When Allen Iverson was traded, I wrote this season off. I fully admit that, in fact, I started a countdown to keep track of the Sixers' chances to get Greg Oden in the draft. Watching the games was painful, but still, I watched. Those seemingly wasted hours have paid off now, however. You can't appreciate where the Sixers are today, (riding a 7-game winning streak into Atlanta tonight), without having watched where they came from, (12-game losing streak, 5-19 start to the season, Kevin Ollie in the starting lineup, etc.).
Every game now, is a chance to watch Andre Iguodala assert himself as a superstar. He's gone toe-to-toe with Kobe, Vince Carter and Ray Allen in the past two weeks, and come out on top each time. Tonight should've been another chance to see how he stacks up against a premier perimeter player, Joe Johnson, but ESPN is saying Johnson won't play.
Atlanta is riding a three-game winning streak of their own, having defended their home court successfully thrice without Johnson already on this home stand. Atlanta is currently only one half game behind the Sixers in the standings, and the Sixers really need this win if they're going to make a legitimate push for the playoffs. The Vegas line is a pick 'em, I'm going to ride the Sixers and say they win a close one. Without Johnson, Atlanta is going to have trouble matching up defensively with the Sixers. Expect Korver to take advantage of some size mismatches and Andre Miller to do a lot of work in the post when Lue is guarding him.
Here's a breakdown of the Sixers' remaining schedule, and what I think they would need to do to squeak into the playoffs:
|Chicago||Need to win either this game or Utah game.||27|
|Utah||Need to win either this game or Chicago game.||27|
|at Miami||Need to win one game on this road trip.||29|
|at Washington||Need to win one game on this road trip||29|
|at New Jersey||Loss||30|
|at New York||Win||31|
|at Detroit||Need to win two of these last three games.||37|
|Cleveland||Need to win two of these last three games.||37|
|at Toronto||Need to win two of these last three games.||37|
As you can see, getting into the playoffs is going to be very difficult, but it is possible. I think 37 wins does it, at this point they stand 4 games out of the playoffs, and 4 1/2 games out of the #7 seed. They have games left against every team they're currently chasing: Orlando, New York, New Jersey and Indiana. Two of those teams will get a spot in the playoffs (I guess you can throw Atlanta into the conversation too), the other three (four) will be in the lottery. I'm not making any predictions, because I really don't know what's going to happen, but I will say that a weak Eastern conference is going to be fun to watch down the stretch.