Tonight's game against the Raptors will mark the 80th time the Sixers lace it up this season. I can't believe there's only three regular season games remaining. It seems like just yesterday we we're drooling over Elton Brand and making lofty pre-season predictions. Things turned out differently than most expected, but all in all, it's been a very entertaining season.
The cool thing about it is, it's not over yet. The regular season might be, but the real season, the season that counts, is less than a week away. With that in mind, here's what I'm going to look for in these final three games with my sights set on the playoffs.
- The perimeter defense.
- Coach DiLeo's rotations.
- The continued development of the young guys.
- Playoff tune-up = cut down on turnovers, giving up open jumpers and coming out flat.
- The drop-off from the starters to the second unit.
Sure, it's always fun to win, but whether I see a green 'W' on the Sixers schedule or a red "L" won't make much of a difference on how I interpret the game. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see them win all three games, but it's not likely, and I'm not going to get too down on myself if they lose all three. I actually expect it.
The Sixers play like a lottery team without Elton Brand and Thaddeus Young, and they will continue to do so until SuperThad returns. I didn't realize how much Thad meant to this team until I had to witness them play without him recently -- it ain't pretty.
Holding on to the sixth seed, and finishing with a record at or above .500 is really all the Sixers have to play for in these three games. And I don't think it matters whether they get the sixth or seventh seed. The Magic and Celtics are equally tough match-ups.
So watch tonight's game with the mentality that it's just a pre-season game. (Note: this isn't an excuse for the Sixers to give a pre-season effort; I still expect them to come out and give it their all). Watch Lou-Will's every move and tell me if he's improved throughout the season. Watch Tony DiLeo's substitution patterns, and call him out if their boneheaded. Pay attention to the Sixers perimeter defense and how many un-contested threes they allow. Don't dwell too much on the final score, but rather the "little things" -- things that will matter come next weekend... the NBA playoffs.
Tip is in about an hour at 6 p.m. eastern, and the game is airing on NBATV. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to take a one hour power nap after playing NBA Jam for 15 straight hours. Don't laugh. I have no regrets.