Win Another One, Why Not: Hot Sixers Face Spurs at Home

Win Another One, Why Not: Hot Sixers Face Spurs at Home

I've said it before, but going into this seven-game stretch of
toughness—the "death march," as my dad refers to it—I said that the team
needed to win three games, and I hoped they would win four. Well, five
games in, and they've already taken care of the four-win mark, and still
have games against the Spurs and Clippers to possibly even add to that.
It's more than I expected, to say the least, but it's been damn fun,
even with that awful loss against Miami, and it's permanently silenced
critics who say the team isn't legit. (And by "permanently" of course I
mean "until they lose a game or two again".)

In any event, even with the stretch a success regardless, the Sixers do
have to still play the last two games, and it'd be damn good if we could
win one or two of 'em just the same. Tonight they face the visiting San
Antonio Spurs, who despite another year of tread and the loss of
All-Star shooting guard Manu Ginobili to injury for over a month, have
been just as much of a factor as always in the Western Conference,
winning five straight games coming into tonight (including one against
the league-best Oklahoma City Thunder) and posting a 17-9 record for the
year thusfar, good for the three seed in the West.

The key, as seems to be the case with nearly every team the Sixers have
faced in recent weeks, will be stopping the point guard—in this case,
firecracker Tony Parker, who proved in that game against the Thunder (42
points, nine assists, zero turnovers) how dangerous he can still be once he gets going.
Also, the Spurs' front line of the not-quite-ageless Tim Duncan and
young'n DeJuan Blair can rebound the hell out of the ball, so the Sixers
risk getting punked on the boards the way they were against the Lakers
if EB, Nik, Lavoy and company aren't rotating well and banging
bodies under the basket.

Spencer is out tonight while Elton will give it a shot.

7:00 tip from the WFC. As good as the Sixers have been of late, they
need to keep winning to stay afloat, not just in the East on the whole
but in their division specifically—with the Celtics winning nine of ten
and the Knicks seemingly reanimated by the brilliant play of point guard wunderkind Jeremy
Lin, the Atlantic may not be as easy to secure as we previously hoped.
It'd be nice to not have to obsess over the standings much this year if at all possible.

*

One awesome quote from Coach Collins pregame powwow:

Coach Collins was asked once again about the amazing atmosphere at the Wells Fargo Center on Monday night when his team defeated Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. He said he did savor it a bit when there was about 5 seconds left in the game.

"Bynum's shot went in the air, I saw it miss," Collins said. "It was a chance to look around a little bit like I did when we beat Miami in the playoffs. When the fans were chanting 'Beat L.A.' it reminded me of 1980 when I was here and the good feeling our guys had. More importantly, just the courage our guys played with the other night. I said it before, you have to be a strong-willed guy to be able to take the torment that Kobe Bryant will throw at you during a game."

He later added that he's not worried about what the doubters around the league may be saying about his club.

"Just to look around to see our crowd so excited, that's why I came here. I wanted these people to be excited about their team again. I know there's a lot of people out there that still think we're the little engine that can't. That's okay, we're just gonna keep chugging."

Nerlens Noel joins Sixers in New Orleans, may play Sunday vs. Pistons

Nerlens Noel joins Sixers in New Orleans, may play Sunday vs. Pistons

NEW ORLEANS — Nerlens Noel made another step toward his return from arthroscopic left knee surgery by joining the Sixers in New Orleans for their game against the Pelicans.

Noel arrived on Wednesday with Robert Covington, who is slated to start after missing the last three games with a left knee sprain. Noel is not cleared to play, but Brown doesn’t think it will be long until he suits up. 

“I don’t think far away,” Brown said of Noel’s regular season debut after shootaround.

When asked about the possibility of Noel playing this weekend when the Sixers face the Pistons on Sunday in Detroit, Brown replied, “Maybe.” 

Noel has missed the entire regular season recovering from elective surgery for an inflamed plica in October. He completed the first phase of his rehab in Birmingham, Ala. and has been continuing his work with the Sixers. This trip to New Orleans is the first time he has been with the Sixers on the road. 

“[He is] integrating with the team, studying a lot of tape, scripting with his teammates with the understanding that we have a chance to see him soon,” Brown said. “All that trying to ramp it up where he can go to an NBA court more comfortably.”

Noel spoke out about his displeasure with the Sixers crowded frontcourt at the start of the preseason. He recently stuck with his stance, saying, “I don’t think the roster’s changed.”

Brown is working to keep the team moving forward as a unit while still being aware of and recognizing Noel’s perspective. 

“It does,” Brown said when asked if Noel’s open frustration concerns him as it pertains to team cohesiveness. “But I feel like it’s so much a part of what we try do around here that it’s not like you’re going to blink and you’ve forgotten something that equals camaraderie, that equals team, that equals trying to keep this together, and you’ve left it for a week … 

“It’s a day-to-day focus for me and it’s a very candid conversation with me and the player. The team hears it, the individual hears it, we all understand it … We need to coexist and we need to understand the reality of it all, too. There’s a human side you understand. It’s also pride, it’s competitiveness, it’s do your job, it’s nothing is given, you’ve got to take stuff, draw your own line in the sand, competitors rule the day.”

Last season Noel averaged 11.1 points and a team-high 8.1 rebounds per game. The Sixers will look forward to having him back on the court in that once-crowded frontcourt that is now shorthanded. Jahlil Okafor remained in Philadelphia with gastroenteritis. Ben Simmons still is rehabbing from a right foot fracture. 

"Soon you’re going to see Ben Simmons coming to a team bench where he doesn’t come out with boots and have to push him in some type of wheely apparatus," Brown said. "We’ve dealt with so many injuries trying to find that balance of dealing with their health and so on, and then trying to integrate them back into a team is part of growing a program."