Before the start of this lockout-shortened season, the only Sixers topic of interest was which mascot they would go with once the rabbit on steroids known as ‘Hiphop’ was out of the picture.  The 7-6 were a young team with no proven leader or dominant big man.  It was just going to be another mediocre year of Philly basketball — something this city has grown increasingly resigned to since the 2001 Finals run.

Then the unexpected happened.

The Sixers went 15-6 through December and January and the misery that the Eagles left us with turned to joy. Doug Collins was a God, Spencer Hawes was…good, Lou, Jrue, Thad and ET were earning nicknames, Iggy was earning All-Star berths, and we didn’t have any major snow storms. Life was good.

And other than a few bumps along the road, the Sixers made a mockery of our expectations in those early weeks. They boasted a league leading defense and great fast break play. They played with toughness and grit; pushing until the final buzzer in each and every game. We finally got a player in the All Star game and—with the Celtics looking old and the Knicks looking like the Knicks we’ve all grown to love—we led the Atlantic by a healthy margin.

Then the unexpected happened. Again.

Oh how things have changed since the good old days of January. The weather has warmed up as the Sixers prospects have cooled off. Even in a shortened season, fatigue is kicking in. The decision not to add a big man or a pure scorer before the deadline has resulted in an offense that just can’t seem to get it going. Andre Iguodala is hurt, Thad Young looks like he’s hit a brick wall and Evan Turner has slowed from his torrid pace. When the Sixers need 31 points from Jodie Meeks to be competitive, you know things are bad.

Meanwhile, that old Boston Celtics team is starting to look like the old Boston Celtics team—winning five in a row and seven of their last 10 games. And while ‘Linsanity’ is dead and gone, the Knicks are still surging, going 8-2 in their last 10 games. The Sixer’s last 10 games? 4-6. That four seed is now a seven going into the final month of the season. LeBron James was able to score a season high 41 points for the Dwayne Wade-less Heat while the Sixer’s gave up 17 turnovers, giving Miami the sweep over the Sixer’s in their 4 matchups this season. The loss in Miami was also the 11th straight for the Sixer’s against the superior Miami Heat.

A first round matchup against LeBron and Co. would be the absolute worst case scenario for the 7-6, and unfortunately, that’s the way things are shaking up. After a loss at home to the lowly Raptors tonight, with just 7 points in the 4th and just 22 points in the second half, this team is in serious trouble. With one game left against the Celtics still on the schedule, and two against the Magic and Pacers, things could get worse. I’m not just talking about a first round knockout to Miami or Chicago, I’m talking about being on the outside looking in.

If the Sixers can’t catch a second wind, and soon, we’ll be back to talking about mascots.

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