The Sixers finished the first half of their brutal eight-game stretch against the league's elite teams with a sterling 3-1 record. They destroyed Dwight Howard and the Magic – before letting up the last three minutes. They destroyed Derrick Rose and the Bulls. They destroyed the Hawks, in Atlanta, in the second game of a back-to-back. Yet all anyone wants to point to is their second 20+ point loss to the Miami Heat this season.
Look, the Heat are, hands down, the best team in the NBA. The Sixers were without Spencer Hawes and received a total of ZERO points from their starting center, Tony Battie and starting power forward, Elton Brand, yet they were only down four points after three quarters. They were blown out in the fourth. So what. That doesn't take anything away from the three impressive wins they had last week, along with the fact that they hung with the Heat for three quarters.
For the record, the Pacers lost to the Heat by 35, the Spurs lost by 22, the Lakers trailed by 21 after three, and the Mavs trailed by 32 after three. How come the media doesn't discredit those teams every time they have a nice win?
Anyway, make the jump to see where the Sixers rank amongst the national media.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com - 4th (3rd in East)
The No. 1 defense in the league has allowed 118 points per 100 possessions in two games against the Heat. Other than Friday's loss to Miami, it's been so far, so good as the Sixers play seven straight games against some of the best teams in the league. Saturday's win in Atlanta was the most impressive.
Tom Ziller, SB Nation - 5th (3rd in East)
A few statistical Power Rankings have Philly on top, and for good reason: the Sixers have been excellent, with the league's top defense and a dope, balanced offense despite missing Spencer Hawes, who started the season brilliantly for Doug Collins' squad. Philadelphia has been the biggest surprise of this season to date, and it's more fun to watch them than it has been since A.I.'s heyday.
Chris Sheridan, Sheridan Hoops - 6th (3rd in East)
In last week's rankings I wrote: "I don't care what they do all week except for Friday, when they play the Heat, who beat them by 21 two weeks ago." So what did they do two nights after defeating Bulls? Folded in fourth quarter and lost by 20. That means Kobayashi had a better week at Wachovia than them. Tough week: Lakers, Spurs, Clippers, Cavs. Next 20-point loss to Heat is scheduled for March 16.
John Hollinger, ESPN - 3rd (2nd in the East)
Marc Stein, ESPN - 4th (4th in the East)
The bad news for the validation-craving Sixers: They've seen Miami twice and lost twice by a combined 41 ... compared with a combined 24 points in their other five losses. The good news: Everyone bangs on Philly about its easy schedule so far, but it did just wrap wins over the Bulls and Hawks around Heat rout No. 2.
Composite: 4.4 (3rd in East)