Losers of 4 straight, and and 10 of their previous 14, the Sixers will try to regain their footing and desperate try to
head into the postseason end the season with some kind of momentum. In order to do that, they will have to collect some wins this week that sees them face relatively easy opponents, with a game against the 20-37 Raptors sandwiched between two games against the 21-37 Nets.
You want me to try to predict how the week will unfold? Impossible. This team is losing to every team possible. They're getting blown out against good teams on the road and bad teams at home. The last 6 games, of which they have lost 5 of, they've gone 0-3 on the road and 1-2 at home. They've lost to Washington and Toronto by 21 points. They've lost 6 of their previous 7 on the road and are sitting at 10-15 on the road for the season, where they will play 8 of their final 10 games.
It would be virtually impossible to predict a good showing from this team. Even if they win, I have no confidence it will be pretty.
A pessimist would point out that New Jersey has won 6 of their last 10 games, has already beaten the Sixers once this year in an overtime victory at the Wells Fargo Center, and has been pounding the offensive glass of late. An optimist would look at the Nets as still a deeply flawed team, particularly on the defensive end, that has been playing a fairly soft schedule as of late.
Both would be right, and if you had any confidence in the Sixers team that played the first 40 or so games showing up for this one, you'd pencil this game in as a win. A team like the Nets, who turn the ball over and don't defend particularly well, should theoretically be the type of team the Sixers feast on, but who exactly this Sixers team is anymore is anybody's guess.
For what may be the first time all year (at the very least, it's been a while) the Sixers are not the NBA's best team in terms of points given up per possession, now coming in behind the Boston Celtics, ironically.
The last time these two teams met, the Nets didn't have Gerald Wallace and the Sixers were in the middle of a stretch where they would go 15-4. Cleally, things are different now. Deron Williams went absolutely nuts in that game, scoring 34 points with 11 assists. He scored off back door cuts, he iso'd against Jrue, he iso'd against Dre, and he iso'd against Jrue Holiday in a couple of bizarre late game switches. He scored at the rim, from well beyond three, and from mid range. He scored in every way imaginable, and he's obviously going to be the key tonight. With Wallace in the fold the Sixers may not be able to have Iguodala help on Williams as much as they previously did, which could hurt them.
Outside of Williams, the Nets don't have too many other ball handlers that you have to worry about running a pick and roll from, something that should help the Sixers in their defensive schemes. The one thing to worry about is the amount of three pointers they take, as they're second in the league in both makes and attempts. Normally, this wouldn't be a huge concern as the Sixers are top 3 in defending the three, both in terms of makes and percentages, but they've struggled defensively over this 14 game stretch, allowing opponents to shoot 45.7% from the field over that stretch, where they shot 41.4% before that. They also have to do a better job of putting a body on Kris Humphries, as he collected 19 rebounds (6 offensive) to go along with 13 points in the previous encounter.
I'm assuming Doug is keeping the starting lineup, but at that point it's up in the air. Will he go with Vucevic or Battie as the first center off the bench? Will he pull Turner after scoring 11 points in 3 minutes? Will the players have an energy? I have no idea. It's hard to even begin to predict what this team will give you on any given night.
With the Sixers now 3 games behind the Celtics for the Atlantic, tied with the Knicks (and losing the tiebreaker) for 7th in the Eastern Conference, and only 1.5 games ahead of Milwaukee for the 8th and final spot, this game is obviously huge. The Sixers are in very real danger of missing the playoffs entirely.
Playoffs? I just hope we can win a game.
I can't with a straight face predict the Sixers will win this one, not with how they've been playing lately.
Prediction: Nets 97, Sixers 94