With 23 games left in this woebegone year, the countdown to the offseason has already begun. Rooting for a team that one knows will struggle – by design – to break 20 wins, there is a certain psychological preparation that occurs before the season even begins. But there are no mental gymnastics that could have prepared us for this.
It goes beyond this fact, but it should be pointed out that the team’s 8-51 record is the worst it’s had through 59 games in its entire history. Hell, even the notorious 9-73 team from 1972-73 had notched its final victory by this date. We knew we were signing up for a long and painful rebuild, but I don’t think any of us expected year three to look like this.
Observing the situation from a safe distance, there’s reason for optimism. Many of the moves the Sixers have made throughout their rebuild have been ones that traded their scarce immediate resources for what they hope will be a bounty in the future. We see what lies in the fast-approaching distance, with the potential for four first-round picks this June, the possible return of Joel Embiid after two years lost to a foot injury, the likely addition of dynamic European star Dario Saric, and as much cap space as any team in the NBA serving to abate our appetites just a bit longer. But before we have to chance to grasp at that carrot that’s been cruelly dangled above our heads the past two years, we must get through these final six weeks.
On Monday, the Sixers face the Washington Wizards for the second time in four days. Washington traveled to Philadelphia on Friday to take on the Sixers and about 350 process-trusting Rights To Ricky Sanchez listeners, whom they defeated 103-94 behind a near triple-double effort by John Wall (23 points, 11 assists, 8 rebounds). The Sixers were led in that game by Jahlil Okafor, who notched 21 points on 9-of-13 shooting to go along with six rebounds and a couple assists.
Okafor has played some of his best basketball – at least on the offensive end of the floor – since the All-Star break, averaging 20.3 points on 63.4% shooting while playing 26.6 minutes per game. His defensive struggles and his inability to make an impact on the glass (4.3 rebounds per game) are still concerning, but frankly the entire team has looked like dog crap in those two areas as of late.
Philadelphia allowed an average of 119.7 points per game since the break, with yesterday’s 130-116 loss to the Orlando Magic putting an exclamation point on the team’s shittiest stretch of hoops since, well, November. During this stretch, the Sixers have posted league-worst marks in rebounding percentage (44.6%) and are second only to the Los Angeles Lakers in defensive rating (117.7). Losers of 12 of their last 13 games, the team no longer feels like the one Uncle Jerry, Mike D’Antoni, and Ish Smith saved from the doldrums of suckitude two month ago, and in the majority of the six losses since the break the team has looked out of synch, unmotivated, and without direction. The effort was so poor in Sunday’s loss to the Magic that head coach Brett Brown pulled Nerlens Noel out of the game two minutes into the second half and kept him on the bench for the remainder of the contest.
The Sixers need a win badly, but against a Wizards team that is 5-2 since the All-Star break and four nights ago handed the team its 50th loss of the season, that probably isn’t too likely. Follow along with the game on @Liberty_Ballers, where I’ll try to ease our collective pain with stupid photoshops and BoJack Horseman GIFs.