It reflects poorly not only on the team, but also on this site (which I read often and like a good deal.)

  3. Tom Sunnergren
    2. April 2012 at 23:44

    Thanks for reading and writing Henry, but I think you may have confused what we do here. Philadunkia isn’t a Sixers fan site. Its writers are all fans of the team, but our job is to write honest, rigorous, fact-based opinions–not just what is flattering to Collins and co.

  4. Jeff McMenamin
    3. April 2012 at 08:09

    @Henry
    Not being harsh, just being realistic. We aren’t supposed to be cheerleaders for this team, we’re supposed to give our honest opinions. My honest opinion is that the Sixers have no chance in the playoffs so what is this team really playing for at this point in the season? Yes, if they can get ahead of Boston by the end of the season to win the division then I think they could get past the Hawks and maybe Pacers(Pacers yet to be seen), but realistically they drop to a 6-8 seed and I don’t see this team beating any of the top 3 seeds in the East. I’d love to write something positive for the rest of the season, but in my eyes the only positive thing that can happen for this team right now is getting a big man for the future. This Sixers team is one interior enforcer away from being Elite, and until then they’re just another good team in the NBA. Good teams show flashes of great play, but pale in comparison to the elite(Bulls, Heat, Magic). The Sixers don’t need a superstar like those teams to be elite, but they definitely need a more imposing post duo then Elton Brand and Spencer Hawes.

    Thanks for reading and commenting,
    Jeff

  5. Dave
    3. April 2012 at 17:16

    Jeff,

    From another fan who is also a realist:

    The question left asking is why shouldn’t people still be in love with a good team, specifically this good team? According to you, being a good team isn’t even worth positivity.

    If, as a fan, I could only be happy with a championship team, I’m only going to be happy, on average, once every thirty seasons. That is hell.

    I enjoy the game of basketball. When I watch a game, if a team is lacking great players and offensive aggression like the Sixers, I like to see what tactics they use instead to win the game. I like to see how those tactics work against teams that do have great players or do allow their players to make mistakes, and to see to what extent basketball is a rock-paper-scissors game instead of a linear track of quality.

    This does not mean that acquiring a top five talent, which is what it almost always takes to win a championship, shouldn’t be a goal for every organization and fanbase — but the Sixers aren’t going to trade for Dwight Howard past the trade deadline or win the lottery in the next two weeks. All that’s left is this good team.

    I think that’s worth feeling positive about and I think that’s worth being in love with, because feeling positive and feeling in love with your team are inherent goods.

    There are 18 teams with worse records than the 7-6, including the defending champions, including teams that trot out head cases and felons and teams that no longer run plays or try hard and teams that openly disrespect their fans. Those teams (well, not the Mavs) are the ones that have real problems.

    The Sixers are a good team this year. They can get better, way better, and I hope they do with the full realization that that would require a major roster shakeup.

    But we’re lucky to have this team this year.

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