I don’t think the Philadelphia 76ers are going to go 0-36 to end the season. They are going to get one more win.
Most nights they are overmatched — the other team is just more talented. That’s why they lost game 26 in a row Thursday night to the Houston Rockets, 120-98. The Sixers are bad as they rebuild (call it tanking if you want, Adam Silver still calls it rebuilding) and the Rockets are likely the sixth best team in the NBA. Henry Sims tries hard for the Sixers, but he’s not stopping Dwight Howard.
The Sixers now face another problem — teams are up for them. Nobody wants to be the team that lost to the Sixers and ended their streaks. Opponents are focused.
So what game can the Sixers win to break the streak? Here are four real possibilities
Sat. March 29 vs. Detroit Pistons. That’s Philadelphia’s next game and their chance to avoid owning the NBA record for the longest losing streak all by themselves (they are currently tied with the 2011 Cavaliers). On paper the big front line of the Pistons — Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe, Josh Smith — should overwhelm Sims and the rest of the Sixers front line, but the Pistons shoot themselves in the foot more than any team in the league. The Pistons come in having lost 9 of their last 11, and they will be on the second night of a back-to-back having to play in Miami Friday night. If an energized Sixers team gets a tired Pistons team where Smith starts jacking up threes and Brandon Jennings tries to play hero ball the Sixers can certainly win.
Fri. April 4, at Boston Celtics. This is one team looking to end up high in the lottery this season, just like the Sixers. As of right now this Celtics team has lost 8-of-9 and are giving young players such as Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk big minutes. The Celtics also start some quality guys — Rajon Rondo is an All-Star, Avery Bradley can play, Jeff Green can be mind blowing when he wants to — but this is another team coasting to the finish line and playing poorly on the defensive end. This is another team the Sixers could steal one against.
Mon. April 14, vs. Boston Celtics. See the comments above, but note the Sixers are at home for this one.
Wed. April 16 at Miami Heat. Yes, against the Heat — this is the final regular season game before the playoffs and coach Erik Spoelstra might well sit LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and anyone else who will matter in the postseason. The Heat will not care about this game at all… but the Sixers might.
Stephen Curry might be back sooner than expected. It’s been one week since he suffered the sprained MCL in his right knee that led the Warriors to rule him out for at least two weeks, but head coach Steve Kerr said Saturday that there’s at least an outside chance he could play Tuesday in Game 2 of Golden State’s second-round series against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Via ESPN.com’s Marc Stein:
Obviously, the smart money is on Curry not playing this early in his timetable. But the fact that it’s even on the table would seem to indicate that, barring a setback, he’ll be back for at least some of the series, which tips off Sunday.
Since Chris Paul withdrew from this summer’s Olympic team, Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James are the only players left from the 2008 team. If they played this summer in Rio de Janeiro, they would have the chance to be the only men’s basketball players ever to win three gold medals. But James is still undecided, and Anthony tells The Vertical‘s Michael Lee that he is also still weighing it:
USA Basketball has provided Anthony his only opportunity to win at a high level since he became a professional. Anthony sounded optimistic in March that his surgically repaired left knee wouldn’t prevent him from going after an unprecedented third gold medal. But since then, Chris Paul withdrew, citing the need for rest, and left Anthony and LeBron James as the only players from the 2008 team remaining in the Team USA selection pool. “It definitely would help,” Anthony said, if James decides to make one more run, but Anthony isn’t close to making a final decision.
“That’s at the top of the sport, of any sport. I think if you have the opportunity to do it, and enjoy it, and take advantage of it, I think you should do it. [The Olympics are] the throne for sports as a whole,” Anthony told The Vertical. “I’m going to take a little more time to think about it. I’m not in a rush. NBA season is still going on, so I’m going to see how I feel physically. Am I ready to take on – I don’t want to say burden, but – that load? If I’m ready, I’ll do it. If not, my body won’t lie to me.”
Anthony turns 32 next month—if he does play, it will undoubtedly be his final run with the national team. But his concerns about rest are valid, even though he was healthier this year than he was last season, when he had season-ending knee surgery. James’ decision will be even more interesting: he cares deeply about his place in history, but he’s had absolutely no time off since 2011, between five straight Finals runs (and likely a sixth) and the 2012 gold-medal run with the Olympic team.
If Anthony ultimately decides not to play, it would open up another spot for a forward, which could go to the likes of Draymond Green, Kawhi Leonard or Jimmy Butler. All of this is worth keeping an eye on as July’s training camp gets closer.
Paul Pierce may have played his final NBA game. After the Clippers’ season-ending loss to the Trail Blazers on Friday night, the 18-year veteran was noncommittal about his future. Here’s what he said, via CSNNW.com (video above):
For each year the last couple of years, I’ve thought long and hard about walking away from the game. The process will continue this summer as I think long and hard, as I get older in age, talk to my family, see how my body feels. I don’t want to make an emotional decision right now, so I’ll sit down with my family and think about it. It’s just gotta hit you one day. You just never know. You don’t know. Right now, it’s 50/50. I’ll see how I feel when I wake up, if I feel like getting ready for next season. If I don’t feel that feeling, that fire’s not there, it’s going to be tough,
Pierce wasn’t as effective with the Clippers as they’d hoped he would be when they signed him, coming off a big playoffs with the Wizards last season. If he does decide to walk away, he’s a surefire Hall of Famer who will go down as one of the best forwards of his generation.
When the Cavaliers fired David Blatt midseason, they promoted Ty Lue to head coach, without an interim tag attached. The job was his. But apparently, he has yet to sign a new contract that reflects his new title with a pay bump, and is still under contract as an assistant despite being the team’s head coach.
From ESPN.com’s Dave McMenamin:
As the Cavaliers prepare to face the Atlanta Hawks in the second round of the playoffs, head coach Tyronn Lue continues to guide the team without having signed a new contract since he took over for David Blatt, multiple sources said this week.
Lue, 38, was promoted from associate head coach to Blatt’s successor on Jan. 22, with Cleveland general manager David Griffin parting ways with Blatt despite the team’s conference-best 30-11 record at the time. Even without a new contract, Lue never had an interim title attached to his position.
According to the report, Lue’s current contract runs through next season, with a team option for the following year, and Lue fully expects to be back. He hasn’t interviewed or shown interest in any of the other head coaching jobs that are open.
Still, until he signs a new contract, this is just another piece of uncertainty hanging over the Cavaliers.