*Update: No Hedo tonight. That sucks; I wanted to see what the Sixers could do against a completely healthy Raptors team. Oh well.
After a month or two of rooting for ping pong balls and blow ups, I'm all the way back on the playoff bandwagon. I'm fully aware another first round exit and another year of Eddie Jordan are probably detrimental to the team's development, but rooting against your team in any circumstance is depressing. I'd rather enjoy a few wins and playoff run than root for an unknown commodity like a "seven percent chance of drafting a player who has a 70 percent chance of being a superstar" or "the chance management builds a future dynasty with 5 straight number one picks".
For right now I'll work with what I got, and what I got is a favorite team with some talented players who don't quite fit together or in their current system. But when they're on, they're really fun to watch -- as long as you're rooting italic;">for them.
Lucky for the Sixers, they play in the Eastern Conference where a five-game winning streak catapults you from the John Wall sweepstakes to the thick of a playoff chase.
There's no predicting how the Sixers will finish the season, but it should be exciting given their history of late playoff runs. Being an Astros fan has taught me that you're not out of the playoffs until you're mathematically eliminated. I'm reminded of the 2005 tombstone. After 45 games the Astros record was 15-30, the local newspaper and all the fans pronounced their season officially over -- next thing you know they finish 74-43 and play in the franchise's one and only World Series. So crazier things have happened.
The Sixers attempt at a playoff run continues tonight as they go for their sixth straight win against a very good home team, the Toronto Raptors. The Raps are 19-6 at home -- good for the seventh best record in basketball. After a slow start of their own (11-17), the Raptors are 16-6 since then and possess one of the best offenses in basketball. I'm not going to sit here and lie, because all I know about the Raptors is what the stats tell me. I don't like to pretend to know a lot about teams I never watch, so here are the numbers:
Take the Sixers numbers with a grain of salt because they've played much better as of late, obviously. Their biggest advantage is on the glass, but former friend Reggie Evans is scheduled to make his return tonight. He hasn't played all year, and his first game back is against his former team? Watch out. Reggie has always been tenacious on the glass, but I expect a little something extra tonight. His minutes will probably be limited, but his energy will be a factor.
The Sixers have played terrible defense all season, but have improved tremendously during their winning streak. Tonight we'll find out if it's for real or just a product the teams they've played. According to the numbers, the Raptors have the second most efficient offense in the league, and the Sixers are playing the second of a back-to-back so I'd be extremely impressed if they could slow the Raptors down and steal a win -- especially in Toronto.
Are the Sixers good enough to make the playoffs? Are they good enough to persuade management to keep the roster intact? Both answers will be more clear after tonight. Only two games remaining before the trade deadline.