At 16-23 and with just 1 games separating the Sixers from last place in the Atlantic Division, one has to wonder if Andrew Bynums return to action will be enough. After all, just about midway through the season, the Sixers are four games behind Milwaukee for the final playoff spot.
With 10 of their next 11 games at the Wells Fargo Center, the Sixers need to get it together and fast.
There is a sense of urgency. Each and every game counts, Thad Young said. Were kind of fighting for our lives right now. Were fighting for our playoff hopes.
There is plenty of time for the them to turn it around, but its not going to be easy. As it stands, the Sixers rank 27th in the NBA in scoring, 20th in field-goal percentage and 29th in free-throw attempts.
They've committed the third-fewest turnovers, but allowed the opposition to grab the third-most rebounds in NBA and to score more than 97 points per game.
We have a lack of speed on the wings, and you get broken down and it becomes a chain-linked fence, coach Doug Collins said, following the maddening 111-99 loss to the last-place New Orleans Hornets. One thing is chasing another and then chasing another and then eventually you are going to get caught. We dont have rim protection. Were not communicating with one another, so were not helping in and getting out. Its a disconnect, but our lack of speed really hurts us. We cant keep the ball in front of us.
Can Bynum save a team that has been so maddeningly inconsistent?
While he'll help help the team make a last-ditch rush to the playoffs, he's not a cure-all on defense.
Without the team speed on the perimeter, the Sixers struggle against the pick-and-roll offense, defending it the second worst of any team in the NBA according to Syngery Sports. The Sixers' rode their defense to within one win of the Eastern Conference, but their new roster has come close to replicating that same success.
Id say our ability to guard the screen-and-roll right now has been the worst part of the defense, Young said. Teams are picking us apart off the screen-and-roll where there will be a guy rolling to the basket and one of us doesnt pick him up because well be covering somebody on the three-point line or something like that. Its just about trusting each other and just going out there and playing together.
And like last year, during the lockout-compressed schedule, the Sixers havent been able to practice as Collins would like. Nagging injuries to players like Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Jason Richardson and Young have limited his options. Even in Wednesdays session at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, the Sixers spent the majority of the practice watching film.
We have to be connected. We just dont do it consistently, Collins lamented. It hurts that we dont practice much. Jrue doesnt practice and Thad doesnt practice, J-Rich really doesnt practice. So we dont have a lot of practice time with a new group of guys. That hurts. We dont have that consistent time. Thats not an excuse, but when youve got a new group of guys, thats hard when you cant get out on the floor to protect it. We have not been able to do it consistently.
Bynum, of course, hasnt practiced all year, either.