Sixers Look To End 10-Game Losing Streak

The Sixers will take on the Miami Heat tonight at the Wells Fargo Center, where they'll look to put an end to a ten game losing streak.

The Sixers will take on Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center | Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Sixers will take on Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center | Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Sixers fans are hardly strangers to losing streaks.

The 18 game losing streak to start the 2015-16 season. The 17 game streak to start the previous one. A 26 game monster so a losing streak in 2013-14, the first season under the stewardship of Sam Hinkie and Brett Brown.

In all, the Sixers’ recent 10-game losing streak is their sixth losing streak of ten or more games since the start of this rebuild, and their third so far this season.

While some of the other losing streaks have been disheartening for their sheer volume, this is one of the more surprising ones. After acquiring Ish Smith in a December 24th trade with New Orleans, the team seemingly turned around overnight.

Not into a contender, mind you. Not even close. The team is years away from that. But into to a team that competed night in and night out.

The Sixers went 6-8 following the acquisition of Smith, a veritable hot streak for the 8-53 Sixers, then followed that up with some heartbreaking losses — such as their 108-105 loss to the Hawks, or their 98-92 overtime loss to the Clippers — against some really good competition. It was a drastic reversal from the team that lost 30 of their first 31 games of the season in a lifeless manner not typical of Brett Brown’s previous squads.

Then it all, rather abruptly, came crashing down.

After that heartbreaker against the Clippers the Sixers had one game remaining before the All-Star break, a home contest against the struggling Sacramento Kings. The Sixers built up a 15 point half-time lead before collapsing in the fourth quarter, another devastating loss.

Having eight days off over the All-Star break to dwell on the Los Angeles and Sacramento losses seems to have killed the Sixers’ spirit. The Sixers have gone 0-8 after the All-Star break, losing by an average of over 14 points per contest. Their defense, and defensive effort, has been disastrous.

Can the Sixers regain their competitive ways against the suddenly-surging Miami Heat?

 The Details:

What: Sixers (8-53) vs Heat (35-26)

Where: Wells Fargo Center

When: 7:00 PM

Watch: Comcast SportsNet

Projected Starting Lineups: 

Sixers: Ish Smith, Hollis Thompson, Robert Covington, Jerami Grant, Carl Landry

Heat: Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade, Joe Johnson, Luol Deng, Amar’e Stoudemire

(Note: Starting lineups updated at 5:45 pm).

Injury Update: 

Both Jahlil Okafor (right shin) and Nerlens Noel (right knee) will miss tonight’s game. Both are day-to-day. Kendall Marshall and Nik Stauskas are both away from the team with an upper respiratory illness and are unavailable. T.J. McConnell (shin) and Hollis Thompson (illness) are on a minutes restriction.

(Note: Injury update was updated at 5:45 pm with new information).

Previous Matchups: 

The Sixers have only played Miami once so far this year, a 96-91 loss to the Heat in Miami all the way back in November. Dwyane Wade scored 27 in the win.

About The Opponent:

During the All-Star break the Heat learned that forward Chris Bosh was dealing with blood clots in his left leg for the second consecutive season, a crushing blow for Bosh and the Miami Heat.

The Heat have played well in his absence, however, winning five of the seven games they’ve played since the news broke, including wins over likely playoff teams such as Atlanta, Washington, and Indiana. They’re currently riding a two-game winning streak after blowout wins over New York (a 98-81 victory) and Chicago (129-111).

With Bosh out of the lineup the Heat have gone with an ultra-small rotation, with Hassan Whiteside (31.1 minutes per game over the past 8 contests), Josh McRoberts (16.9 mpg), and Amar’e Stoudemire (16.2) the only traditional big men getting significant minutes over that stretch.

Instead, the Heat have been led by a rejuvenated Dwyane Wade, who is averaging 23.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game since the All-Star break, shooting 42.7 percent from the field and getting to the free-throw line 9 times per night.

Wade is joined by Goran Dragic, who is playing some of the best basketball of his Miami career, averaging 19.3 points and 7.0 assists per game over his last 8. It’s been a drastic turnaround for a player who was struggling mightily to fit into Miami’s scheme over the past year, as Dragic averaged just 12.2 points and 5.3 assists per game prior to the break.

Miami’s balanced attack is then supplemented by Hassan Whiteside (18.4 points, 15.0 rebounds, 4.1 blocks per game off the bench since the break), Luol Deng (18 points and 9.4 rebounds), Joe Johnson (18 points on 65.2 percent shooting, including 50 percent from three-point range, in his two games since signing with Miami), and Justise Winslow (9.1 points since the break).

Miami is starting Amar’e Stoudemire at the center position, with Dragic, Wade, Deng, and Joe Johnson on the perimeter, although Whiteside is still playing the lion’s share of the minutes at center.

What To Look For:

Forget the matchup. Analyzing who will slow down Wade, whether the Sixers can have success scoring over Whiteside, how the Sixers’ reserve big men can compete without Okafor and Noel in the lineup, or whether the Sixers can take advantage of Miami’s horrible perimeter shooting is of far lesser concern than whether the Sixers will show up and play 48 minutes of high-intensity basketball.

If the Sixers do, they’ll have a chance to compete against Miami, even if the Heat are playing better since fully embracing a small-ball lineup. If the Sixers don’t, they’ll be run out of the gym.

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