Tonight's game in Cleveland, against the Cavs (who will be missing Irving, Varejao and Waiters) is the first of three straight against the dregs of the league. Only a complete lack of energy and/or focus will stop the Sixers from stringing together a four-game win streak. The good new for the pro-tanking crowd is there's really nowhere for them to move up in the standings.
Philly sits five games behind Portland for the 12th-worst record in the league, seven games behind Milwaukee for the final playoff spot. Over 11 games, both gulfs are far too wide to cross. They are also two games away from Washington and Toronto (who would flip a coin for the right to be 9th-worst if the season ended today). Somewhere between #9 and #11 is where the Sixers will finish this season. After this three-game stretch, they'll most likely be locked in at #11, right where they are right now. If they decide to take the Cavs and/or Bobcats lightly, odds are they'll wind up at #10.
Beyond jockeying for lottery position, there isn't a whole lot of drama left to this season. Jrue's slow slide down the efficiency scale will either continue, or not. Turner's master thesis on being overmatched by NBA athletes will end in a degree which a bunch of people will chalk up to outside factors. Thad will be Thad. The most intriguing storyline is Spencer Hawes. Something happened to Hawes over the past couple of weeks. He suddenly learned how to finish on the inside, how to rebound in traffic, how to challenge shots and how to avoid getting pushed around by even the weakest of opponents. Literally every Philadelphia writer has been dying to lavish Hawes with the praise he's earned over the past nine games. The only question is whether this organization will buy into the dramatic uptick in production (and spine) and consider him a building block for the future, or whether they'll put more stock in 400 previous games of evidence and cash in on Hawes' strong finish by trading him this summer.
One interesting distraction to ponder during tonight's game. Way back in early January the Sixers tried to acquire Shaun Livingston when he was cut by the Wizards. Instead of becoming a free agent, however, the Cavs picked him up. I can't help but wonder how much Livingston could've helped them in a role off the bench. Livingston has always been a solid point guard with good vision. He's got good size. Perhaps he could've taken the sting out of the bench's dismal performance when Jrue goes to the bench. Perhaps he could've spared this team so much time with Turner grinding the second unit's offense into the ground with his head-down dribbling. How many wins could that acquisition have been worth? Who knows. It's something to consider, though. It's something the front office should've considered last summer.
The tip is at 7:30. Use this as your game thread. I'll be watching on DVR. If anyone's going to the game tomorrow night at home, I'll be in attendance.