Sixers vs Warriors: Do You Believe in Miracles?

The Philadelphia 76ers (7-40) will take on Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors (42-4) today at the Wells Fargo Center.

    The Sixers will attempt to slow down Steph Curry and the 42-4 Golden State Warriors today at the Wells Fargo Center | Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY SportsThe Sixers will attempt to slow down Steph Curry and the 42-4 Golden State Warriors today at the Wells Fargo Center | Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

For a very brief moment in time, the Golden State Warriors almost appeared to be struggling.

“Struggling” for the 42-4 Golden State Warriors is going 1-2 over a four day period, with road losses to the Denver Nuggets and Detroit Pistons.

For virtually any other team in the history of this great sport, a 1-2 three game stretch doesn’t even register in the minds of the sporting public. It’s just something that happens now and then over the course of an NBA season.

But for the Golden State Warriors, who entered that stretch with a 36-2 record, it provided the rest of the NBA with a brief opportunity to convince themselves that this team may, in fact, be composed of humans with actual, tangible weaknesses.

In typical Warriors fashion, they followed that up with a five game winning streak which included blowout victories over the Cleveland Cavaliers (33-12), Chicago Bulls (26-19), and San Antonio Spurs (39-7).

Notice served.

The Details:

What: Sixers (7-40) vs Warriors (42-4)

Where: Wells Fargo Center

When: 5:00 PM

Watch: Comcast SportsNet

Projected Starting Lineups: 

Sixers: Ish Smith, Nik Stauskas, Robert Covington, Jerami Grant, Nerlens Noel

Warriors: Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, Andrew Bogut

(Note: official starting lineups will come out about an hour before the game. Until then, these are our best guesses).

Injury Report:

Joel Embiid (out, right foot)

About The Opponent:

How do you top beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals? By starting the next season off with a 24-game winning streak, the best start in NBA history.

The Warriors are one of those teams that require virtually no introduction, as even the most casual of basketball fans have been absolutely memorized with the basketball revolution happening in the bay area.

Led by superstars Steph Curry (29.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, 6.6 assists per game), Klay Thompson (20.9 points per game), and Draymond Green (14.5 points, 9.4 rebounds, 7.2 assists per game), the Warriors boast the best offense in the league, and it’s not particularly close: with an offensive rating of 115.0 points per 100 possessions, the Warriors are nearly 2.5 points higher than the second best offense (Oklahoma City at 112.6). In fact, the Sixers are closer to being a league-average offense than a league-average offense is to matching the Warriors.

The Warriors 115.0 offensive rating is within spitting distance of the best offense in the basketball-reference database, which dates back to the start of the 1973-74 season. They’re chasing the showtime Lakers, who put up a 115.6 offensive rating in 1986-87.

What really sets Golden State apart is that not only are they on pace to have one of, if not the, best offenses in NBA history, but they also dominate on the defensive side of the court. The Warriors had the best defense in the league last season, and while they’ve slipped somewhat (102.3 defensive rating, 4th in the league), they’re on pace to become just the second team in the basketball-reference database to have an offensive rating of greater than 115 and a defensive rating of less than 103.

The other team is one you may have heard of: the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, who finished the season 72-10, the current owners of the best record in NBA history. Through 46 games, the Warriors are on pace to beat that mark.

The list of areas where the Warriors excel is too big to fully detail out. One obvious area that stands oust is they’re first in the league in three-pointers made (12.8 per game) and in three-point percentage (42.6 percent). 42.6 percent would be the second-best percentage from three point range in NBA history, just barely behind the 42.8 percent the 1996-97 Charlotte Hornets shot, a team which featured Steph’s father, Dell Curry.

Klay Thompson started off the season struggling (relatively), averaging just 15.5 points and shooting only 36.4 percent from three-point range over the first twelve games of the season. He’s turned it on since, however, averaging 22.7 points and shooting 44.3 percent on nearly eight three-point attempts per game since.

Draymond Green, who plays much of the game as a small-ball center despite being just 6’7″, is averaging 14.5 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 7.2 assists per game on the season, nearly doubling the 3.7 assists per game he averaged last season, which was a career-best up to that point. He could become just the eight player in NBA history to average at least 14 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists per game, joining the likes of Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain, Grant Hill, Magic Johnson, and Oscar Robertson.

The lineup of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes, and Draymond Green has outscored opponents by an average of 54.3 points per 100 possessions while they’ve been on the court this season.

Finally, the Warriors have depth that most teams simply cannot match up against. Bench players like Andre Iguodala, Shaun LivingstonBrandon Rush, Leandro Barbosa, and Festus Ezeli are excellent in the role they’re asked to play for the Warriors.

What To Look For:

The Warriors. Watch this game for the Warriors.

Golden State will have advantages at virtually every position today, so enjoy the chance to watch one of the greatest teams in NBA history. Rarely will you see a collection of players that play off of each other as well as the Warriors do, so just enjoy basketball at its absolute highest level.

During the game it should become obvious that the Sixers and Warriors seemingly play a different sport, and that could very easily become disheartening to fans of a rebuilding team. But the Warriors and Spurs play the game at a level entirely separate from the rest of the NBA. It’s not just the Sixers that are outclassed by the Warriors, it’s virtually every team in the league is as well.

Rookie big man Jahlil Okafor should make his return after missing the past two games with an illness. This will be an especially hard game to integrate Okafor back into. The Warriors absolutely excel at spacing the floor, moving the ball, and dissecting the matchup they want with surgical precision. Masking Okafor’s struggles to defend in space will be difficult, and it will be especially difficult to spend very much time playing two big men at the same time. This could cut into the minutes for rookie Richaun Holmes.

Derek Bodner covers the 76ers for Philadelphia magazine’s Sixers Post. Follow @DerekBodnerNBA on Twitter.