Sixers' 2014-15 schedule and predictions

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Sixers' 2014-15 schedule and predictions

The NBA schedule was released Wednesday evening. Like the NFL, the NBA made a big deal of it and did a one-hour show on the league’s television network.

The season opens Oct. 28 with the defending-champion Spurs against the Mavericks in a Lone Star state showdown. The Cavaliers and Bulls will play each other for the first time on Halloween night. Christmas Day -- the league’s annual showcase -- will feature all the expected storylines: LeBron James and the Cavs take on the Heat; Thunder vs. Spurs; Warriors vs. Clippers.

Not listed for any of that: The Sixers. You are no doubt shocked.

This feels like a missed opportunity for the NBA. What, no Timberwolves-Sixers clash on Christmas? Sure, Thad Young said he didn’t know anything about a trade to the Timberwolves for Anthony Bennett, but come on. That would make him the only guy who doesn’t think something might happen. (It’s a good idea for the Sixers, by the way.) Imagine the inflated ratings for a Young-Bennett meeting. The NBA is totally missing out on tens of extra people.

Or what about a Bucks-Sixers game? Think of the advanced billing. The two worst teams in the NBA a year ago meet on Christmas Day in … [dramatic pause] Bricks for Picks. They could have Bill Murray reprise his role and give it the Frank Cross/Scrooged promo treatment. It sells itself.

For added entertainment, there could be a halftime trivia contest consisting of questions about the CBA, the salary cap and arcane league rules. On one side, Sam Hinkie. On the other, all the general managers who pushed for the ridiculous lottery reform proposal. Winner gets to decide what happens to the lottery, and when. Tell me you wouldn’t watch that. Even Alex Trebek and Sean Connery would tune in.

Ah well. Some Sixers’ dates of interest:

• The Sixers open the season Oct. 29 on the road against Indiana. Then they head to Milwaukee before returning to Philly. Without Paul George and Lance Stephenson, maybe the Sixers squeak out a win against the Pacers. But maybe not. Call it 0-2 to start.

• Like last season, the Sixers will play their first home game against the Miami Heat. Unlike last season, James will not be present. And unlike last season, when the Sixers somehow beat the Heat and started the year 3-0, they’ll probably lose. Because they are not good. That's analysis. You're welcome. Call it 0-3 to start -- or 0-4, actually, with the Rockets coming to town in the next game.

• The Sixers play the Magic in the fifth game. If they don’t win that one, they’re probably looking at mid-November, when they host the Celtics, before they have a shot to get a victory. Added bonus: Evan Turner returns to Philly, only he’ll be bricking three-pointers in Boston green instead of Sixers red. Everyone wins that night.

• James and the Cavs come to Philly on Jan. 5. That gives all the faux Heat fans in the area some time to convert to Cleveland gear.

• If everything goes to plan and Young is flipped to Minnesota for Bennett, then Young will return as a member of the T-wolves on Jan. 30. Maybe he’ll get a video montage. If Andre Iguodala got one, Thad gets one.

• The Clippers play the Sixers at the Wells Fargo Center on March 27. If you like stars, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin should be in attendance. If not, hey, look at that, it’s Spencer Hawes.

• Oh, and the Sixers have a seven-game road trip that will keep them out of town for Christmas and New Year’s. Lucky them.

So that brings us to the prediction portion of the program. The Sixers have the worst odds to win the NBA championship this season. They’re listed at 300/1 with the Bucks. Poor Milwaukee. (Has that city discovered the wheel? Or fire?) The Sixers won 19 games a year ago. That’s about the right ballpark this season. After going through the schedule and doing the win-loss thing -- I lead a full life -- I have the Sixers going 21-61. Two more wins. That’s called progress.

Don’t worry. The Sixers should be the worst team in the NBA this year. The Bucks, despite being lumped with the Sixers in terms of title odds, have appreciably more talent on the roster -- in that they have talent beyond three players (or two and a half in the Sixers' case, depending on how you feel about Bennett). There’s not another team in the NBA that should come anywhere close to being as bad as the one Philly has right here. Rejoice. Own it. The future will be upon you soon enough.

In a predictable development, certain prognosticators have the Sixers finishing last in the reconfigured and suddenly interesting Eastern Conference. After (seconds of) consideration, I concur. My far-too-early predictions for the East:

1. LeBron James (58-24): LeBron James, Kevin Love, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao and LeBron James. Cleveland is the best team in the conference.

2. Chicago Bulls (56-26): Even after trading Loul Deng, and even after Derrick Rose went down again, they were still good last year. Now Rose is (ostensibly) healthy. They went out and got Pau Gasol and Doug McDermott. And they still have one of the best defensive and passing centers in the league in Joakim Noah. Love the Bulls.

3. Toronto Raptors (49-33): They didn’t do much in the offseason -- except re-sign Kyle Lowry. Which is all they really needed to do.

4. Atlanta Hawks (47-35): Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, DeMarre Carroll, Paul Millsap and (a healthy) Al Horford as the starters. Thabo Sefolosha, Adreian Payne (love me some Adreian Payne), Pero Antic, Kent Bazemore and some combination of Shelvin Mack/Dennis Schroder off the bench. That’s a good team in the East. They make the jump this year.

5. Washington Wizards (46-36): Do not mess with The Polish Hammer.

6. Charlotte Hornets (45-37): The Hornets are starting to shape up. Like the Lance Stephenson addition. Really like the contract.

7. Miami Heat (43-39): Still a team that plays basketball.

8. Brooklyn Nets (41-41): Positive: Brook Lopez will be back. Negative: Paul Pierce won’t. Positive: Hey, Deron Williams looks healthy(ish). Negative: They have no draft picks until the rapture.

9. Detroit Pistons (40-42): Sleeper team for the eighth seed. Stan Van Gundy knows what he’s doing. He gets a pass for giving Jodie Meeks a three-year deal worth $19 million. Chalking it up to just-took-the-job jitters. SVG will settle down.

10. New York Knicks (38-44): Carmelo Anthony can dry his tears with $1,000 bills. (Do they make $1,000 bills? I could consult Google but … nah.)

11. Indiana Pacers (36-46): All the Roy Hibbert they can handle. What a grim situation.

12. Milwaukee Bucks (30-52): Giannis Antetokounmpo is going to be a star pretty soon. Jabari Parker will add much-needed scoring. Larry Sanders has issues, but he and John Henson give the Bucks some serious rim protection. Brandon Knight was OK last year (that’s a compliment). Ersan Ilyasova … still has potential. Could be worse.

13. Boston Celtics (28-54): Without Rajon Rondo, this team would completely crater. Did you know they gave Avery Bradley a four-year deal worth $32 million? Avery Bradley couldn’t believe it either.

14. Orlando Magic (27-55): That’s four more wins than they had a year ago. They might throw a parade.

15. Philadelphia 76ers (21-61): Asset acquisition continues. Smile.

Instant Replay: Knicks 110, Sixers 109

Instant Replay: Knicks 110, Sixers 109

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK -- A 17-point game came down to the final possessions. 

The Knicks squeaked out a 110-109 victory, holding on to this one after suffering a buzzer-beating loss to the Sixers on Jan. 11. 

The Knicks squandered a double-digit lead in the fourth as the Sixers slowly chipped away at their lead at the line. The Sixers got within one, 106-105, when T.J. McConnell drained a three after a series of Sixers’ free throws. 

Jahlil Okafor scored a go-ahead basket during a hustling Sixers possession with nine seconds remaining to give the Sixers a 109-108 lead. 

In the end, it was Carmelo Anthony, who had been running up the scoreboard all night (37 points), that nailed the game-winning jumper over Robert Covington. Kyle O’Quinn picked off the Sixers' final inbound attempt. 

Inside the box score
• Okafor finished with a season-high 28 points and 10 rebounds. He had eight rebounds in first half, including a coast-to-coast fast break.

• Dario Saric continues his strong Rookie of the Year push. He finished with 19 points, 15 rebounds and five assists. 

• Robert Covington struggled from the field overall (7 of 19, 2 of 11 from three) but filled up the stat sheet with 20 points, 10 rebounds, three steals and two blocks.

• Anthony did what Anthony does. He scored 37 points on 15 of 25 from the field, including the game-winner.

Anderson debuts
Justin Anderson made his Sixers debut in the first quarter. Anderson is a multi-positional player and the lineup reflected that. He first played with Rodriguez, Stauskas, Covington and Holmes. Anderson played 3:47 and went 0 for 1 from three with a rebound and a foul. 

While Anderson said he had learned about the Sixers by watching his first game from the bench, he will get more on-the-court experience on Sunday when he plans to spend time at the training complex on the team’s off day. 

Bigs Convene
Joel Embiid was with the Sixers in New York. After the second quarter ended, he stayed on the court to talk with Kristaps Porzingis and Joakim Noah. Both Knicks big men also were sidelined on Saturday.

Trust It
T.J. McConnell isn’t the only one to #trustthefriendship with Saric. Check out this no-look pass to Robert Covington. 

Up next
The Sixers have a day to bounce back from this loss. The 48-9 Warriors come to town on Monday. 

Sixers-Knicks 5 Things: Sixers hope to remain hot after All-Star break

Sixers-Knicks 5 Things: Sixers hope to remain hot after All-Star break

The Sixers (22-35) finish off a back-to-back set out of the All-Star break when they the New York Knicks (23-35) at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m./CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports app).

Let's take a closer look at the matchup.

1. Starting out strong
So much for having nine days off and players in new roles negatively impacting the team.

The Sixers stormed into the home stretch of the season with a 120-112 win over the Washington Wizards. Seven different players scored in double figures for the Sixers, as they knocked off the Eastern Conference's No. 3 seed.

Perhaps no player had a bigger impact on the game than Richaun Holmes. The backup big man notched the first double-double of his career with 12 points and 10 rebounds. He also added a career-best five blocks.

"I try to approach every game this season the same way, whether everybody was playing or people were hurt," Holmes said. "Prepare like I'm going to play 30 minutes a game. I think having that mindset helped me to stay ready at all times and be aggressive when I had a chance."

2. Young guns
Injuries will prevent another juicy clash between Joel Embiid and Kristaps Porzingis, but there will still be two other young players to keep an eye Saturday night.

Dario Saric and Willy Hernangomez have been two of the most impressive rookies this season, especially since the calendar flipped to February.

Saric has averaged 16.4 points, 7.3 boards and 2.2 assists this month. He's coming off a 20-point, 11-rebound performance against the Wizards for his third straight double-double.

Hernangomez has put up 11.0 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists a night in February. The center, who was actually drafted 35th overall in 2015 by the Sixers before being traded, recorded 11 points and 10 rebounds in the Knicks' 119-104 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday.

Saturday's clash could go a long way toward determining Rookie of the Month honors for the East.

3. A Rose is but a Rose
Derrick Rose will never be considered among the league's top assist men. That's simply not his style of play.

When the oft-injured Rose has his game flowing, it starts with scoring, particularly against the Sixers.

In 18 career matchups with the Sixers, Rose has averaged 20.7 points. He's also put up 6.6 assists and 3.9 rebounds in those contests.

Rose scored 25 points on 11 of 16 shooting in the Knicks' first meeting with the Sixers this season back on Jan. 12.

That typically would have been enough to say he won the point guard battle that night, but T.J. McConnell's buzzer-beating jumper stole the show in the Sixers' 98-97 win.

4. Injuries
Embiid (knee), Tiago Splitter (calf), Ben Simmons (foot) Jerryd Bayless (wrist) are out for the Sixers.

Joakim Noah (hamstring) is a game-time decision. Porzingis (ankle) is out for the Knicks.

5. This and that
• The Sixers' win over the Knicks in their last meeting snapped a five-game skid in the series.

• The Sixers had 28 assists in their win over the Wizards. They are eighth in the NBA with 23.6 assists a night.

• The Knicks are fourth in the NBA in rebounding with 46.0 boards per game.