Sixers storylines: First Atlantic test on tap

Sixers storylines: First Atlantic test on tap

McKie: Sixers' defense was 'atrocious' in loss to Pelicans

November 18, 2013, 10:30 am
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The Sixers were 3-1 last year vs. the Raptors, who are supposed to be a team on the rise this season. (AP)

It’s been a tough week for the Sixers.
 
With four losses in their last five games and being outscored by 71 points in the last three defeats, the Sixers, at 5-6, are amazingly in first place in the Atlantic Division.
 
Say what?
 
Strangely, there are just four teams in the Eastern Conference with records better than .500 (nine in the West) and if the season were to end today, only the Sixers would make the playoffs from the Atlantic.
 
But until the Sixers clinch the division title and that playoff berth, there is still a season to play. More specifically, the Sixers have to finish a three-game road trip on Monday night just two days removed from a 37-point loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.
 
For now, here are a few items to keep an eye on this week:
 
Finally facing the Atlantic
After Monday night’s game in Dallas, the Sixers return home for a matchup Wednesday night against Toronto. The second-place Raptors, just a game behind, will be the first team from the Atlantic the Sixers face this season. After that, the Sixers have 10 games until they face the Raptors again.
 
The Sixers do not face Brooklyn until Dec. 16, the Knicks until Jan. 11 and then they get their first look at the Celtics on Jan. 29. Over the last three seasons, the Sixers are 23-22 in the division — 75-77 vs. the East — so the games are a pretty decent measuring stick.
 
Besides, Toronto is expected to be a team on the rise. On paper, the Raptors have been a fringe playoff team for the past couple of seasons, but they've underachieved.
 
Maybe that’s a thing of the past? Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan are both averaging 19.7 points per game and Villanova alum Kyle Lowry is hitting two three-pointers per game.
 
First place could be on the line on Wednesday night ... already.
 
Consistency is the key
The Sixers will play their fourth straight Friday-Saturday back-to-back when Milwaukee comes to town. From there, the Sixers head to Indiana to play the NBA-best Pacers (9-1). So with the team still licking their wounds from big losses, the Sixers will have to develop some consistency. At the very least, they'll have to manage emotions if the losses mount up.
 
Yes, consistency will be important for the Sixers. Give them credit for competing every game. But from night to night, it's tough to know which team we'll see -- the one that got pounded by the Spurs and Pelicans or the one that beat the Heat, Wizards, Bulls and Rockets.
 
Hurry back, MCW
Tony Wroten has played well with rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams mending from a foot injury, notching a triple-double last Wednesday night in his first start. However, no one with any sense believes the Sixers are a better team without the rookie.
 
The difference with MCW on the floor compared to off is noticeable in the numbers. In fact, when the rookie and Wroten are teamed together in the backcourt, the Sixers are quite formidable. Both guards are 6-foot-6, quick and tough. Better yet, the team shoots nearly 40 percent from three-point range when the pair is on the floor together.
 
Over the last two losses, the Sixers shot 11 for 38 (28.9 percent) from three-point range.