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Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson and 11 other guys are heading into Philly tonight with one thing on their minds, ending a 4-game skid. This is the Lakers second extended losing streak in the past month, they dropped 6 in a row in Feb. Kobe Bryant has been exceptional, as usual, his teammates have been anything but. This is the curse of the post-Shaq Lakers. Kobe forced the big man out of town, and ever since he's had no supporting cast.

This is probably a larger conversation, but maybe the problem isn't the supporting cast, maybe the problem is Kobe himself. Anyway, on to tonight's game. The Sixers are still riding a 5-game winning streak, 6 at home. They're still playing solid, solid basketball on both sides of the ball (98 ppg, 92 points allowed per game during the streak). Andre Iguodala has emerged. All the hard work Moses Malone has done with Samuel Dalembert is paying off. Joe Smith is playing for a contract. Willie Green's minutes are coming at non-critical times throughout the game. Andre Miller is running the team and hitting shots when the Sixers need a lift.

Even if the Sixers lose this game tonight, they've opened some eyes around the league, and hopefully some eyes in Philly too. The Sixers are dead last in attendance, and that's not really fair at this point of the season. When Iverson left, so did the fans, and rightly so. It seemed like a fire sale. But the way this team is playing now, they are absolutely worth the price of admission.

And now, the predictions: Kobe will have a huge game. He loves coming back to Philly, always plays well there and he's coming off a suspension. The last time he got suspended he came back and dropped 43 pts, 8 rebounds and 8 assists on the Celts. That being said, Kobe alone won't be enough. The Sixers are playing a team game now (at least when Willie Green is on the bench they are) and they've got their own superstar. Expect another solid all-around game from Iguodala, expect Dalembert to own the boards, and expect a huge boost from Korver off the bench. The Vegas line is a pick 'em, I pick the Sixers, by double digits.

A side note to this game is the Sixers' emerging superstar matching up against a bonafide superstar. The spotlight will be on this matchup in Philly tonight, and here's a preview with some key stats:

Key Matchup: Kobe vs. Andre
Name, Age, Serial Number: Kobe Bryant, 28 years-old, 24 (nee 8) Andre Iguodala, 23 years-old, 9 (nee 4)
Nickname(s): Mamba, The Defendant, Kobe the Greek AI2, Iggy, Iguo$ (that last one is copyrighted by me)
Salary: $17.7 million $2.2 million
Season Stats: 29.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 5.6 apg, 1.5 steals/game 18.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 5.7 apg, 2.0 steals/game
History: In his last game vs. the Sixers Kobe led the Lakers to a 105-94 win with 35 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists. Iguodala finished with 19 pts, 8 rebounds and 6 assists in their last meeting.
Since then: Kobe has led the Lakers to a 13-18 record, included two 1-game supsensions for elbowing foreigners. Iguodala has led the Sixers to a 15-16 record, including 3 triple-doubles.
Streaks: 4 straight losses 5 straight wins
Outlook: Kobe and the Lakers are struggling to the point where they're considering bringing in 41 year-old Scottie Pippen. Their nosedive in the standngs has Phil Jackson and Kobe frustrated with the lack of production from his supporting cast. They'll probably limp into the playoffs and exit early. Iguodala, Andre Miller and Samuel Dalembert are spearheading a late-season run for the Sixers which could land them in the playoffs. It's a longshot, and would undoubtedly lead to a first round exit and actually rob the team of their own first-round draft pick. Iguodala is evolving into an elite player.

by Brian on Mar 9 2007
Tags: Basketball | Sixers |