76ers valiantly, foolishly, charmingly believe they can make the playoffs

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John Hollinger’s NBA Playoff Odds run a simulation 5,000 times to predict the final standings of the NBA season. In two or fewer of those simulations, the Philadelphia 76ers make the playoffs.

Philadelphia – six games back with 11 games remaining – is so unlikely to make the playoffs, its odds appears as 0.0 percent, though that number might be rounded. The East’s top seven teams each show up as 100.0 percent, and No. 8 Milwaukee is 99.9 percent. But even if the Bucks (35-36) somehow blows this, the 76ers (28-43) aren’t a lock to replace them. The Raptors (26-45) and Wizards (26-45) aren’t officially eliminated, though both also show up as 0.0 percent.

The 76ers, obviously drunk on their win over Milwaukee on Wednesday, are having none of that logic, though. Doug Collins, via John Finger of CSNPhilly.com:

“We’re not done yet. We’re not quitting. We’re going to keep playing,” Collins said. “I never quit before I got to the finish line and I’m not going to start that now. We don’t have that personality. This city and this organization means too much to me and to our players to do that. We have young guys and we’re trying to build a nucleus here of young players.”

Damien Wilkins:

“I play for pride every game from game one to game 82,” said Damien Wilkins, who led the Sixers with 18 points, including the game-sealing steal and dunk with 41.7 seconds left. “For me every game means the same. I try to take advantage of every opportunity given.”

Spencer Haws:

“Until the math says we’re out of it, we’re going to keep fighting for it,” Hawes said. “You’re always being watched and you’re always being judged. This season hasn’t gone the way we would have liked, but there’s still some left and we have a bright future ahead.”

This is exactly the attitude the 76ers should take. They’ve fought hard for 71 games. Why stop now?

I mean, they’re not going to make the playoffs, but there’s something admirable about their relentlessness.

Tyronn Lue says he has secret plan to fix Cavaliers’ defense for playoffs

AP Photo/Phil Long
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Only one team that ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed per possession during the regular season won an NBA title. The 2000-01 Lakers, who were 21st in defensive rating, are the lone outlier.

The Cavaliers rank 22nd in defensive rating this season and have been even worse lately.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue says he has a plan. He just won’t reveal it yet.

Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“We’ve got to hold back. We can’t show our hand early because … these are some good teams and we don’t want them to be able to come into a series and be able to adjust to what we do. We just have to be able to play our normal defense until we get there and then we will see what happens.”

Also:

“I think the rebounding hurt us. Rebounding. But it will be different once some other things happen. … Their two-guards, their threes, they still crashed the boards. But we have something to fix that. Just not right now.”

What precisely those plans are, Lue wouldn’t tell us. And here’s the other part — he’s not exactly sure they’ll work.

“I’m not confident, but we’ve got to” get the defense fixed, Lue said. “We have to.”

The Cavs ranked just 10th in defensive rating last season, among the worst marks for an eventual champion. But they cranked up their defense in the playoffs, especially late. Cleveland held the Raptors 4.8 points per 100 possessions below their regular-season scoring rate and the Warriors 7.8 below theirs.

Lue also unleashed a 3-point-heavy attack in the playoffs last year after sitting on the strategy through the regular season.

So, I have some faith Lue will implement a better defensive gameplan when it counts. It also helps to have LeBron James, who can still play elite defense when not in the slog of a long regular season.

But the Cavaliers’ defensive deficiencies right now are glaring. This roster appears to lack defensive potential, and their many miscues keep them well below whatever that potential is.

The challenge in elevating this defense to championship-caliber will be immense, maybe even unprecedented.

Mavericks’ Salah Mejri dunks while getting shoved in the gut (video)

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The Mavericks built a 13-point lead over the Thunder with 3:30left thanks to plays like this Salah Mejri dunk on Nick Collison.

Unfortunately for Dallas, Russell Westbrook happened.

Willy Hernangomez dunks on Andre Drummond, Pistons’ playoff chances (video)

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Andre Drummond and the Pistons couldn’t slow down anything.

Not Willy Hernangomez. Not the Knicks. Not Detroit’s plummeting playoff hopes.

After a 109-95 loss to the Knicks last night, the Pistons — who’ve lost four straight and seven of eight — are 1.5 games and two teams out of playoff position.

Terrence Ross 360 dunks his way back into Raptors fans’ hearts (video)

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In his first appearance in Toronto since the Raptors traded him to the Magic, Terrence Ross did what he has done best throughout his career: Delight Toronto fans with a dunk.

And of course the fans appreciated it, because their Raptors cruised to a 131-112 win.