Recently, the major talking point surrounding the Sixers has been their performance in "clutch" situations. So bad that according to Derek Bodner, the Sixers have been outscored 108-40 in the last 5 minutes of games with the score within a margin of 5 either way. The bad news is that's not good! The good news is it's not like to come into play today as the Sixers are hashtag bad and the Spurs are hashtag Spurs.
With things not going well, eyes have turned recently toward Brett Brown's game line-ups, substitutions, play-calling, and overall game management. While it is difficult to fully assess Brett Brown's coaching abilities without the benefit of having a team designed to compete for a playoff spot, it is also hard to fully absolve him of some of the close game losing.
With that said, after playing the likes of the Lakers, Knicks, and Nuggets, a series of teams whose skill-set range from mediocre to god-awful, Brown may find himself adjusting his tactics playing his former boss Gregg Popovich and perennial playoff contender and currently 17-4 Spurs.
The Spurs have a distinction of being "not Golden State Warriors," a rather unfortunate label to have this season, but they are still a dangerous team especially for the rebuilding Sixers. And while the Spurs have lost four games this season, three of those losses have been by six points or fewer, and all four losses have been on the road. Good news for the Sixers, Spurs are on the road tonight. Bad news, the Sixers are worse than the Bulls, Pelicans, Thunder, and the Wizards.
The Sixers will have a large task ahead of them playing the Spurs, and it will be made even rougher given the likelihood Brown re-unites the frontcourt pair of Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel, a pair that has been ineffective at best. Okafor has been disappointing to say the least, and to illustrate that Okafor's offensive rating through 624 minutes this season is a rather not good 91 while his defensive rating is an abysmal 106. With Okafor on the court, the Sixes become what their harshest media critics say they are. And perhaps due in part to playing with Okafor, Noel has seen both his offensive rating (80) and defensive rating (102) worsen from the previous season, although in fairness Nerlens has played less minutes than Okafor this season giving his stats a modestly higher level of variance.
On the flip side to take a look at some Sixers positivity heading into tonight's game, Robert Covington is better than Deadspin's food critic would lead you to believe. Much better in fact, and the aforementioned Derek Bodner uncovered some interesting stats about RoCo.
Robert Covington has a 54.4% ts% despite shooting 39% from the field and is leading NBA in stl%. He's the textbook Hinkie/Moreyball player— Derek Bodner (@DerekBodnerNBA) December 6, 2015
The guys ahead of Covington? Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, and Paul George.— Derek Bodner (@DerekBodnerNBA) December 7, 2015
It's not everything, and Covington certainly has weaknesses in the ball-handling and turnover department, but in a season that has seen so many people get upset and frustrated, it is nice to have one of those little inklings of positivity to hang on to. And one of those guys edging out Covington is Kawhi Leonard, whom the Sixers will be getting themselves rather well-acquainted with tonight.
Will the Sixers beat the Spurs? It seems unlikely. But if last night if I had asked "will the Eagles beat the Patriots at Foxborough" you probably would have said no. AND WE WERE ALL WRONG THE EAGLES BEAT THE PATRIOTS LAST NIGHT LET'S KEEP IT LIT GO SIXERS