This Philadelphia 76ers team has been maddening to follow at times this season. Beat the Lakers on the road, get blown out by the Thunder. Go 18 minutes without a field goal against New Jersey, shoot 51% at Portland. It's like complete chaos...or is it? After the jump we'll try to find order in the madness.
The next time you want to call the Sixers inconsistent, consider this. Since January 3rd, the Sixers schedule breaks down as follows:
- 18 games vs. playoff teams
- 19 games vs. lottery teams
- 23 wins, 14 losses
- 10-8 vs. playoff teams
- 13-6 vs. lottery teams
- 10-8 on the road (4-3 against playoff teams)
- 13-6 at home (6-5 against playoff teams)
Seems like they've been pretty consistent when you look at the overall records, but 6 losses to lottery teams in 19 games is too many for a team looking to make a playoff run. That speaks to inconsistency. Unless, the consistent factor is that the Sixers play to the level of their competition.
Let's take a closer look. Against the playoff teams (and we aren't talking about weak playoff teams here), the Sixers averaged 98 points scored per game, allowed 95 points per game. Here are the 10 wins:
- vs. Houston, 104-96
- @ Atlanta, 109-94
- vs. Portland, 100-79
- vs. San Antonio, 109-87
- @ Houston, 95-93
- vs. Miami, 94-84
- vs. Chicago, 104-101
- vs. Miami, 85-77
- @ LA Lakers, 94-93
- @ Portland, 114-108
Three wins by less than three points, four wins by double digits, two wins by more than 20 points. Of these 10 playoff teams, only two scored more than 100 points against the Sixers, one needed overtime to do it.
Now, here are the losses:
- @ San Antonio, 106-108 (Tony Paker buzzer-beater)
- vs. Dallas, 93-95 (Dirk Nowitzki buzzer-beater)
- @ New Orleans, 86-101 (Drubbing by CP3)
- vs. Boston, 99-100 (Ray Allen buzzer-beater)
- vs. Denver, 89-101 (Drubbing by Chauncey)
- @ Miami, 91-97 (Sixers were within 1 point with 20 seconds to go)
- vs. Orlando, 100-106 (Sixers were within 1 point with 20 seconds to go)
- vs. New Orleans, 91-98 (Sixers were within 3 points in the final minute)
Three buzzer-beaters, three other games where they were within one shot of tying the game up in the final minute. Two losses by double-digits.
Two times out of 18 games, the Sixers weren't in the game against the best teams in the league. This team has been extremely consistent against the best teams in the league, they've played with all of them and a few breaks would've had them at 12-6 or better over this stretch.
Now, for the bad teams. This is where it gets kind of ugly. Overall, they scored 103 points per game against the lottery teams, and allowed 100. Let's look at the wins first:
- @ Milwaukee, 110-105
- vs. Charlotte, 93-87
- @ New York, 107-97
- vs. New York, 116-110
- vs. Washington, 104-94
- vs. Indiana, 99-94
- vs. Phoenix, 108-91
- vs. Memphis, 91-87
- @ Washington, 106-98
- @ New York, 108-103
- @ Memphis, 110-105
- vs. Toronto, 115-106
- @ Sacramento, 112-100
Five double-digit wins. Eight wins by less than 10 points, zero wins by 20 points or more.
And the losses:
- vs. New Jersey, 83-85 (Missed final 18 shots)
- @ Indiana, 91-100
- @ New Jersey, 96-98 (Devin Harris half-court shot at the buzzer)
- @ Oklahoma City, 74-89
- @ Phoenix, 116-126
- @ Golden State, 111-119
Phoenix actually has a better record than the Sixers, but they're a lottery team. The Sixers split with them anyway. Otherwise, the Sixers let the Nets hang around twice, got burned both times at the end. OKC was just a complete meltdown, zero defense was played @ Indiana and @ Golden State.
Overall, the trend is pretty simple to spot. Against the good teams, the Sixers play good basketball. Against the bad teams, not so much. So what does this say about the Sixers?
Well, your guess is as good as mine. I'd like to think they rise to the occasion because they have a ton of heart and desire. I'd also like to know why they don't seem to get up for the other games. Maybe they need the chip on their shoulder. Maybe they need to be facing that superstar on the other team to push them to greatness. Or maybe they just put it in cruise control when they're facing inferior teams. I mean, without the Harris prayer and that disgusting cold streak against NJ they would've been 15-4 against lottery teams over the stretch and none of their wins were exactly nail-biters.
If the trend continues, here's what they're up against the rest of the way:
- vs. Minnesota (lottery)
- vs. Charlotte (lottery)
- @ Detroit (playoffs)
- vs. Atlanta (playoffs)
- vs. Milwaukee (lottery)
- vs. Detroit (playoffs)
- @ New Jersey (lottery)
- @ Charlotte (lottery)
- @ Chicago (playoffs)
- vs. Cleveland (playoffs)
- @ Toronto (lottery)
- vs. Boston (playoffs)
- @ Cleveland (playoffs)
Seven games against playoff teams (three on the road), six games against lottery teams (three on the road).
The good news: No matter what seed the Sixers get, they won't be playing any lottery teams in the playoffs.