Uno, dos, tres! Three is the magic number — these erratic, gnarly Knickerbockers have strung together a miniature-sized streak of successes. Let’s ignore the fact that the consecutive victories came against a trio of inconsistent, (presently) non-playoff teams, and rejoice with the knowledge that the delightful eighth seed in the Eastern Conference is lingering a mere 3.5 games in the distance. That’s right, a few more nights of avoiding half-hearted hopelessness, and the ‘Bockers will have the privilege of partaking in an assuredly lopsided opening round series in the upcoming postseason festivities. (Side note: Bucks in six) To gear up for tonight’s game, I reached out to Eric Goldwein, editor of Hoop76, who kindly offered a few thoughts on the squad from the City of Brotherly Love. Take a second to mire in the misery of measured mediocrity, and allow yourself to swoon over the Sixers’ sweet sixteen (game losing streak). But hey, at least they’re not busy “racing to a red light.”
During this sixteen-game losing streak, the Sixers’ defense has allowed opponents to connect on 38.9% of attempts from beyond the arc. The team’s net rating over that stretch is a ghastly -19.5, almost double that of the next worst team, too. How debilitating and discouraging has it been to have to watch this tragically undermanned team continually get pummelled?
Eric Goldwein: After four months you get a little numb. With this personnel, the Sixers’ D is going to get burned one way or another and they’ve picked the three, rather than (well, in addition to) the paint, as their poison. Instead of cheating out on the perimeter, coach Brett Brown has elected give his defensively challenged bigs some help defense with a “pack-the-paint” defense. (Here’s a detailed explanation from Kyle Neubeck.) For now, it’s a disaster. It’s leading the league in 3-pointers surrendered (9.3) — I could be wrong, but I’m fairly certain they’re on pace to set the record. This is partly a product of the fast-pace, three-heavy style, though giving up that many threes at such a high clip (37.2%, 24th) is not a sustainable defensive solution. We’ll see what happens when they get some real defenders — like Nerlens Noel! — in the lineup.
“This might sound… trivial or even a bit corny. I think [the Sixers] deserve it,” – head coach Brett Brown on his team being worthy of a win, after Philly’s loss to Utah on Saturday night. Is Brown’s assessment of the Sixers’ play fair, or is it (as he hints) a clichéd remark?
EG: The Sixers deserve a W in the same way I deserved all those trophies from my youth soccer leagues. They haven’t checked out, sure. Awesome. But that makes it all the more depressing; that they’re hustling and still can’t beat a Utah Jazz team — playing on the second night of a back-to-back, on the road — just goes to show you how terrible this roster is.
Take a look at the following statistical breakdowns for these three Eastern Conference teams (in the month of February):
Those numbers are all pretty putrid, no? Well, Team A is the Knickerbockers of New York, Team B is the Milwaukee Bucks (owners of the worst record in the NBA), and Team C is Philadelphia. There was a lot of talk about the Sixers creating a rather objectionable piece of NBA history by going winless in February, yet by many measures, these Knicks were almost as awful as the team that traded (albeit meaningless) future draft considerations for Byron Mullens. Can Sixers fans take solace in the fact that, tanking notwithstanding, there are teams with much foggier blueprints performing at a similarly atrocious levels?
EG: Absolutely. The Sixers, unlike the Knicks, are losing with a purpose. There’s a plan in place and all these 20-point blowouts are an unfortunate byproduct of said plan. The Dolan model, it seems, is to buy/trade all the shiny players, throw out the duds, and buy some more. I’ll take the short-term tanking over that any day.
An alarming number of opposing guards have registered new career-high points totals against New York this season, including former Sixer Evan Turner dropping 34 at MSG in January. Should Knicks fans prepare for MCW, Tony Wroten, and/or James Anderson to join the illustrious club by netting new personal bests?
EG: James Anderson has stepped up since Evan Turner was dealt, and I could see a breakout game. Though not a career-high. He dropped 36 against the Rockets back in November and even against the Knicks, so it’d be hard to surpass that. I could also see a random Knick setting a personal mark against Philly’s putrid D. Tim Hardaway Jr.’s over/under: 20.5.
One of the team’s two lottery picks in the 2013 NBA Draft, Nerlens Noel (who is yet to appear in an NBA game), sent out this cryptically coded tweet on Sunday. It sent a minor shockwave throughout basketball Twitter, with many speculating that the former one-and-done Kentucky pivot could be making his much-anticipated league debut (against Boston) on that date. At this point in the season, does anything else matter for the Sixers? Would you rather Nerlens sit 2013-14 out entirely and aim to be ready for the start of next season, or should Philly sneak in a handful of games to send out hype and hope for what may be to come?
EG: Yeah, put ‘im in. Why the hell not? From what I know about ACL tears — umm, very little — it’s as much a psychological recovery as a physical one. If there are no long-term risks, I don’t see much of a downside to letting Noel finish out the season.
Will the Sixers ever bring an end to this lengthy losing streak? If so, any chance it will happen tonight at the Garden?
EG: Philly couldn’t even take Utah on the second night of a back-to-back on Saturday. I’d be surprised if they kept it close against the sorta-but-not-really red hot Knicks, who are coming off three straight wins. The streak isn’t ending tonight. I’m not sure it ever will.
UPDATE: Tyson Chandler will miss tonight’s game for personal reasons. That’s…not good, but hopefully, against Philly it shouldn’t be a death-blow. We’ll see who starts in his place.
Knicks announce officially that Tyson Chandler will miss tonight's game against Philly for personal reasons.
— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) March 10, 2014
UPDATE II: Smallball!
Starters tonight versus @Sixers : Felton, Shumpert, Smith, Anthony, Stoudemire
— NY_KnicksPR (@NY_KnicksPR) March 10, 2014