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76ers vs. Nets Preview: Sweet Sixteen

After the Philadelphia 76ers started the season 0-17, even the most ardent supporters would have doubted that the team would get themselves to a point where 20 wins wasn't a mere pipe dream. Yet here we are.

Nerlens Noel: Destroyer of Worlds
Nerlens Noel: Destroyer of Worlds
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Here we are... face-to-face

A couple of silver spoons...

- Probably Alan Thicke because that guy was a beast when it came to '80s TV theme songs

It's going to happen, folks. It may even happen tonight.

At 15-50, the Philadelphia 76ers are exactly one victory away from surpassing the 15.5 win over/under set by most Las Vegas sportsbooks earlier this year. The staff here at Liberty Ballers had a private debate (which later became public) about the issue, and the prevailing wisdom was that it was damn near im-[redacted]-possible for an NBA team to win less than 20 percent of its games over the course of an 82-game season.

It's always smart to make judgments based on what you see with your own eyes: everything else is just background noise. As Julian Edelman taught us recently: Trust nobody. Seriously... trust nobody.

I'll admit it: I had my doubts. An 0-17 start will do that to you. I mean, seriously... how are you supposed to have faith in a team that started Christapher Johnson at point guard on opening night? I don't know about you, but I feel much more comfortable with Ishmael Smith and Lil' Sip at the helm than I did with good ol' CJ.

More importantly, on November 15, God brought Robert Covington into our lives, and less than three weeks later, Lord Robert scored 17 points in the Sixers' first victory of the year, an 85-77 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The starting power forward on the T'Wolves that evening was one Thaddeus Young, who now happens to play for tonight's opponent: the Brooklyn Nets. Mighty Thad Young is 0-2 against the 76ers this season, and I believe that he will do everything in his power to assure that his new employer won't get the better of the team that drafted him (think former Eagles' kicker/Dallas Cowboys' spy Chris Boniol circa 1997).

Then again, he may not have to do much. Brooklyn has lost five in a row, and they plan on starting someone named "Markel Brown" against the SIxers. A Google search tells me that "Markel Brown" was either inactive or notched a DNP-CD 35 times this season, but he'll be on the court when the ball is tipped at 7:30 tonight.

Predicting 76ers' wins is only slightly easier than figuring out what Chip Kelly is going to do next (I think the Mariota thing is dead, but YOLO), but if a win doesn't come against the Nets, it'll happen soon. The next six games on the slate are vs. the Celtics, Pistons, Knicks, Lakers, Kings and Nuggets - if JaKarr Sampson can't lead us to victory against one of those teams, then life may not be worth living anymore.

Prediction: Sixers 101, Nets 97. In honor of Dana Barros's 50-point explosion 20 years ago today, the 76ers will score 50 points in the first half.

Matchup to watch: Nerlens Noel vs. Brook Lopez. Noel - the best rookie not named Andrew Wiggins - has been a monster of late, and Brook Lopez has posted five double-doubles since the All-Star break.

Player to watch: Thomas Robinson. He's not the greatest shooter in the world (from the line or from the field), but Robinson (who was hours away from joining the Nets at one point) has been remarkably productive since he was claimed off of waivers a few weeks ago (16.9 points and 17.8 rebounds per-36 minutes).  Brooklyn is one of the worst rebounding teams in the league, so if Robinson gets enough burn tonight, 10-plus boards isn't out of the question.

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