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.
Rockets interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff has been unafraid to sharply assess his team.
But after last night’s loss to the Trail Blazers – Houston’s third straight defeat and sixth in eight games – Bickerstaff kicked up the rhetoric even further.
Bickerstaff, via Calvin Watkins of ESPN:
“We’re broken,” Bickerstaff said. “It’s that simple. We’re a broken team, and we all need to use this break to figure out how we’re going to impact change. If we don’t want to impact change, then we need to be made aware of that, too, and we’ll go in a different direction.
“We can’t continue to go out and play this way. It’s easy to see it’s a fragmented bunch. You can’t win that way.”
This is why Dwight Howard is on the trade block. The Rockets are so incohesive, there’s no simple solution in sight. This increasingly looks like a lost season for Houston, which should emphasize future planning – like dealing Howard, who can become an unrestricted free agent at age 30 this summer.
Yet, the Rockets are just a half game from playoff position. They obviously dreamed much bigger when the season began, but at this point, merely making the postseason should qualify as a success.
It’s Bickerstaff’s job to get them there, no matter how unlikely. He has certainly shown little fear in trying, whether it’s giving these quotes or pulling all five starters simultaneously shortly into a game. He’s trying to put his mark on this team.
The players just aren’t responding, not more than periodically, at least. From James Harden down, nobody plays with the requisite focus and energy.
Nothing in Bickerstaff’s assessment is surprising. It’s just surprising he said it so bluntly publicly.
Then again, that’s nothing compared to what veteran Houston guard Jason Terry said. Eric Ringering of 750 The Game:
Sixers big man Nerlens Noel — who has looked much improved this season once Ish Smith was feeding him the rock on offense — sat out the Sixers game Wednesday night due to tendonitis in his right knee. After he missed his rookie season with knee issues, you can understand why the Sixers want him to be cautious.
Noel is going to sit out All-Star Weekend as well — he had been scheduled to play in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night, but he is going to sit that out and Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns will take his place, the league has announced (Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic broke that story).
Booker has been one of the few bright spots for the Suns this season, averaging 10.6 points a game and shooting 40.3 percent from three.
He will play for the USA in the World vs. USA format of the Rising Stars Challenge (the former rookie/sophomore game, featuring first and second year players).
Out: Defending champion Patrick Beverley.
In: Emmanuel Mudiay Emmanuel Mudiay.
The NBA confirmed the Rockets guard would miss the Skills Challenge and that Mudiay would replace him. The league also release the bracket:
- Isaiah Thomas over C.J. McCollum
- Anthony Davis over Draymond Green
- Isaiah Thomas over Anthony Davis
Hassan Whiteside lost his cool and elbowed Boban Marjanovic in the head Tuesday.
The Heat center received a flagrant 2 and an ejection, and now he’s getting the rest of his punishment.
Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside has been suspended one game without pay for throwing an elbow and making contact with the head of San Antonio Spurs center Boban Marjanovic, it was announced today by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.
The incident, for which Whiteside was assessed a Flagrant 2 and ejected, occurred with 9:35 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Spurs’ 119-101 win over the Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena on Feb. 9.
Whiteside will serve his suspension when Miami plays the Atlanta Hawks on Feb. 19 at Philips Arena.
The suspension will cost Whiteside $8,921. As a result, the Heat – in line to become the first team in NBA history to pay the repeater luxury-tax rate – trim their impending tax bill by $24,534.
More importantly for Whiteside, this will be a strike against him for teams considering offering him a big contract in free agency this summer.