For the final first half review post we'll take a look at the team as a whole. (
After the jump I'll spend a little time talking about the first half, but this post is going to be more about what's to come than what has already happened. We'll take the holistic view of the remaining schedule and try to predict how this team will finish out the season.
Let's take a look at the four factor numbers first. We'll compare the first 41 games from this season to the full season numbers from the previous two years.
I think it's important to look at those stats before we tear apart this team's first half performance. The biggest things to note are the shooting stats. They've improved their eFG while cutting their opponents' eFG. They aren't doing as good of a job on the defensive glass, which is a problem, but they've upped their production on the offensive glass. More turnovers, which I think we expected.
Overall, I think they've improved on their numbers, even though they're only 20-21 (which, incidentally, is exactly the same pace they played the entire season on last year). I don't really want to dig too much further into the first half stats because they were so up and down. They weren't as bad as they played in the first 30 or so. They probably aren't as good as they've played over the past 11 either.
According to my win/loss expectations, they're somewhere between 5-8 games off. Pretty much everyone had them pegged somewhere between 48-52 wins. With a five-game swing, they would have a 25-16 record right now, tied with Atlanta for 4th place in the conference. Needless to say, 20-21 is a disappointment.
We know why they are where they are. If you want to boil it down into a simple storyline, here goes.
- Square peg, round hole - The team tries to become a plodding, half-court team to feed Brand in the post. They don't have the players or system to accomplish this.
- Down goes Mo - Cheeks is fired
- In comes Tony - Coach DiLeo is inserted, he immediately scraps the half-court approach for a run-and-gun style similar to last season.
- EB goes down - Brand dislocates his shoulder right before a mammoth west coast trip.
The early play of the two Andres, Lou and EB is obviously a huge factor in the team's performance, but from a high-level, those are the reasons. It's just as simple to figure out how they turned things around. Defend, then run, run, run and run some more. DiLeo got the team playing to its strengths, and more importantly, forced opposing teams to adjust to them, rather than the other way around.
That's as much reflection on the first half as I think is needed. Let's now talk about the upcoming 41 games. First, the schedule and my predictions, with some added values in there as well which I will explain afterwards.
The schedule gives us plenty of reasons to be optimistic. 19 of the remaining 41 games come against teams with a .500 record or better. 21 at home, 20 on the road. By my math, they have 9 games remaining against clearly superior teams (marked "Loss" above), 22 games against teams who they are clearly superior to (marked "Win" above) and 10 toss-up games against teams who I believe are on the Sixers' level.
I don't believe you get the true measure of a schedule's difficulty by examining home/away and winning percentage alone, however. You have to take a look at the team's schedule to look for what I've labeled extenuating circumstances above. Several factors can potentially influence a team's chances, and I went through each team's schedule to try to highlight these.
The easiest to quantify are back-to-backs. Any team playing in a back-to-back is at a disadvantage, I find a home-and-home where the first game is on the road and the second game is at home to be a distinct disadvantage to the home team. Any home-court advantage is lessened by the short turnaround. So the worst situation for a team is to be coming off a back-to-back, playing against a team who did not play the day before. The largest advantage would be to be playing a team on the back-end of a back-to-back when your team has a day's rest, or more.
I see the Sixers having an extra advantage in 10 games the rest of the way, they have a distinct disadvantage in only 4. The prime example as to how these extenuating circumstances can influence games would be February 9th game, against Phoenix. The Suns are coming off a back-to-back, on the road. Shaq hasn't played both games of a back-to-back all season. Not to mention the fact, the Suns are an old team.
I have the Sixers getting an advantage from extenuating circumstances in 4 of the 10 toss-up games. Overall, I have them winning 5 of the 10 total toss-ups.
The only part of these predictions that scares me is the high percentage of the games they should win that I have the Sixers actually winning. I counted only 2 of those 22 games as losses.
Obviously, this is just my take on the remaining schedule, and I'd be shocked if that's how the season played out. They will lose a few more they should've won. They may win a couple they should have lost as well. The season will probably be determined by those toss-up games, either way you look at it. If they do somehow finish 26-15 (46-36 on the season), they could be in a battle for the #4 spot in the convference. Here's how the teams currently ahead of them in the standings would have to finish for the Sixers to finish 4th (with home-court advantage in the first round);
- Atlanta - 21-20
- Detroit - 22-19
- Miami - 24-18
The Sixers can still win the tiebreaker against each of these teams.
So that's my take on what to expect from here on out. Take a look at the schedule and predict the rest of the season in the comments. Or leave your thoughts on what's happened to this point. Today is the last off day, so we'll be back to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow.