You know the superlatives. The Sixers are 10-3, own the highest point differential and defensive rating in the NBA, and rank in the top three offensively. They're in first place in the Atlantic Division and already have a four game lead on the second place Knicks and five and a half game lead on the Celtics. The knock: they haven't played anybody, which is relatively true. Statistically they've had the easiest schedule in the NBA with an cumulative opponents' winning percentage of .371. Over the next three games, however, the Sixers will face teams with a combined winning percentage of .658, which should provide a good litmus test of just how "for real" the up-and-coming Sixers are.
Wednesday - vs. Denver Nuggets
Friday - vs. Atlanta Hawks
Saturday - @ Miami Heat
pessimist realist, Michael Levin so often reminds us, not only have the Sixers enjoyed an easy schedule, but their opponents have also been conveniently injured when the Sixers show up, which brings us to the upcoming opponents. The Nuggets only significant injury is Rudy Fernandez with a strained Achilles; he may or may not play Wednesday. The Hawks will be without All-Star big man Al Horford, who's out 3-4 months with a torn pec. For the Heat, Dwyane Wade, who's doubtful for Tuesday's game with a sprained ankle should be healed in time for Saturday's game with the Sixers.
Unfortunately the Sixers are dealing with a few significant injuries of their own. Evan Turner is nurising a quad contusion and Spencer Hawes is battling a back strain AND a strained Achillies. Both are game-time decisions for Wednesday's game against the Nuggets. Although the Nuggs will be playing in the Wells Fargo Center and their second game in as many nights, they're one of the deepest teams in the league and the Sixers will need both Turner and Hawes to compete with the "Sixers West".
Of the first "tough" three game stretch of the Sixers season, two of the games will be at home and on a full day's rest. And the middle game – against the Hawks – will be against a team missing arguably their best player. I honestly expect the Sixers to find a way to win two of these games. I'd be ecstatic with three wins and extremely disappointed with anything less than two. A week ago I previewed the Knicks game, which was a challenge the Sixers failed –albeit on the road on the third night of a tripleback. Consider this three game stretch challenge number two for the Sixers. Please let Evan Turner (and Spencer Hawes, I guess) be healthy!