THE FINAL 14

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.     

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