Sixers Will Look To Avoid History With Win Over Nets
The Sixers return to action tonight to take on the Brooklyn Nets, a team that has served as a brief oasis in an otherwise painful stretch of lifeless basketball.
Last Friday’s 95-89 win over the 18-48 Brooklyn Nets, losers of 6 of their last 7 games themselves, was an oddity of sorts for a Sixers team that appears to be going through the motions for one of the few times in Brett Boown’s three-year coaching tenure.
It was an oddity because it was a win, first and foremost, the Sixers’ only win in their last 15 games, but also because of the strong defensive performance by the Sixers.
The Sixers, on average, have given up 112.6 points per 100 possessions over the past 15 games, the second worst average in the NBA over that span. In the Nets game they only gave up 94.9 points per 100 possessions, their only above-average defensive performance during those 15 long and painful games, an instance of defensive aptitude in an otherwise mindbogglingly awful stretch of defensive execution.
Playing the Nets has a way of curing a team’s ills.
The Nets rank 27th in the league in offense at just 100.4 points per 100 possessions. They make just 6.3 three-point attempts per game, the third-fewest in the league. They rarely get to the free-throw line, despite featuring an imposing post player in Brook Lopez, don’t rebound particularly well, and turn the ball over more than average.
They are, in virtually every respect, a bad basketball team.
Which presents the Sixers with an opportunity. For as much as this season has been about player development and evaluation, and, yes, the collection of ping pong balls, avoiding setting marks of futility is one of the few team-oriented objectives remaining for a team that is perhaps too young to fully grasp the level of infamy that is within their reach.
The Sixers have won just 9 of the 66 games they have played so far this season and just 2 of their previous 20, with both wins coming against the Brooklyn Nets. The win last week gave the Sixers 9 wins, tying the 1973 76ers for the fewest wins in an 82 game NBA season.
You would expect that the Sixers would be able to find a win over the last 16 games to avoid tying that mark for futility, but you never know. This team has, after all, had three losing streaks of 12-or-more games so far this season, so nothing is guaranteed. That’s why tonight’s game against the Nets is so important, as it’s certainly one of, if not the, most winnable games remaining on the schedule.
It’s hard to call any game for a 9-57 basketball team a “must win” game, but this one sure would be nice.
What: Sixers (9-57) vs Nets (18-48)
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY
When: 7:30 PM
Watch: Comcast SportsNet
Projected Starting Lineups:
Sixers: Ish Smith, Isaiah Canaan, Hollis Thompson, Carl Landry, Nerlens Noel
Nets: Donald Sloan, Markel Brown, Bojan Bogdanovic, Thaddeus Young, Brook Lopez
(Note: Starting lineups updated at 6:15 pm).
Joel Embiid (right foot) and Jahlil Okafor (right knee) are both out for the remainder of the season. Robert Covington and Jerami Grant are both out with concussions, and Richaun Holmes is out with an Achilles injury.
Bless the Nets.
The Nets are directly responsible for over a fifth of the Sixers’ wins on the season, as the Sixers have won the last two matchups between Atlantic Division “rivals”, a 103-98 victory in early February and the 95-89 triumph last week.
Jahlil Okafor has led the Sixers in scoring in the team’s first two games against Brooklyn, averaging 22 points per game in two games against the Nets on 51.6 percent from the field. With Okafor unavailable, the Sixers will likely look to spread that offensive burden across the team as a whole, rather than any individual player. Carl Landry, who is averaging 17 points per game over his last two games while shooting 63.6 percent from the field in the process, will likely start alongside Nerlens Noel in the frontcourt, and will be asked to help overcome the loss of Okafor’s offense.
T.J. McConnell has had a surprising amount of success offensively against Brooklyn, averaging 14.7 points and 3.7 assists in three games against the Nets.
Thaddeus Young is averaging a team-high 20.3 points per game against his former team this season. Center Brook Lopez is averaging 16 points per game in his three games against Philadelphia.
What To Look For:
From an individual perspective, this might be a tough game to watch, with some of the Sixers’ more intriguing young players (Okafor, Covington, Grant, Holmes) out with injuries. Still, Brooklyn’s dreadful offense could lead to an abundance of transition opportunities for the Sixers, something which is always key in igniting for those elusive Sixers victories.
Derek Bodner covers the 76ers for Philadelphia magazine’s Sixers Post. Follow @DerekBodnerNBA on Twitter.