It seems as though no matter what changes the Hawks make, no matter what injuries they suffer, they're consistently a step below the top of the Eastern Conference when the season comes to an end. The constant has been their front line of Josh Smith and Al Horford. Tonight, the Sixers will look to keep their laughable playoff hopes alive on the road in Atlanta against this maddeningly pretty good team.
Another game in which Jrue has a physical advantage in his matchup. Will it be another game in which he squanders it? Probably. Kyle Korver is going to have to "cover" someone. If Atlanta is smart, they'll put Korver on Turner and let the better defender handle Wilkins, the Sixers bigger wing scoring threat. We'll see if they're smart. Horford should have a big advantage on Hawes, whose production is quietly sliding back to normal levels over the past couple games. Thad vs. Josh Smith should be fun to watch.
It's a sad, sad state of affairs. For about 75% of this season the only real reason to watch was Jrue's solid play. For the past quarter, you almost can't help but watch to see how poorly Jrue is going to shoot. It's like watching a train wreck. This prolonged slump underscores something we've known all year. One guy can't do it alone, especially this guy. A sub-.500 TS% with 25%+ usage is a death sentence in this league unless you have the best defense known to man, and even then it's a formula for an early exit in the playoffs. The excuses don't matter. At this point, what we saw from Jrue early on doesn't matter a whole lot, we're back to supposition when looking at the future of this team. "Well, if Jrue had a legit big, he'd be much better," or "The defense is completely focused on him every night, it's impossible to succeed without someone else to relieve the pressure." They're legitimate theories, but hollow. The "what ifs" are already making me tired.
For some reason, I needed Jrue to finish this season strong to be able to carry even a trace of positivity into the offseason. The sad fact is the Sixers positive record over the past couple of weeks is due to equal parts Spencer Hawes' playing about three feet above his head and Damien Wilkins providing a decent facsimile of what this team has needed from Evan Turner since they drafted him, but he's never been able to produce on a consistent basis. Two guys who either won't or shouldn't be on the roster beyond this season.
If you need a reason to watch tonight, I'm kind of at a loss. I guess the drama of whether Jrue's efficiency decline will outpace Turner's career of ineptitude in the final eight games of the season could work. Or, if you're an eternal optimist, maybe Wednesday was Jrue's bottom and there's nowhere to go but up. I'm not holding my breath. What a shitty, shitty season.
The tip is at 7:30pm. Use this as your game thread. I'll be watching on DVR and wondering how the hell the Yankees can justify cutting $30M in payroll when their TV network makes $1b/year.