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76ers vs Bulls Preview: Protect the Belt

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Your current NBA World Heavyweight Champions are defending their titles tonight in Chicago against the Bulls. Will the team extend their winning streak to three, or will they cough up the belt against Chicago's stingy defense and home court advantage?

Brett Brown is happy with the season's strong start.
Brett Brown is happy with the season's strong start.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

As you've probably heard, Reddit's NBA Community has come up with the best idea ever: the NBA Regular Season Championship Belt. The rules are as follows: the NBA Champions hold this "belt" throughout the offseason and defend it in each game that they play, with the winner of each subsequent game claiming the belt. Here's the progression of the belt and title defenses this season, for instance:

1. Miami defeats Chicago in their opener to retain.

2. The Sixers with a David-like upset over the Heat to win the Championship.

3. The Sixers go on the road to upset the Wizards in their hometown to retain.

So the Sixers have the title, and the rest of the teams are gunning for them. The game is so important that they actually put a Sixers game on national television (on NBA TV for you league passers out there). Despite losing in an opportunity to gain the belt, the Chicago Bulls appear to have made a backroom deal with the *ahem* powers that be to get another shot after coming up well short in their first opportunity. It seems patently unfair, but the upstart, young heroes from Philadelphia have accepted the challenge.

Also, it's on the schedule. Remember kids: never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

Like the first two games, I expect the Sixers to lose. They should struggle to score against the suffocating Bulls defense. But stranger things have happened, like the Sixers winning the imaginary belt in the first place and then defending it on the road in Washington in succession.

But if they don't lose, it won't be the end of the world. Certainly, the team has no real playoff aspirations, and the tank job would benefit from more losses than wins. But the season just started, and the organization has plenty of time to steer the tank in the right direction. The Orlando Magic last season started 12-13 before cruising to a 20-62 final record and the best lottery odds. Injuries to Glen Davis and Jameer Nelson, combined with trading J.J. Redick, moved the Magic into the tank zone. A fast start, derailed by injuries or trades, can turn into a dismal season fairly easily if the organization commits to making it happen.

In fact, I'm happy that players are showing that they could be valuable NBA players, which ultimately should benefit the team so long as the front office makes move to ensure a losing season, Michael Carter-Williams showed flashes of brilliance in an uneven game after his blistering opener. and Evan Turner looks like a different player once freed from the shackles of an ancient offense. Spencer Hawes is launching and hitting threes consistently in between moments of incompetence, and Thaddeus Young is still fantastic all the time.

We'll see if these bright spots continue to shine tonight against the Bulls. They tend to make opposing offenses look terrible, with the length of Jimmy Butler and Luol Deng on the perimeter and the size and instincts of Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah on the inside. On the other end, Derrick Rose is back, which is exciting because I wondered if he'd ever be back again after his horrific injury in the playoff 2 years ago.

Also, Evan Turner trash talking the Bulls and vice versa is always more fun than it should be.

If the Sixers have another great offensive game against this team, then maybe the tank is running on fumes. But otherwise, everything is still going according to plan. And it would be kind of fun to extend the title run for at least one more game, too.

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