The first three games after the All-Star Break went exactly as expected from the first half of the season. They beat up on two bad teams, the Pistons and the Warriors, and lost a heartbreaker to the West-leading Thunder after some terrible play down the stretch. Now, the Sixers get another stab at the Chicago Bulls, the team with the best record in the NBA and coming off five straight victories. Also, the game is on ESPN AKA The Worldwide Leader in Endorsing Blown Calls, we're scheduled to get Dan Schulman and Doris Burke.
The catch, for those who forget, is that the Sixers have won three consecutive games against the Bulls by an average of more than 11 points per contest. Andre Iguodala has been especially great in those three games, shooting almost 60% from the field and averaging over 18 points per game against his hometown team (he's from Springfield, close enough). But last game, as any Sixer-hater/national analyst will tell you, the Bulls were missing *superstars* Luol Deng and Richard Hamilton. This game they won't be missing anybody, although rumor has it Brian Scalabrine broke a nail earlier so we'll see how that affects them.
The Sixers defense has maintained its greatness for the most part over the troubled last few weeks where the offense has stalled. They'll face another tough test tonight in Derrick Rose, who has been playing awesome, and Carlos Boozer/Joakim Noah. The inexperienced Sixers bigs should have a tough time with them when defensive beast Elton Brand takes a breather. I'm not ruling out a Tony Battie cameo at some point. Deng for some reason doesn't scare me but watch him go off tonight just for me.
Sixers-wise, this marks another test against a good team. They've proven time and again that mediocre teams will fall at the hands of this swarming defense, but the top tier usually gets the best of them. The Sixers are 6-12 against teams that are currently .500 or above, having lost six straight to them. The difference is painfully obvious. Free throws have gone down, three-pointers have gone down, turnovers have gone up, assists have gone down, and Louis Williams and Evan Turner have been shooting blindfolded. Work the ball around for better shots and success will follow. Hopefully that starts tonight. The Sixers are 6-9 since the last time these two teams met and I wrote this still-not-regrettable article.