A 16-22 record isnt anything to write home about, Ill give you that.
The way the Sixers played entering a stretch in which they have just one out of 13 games on the road didnt give anyone reason to think things would be getting better anytime soon. However, what a difference one win over a good team can make. Such is the case after the Sixers dominated James Harden and the Rockets in Saturdays 107-100 victory.
It turns out that the Sixers still do know how to win, and they can still beat good teams. Of the Sixers last four wins, (Atlanta, Memphis L.A. Lakers, Houston) with the exception of the Lakers, all have come against teams that would be in the playoffs if they started today.
With Andrew Bynum now on the court doing basketball-related activities and targeting the All-Star break for his debut (see story), what kind of playoff potential do these Sixers possess?
Much of that has to do with the Sixers current 13-game stretch. So far, its gravy on biscuits as theyre 1-0. Heres the bottom line: in the last five, full regular seasons, 41 wins has been the maximum number needed to clinch the eighth playoff spot in the East. Thats .500 basketball.
Using this stretch to get to .500, or within a game or so, would be big for the Sixers. A 10-3 record would get the Sixers to 25-25, but is that doable with a team thats been woefully inconsistent? Lets take a look at the schedule.112 vs. Houston (21-17, 1-1 vs. Sixers)115 vs. New Orleans (11-26, 0-1 vs. Sixers)118 vs. Toronto (14-23, 1-2 vs. Sixers)121 vs. San Antonio (29-11, 1-0 vs. Sixers)122 @ Milwaukee (19-17, 1-0 vs. Sixers)126 vs. New York (24-13, 2-0 vs. Sixers)128 vs. Memphis (24-11, 0-1 vs. Sixers)130 vs. Washington (6-28, 0-0 vs. Sixers)21 vs. Sacramento (13-24, 0-0 vs. Sixers)24 vs. Orlando (13-23, 0-0 vs. Sixers)26 vs. Indiana (23-15, 1-0 vs. Sixers)29 vs. Charlotte (9-27, 1-0 vs. Sixers)211 vs. L.A. Clippers (28-9, 0-0 vs. Sixers)
With Houston out of the way, six of those teams currently have a winning record and the other six boast a losing mark. The Sixers have a combined 4-9 record against those teams, although of those 13 meetings only five came at home.
A big factor here is that theres only one back-to-back set for the Sixers. Before Saturdays victory, the Sixers had four straight back-to-backs. So at least we know the team should be well-rested with just two games this week and no more than three games in any five-day span.
Looking at the stretch Id say the Sixers need to show more than a modest leap in consistency to get to that .500 mark, or to even go 8-5 or 9-4. The lack of consistency this season has meant that there are no gimmes.Could they follow up the Rockets win with victories over the Hornets and Raptors? Sure. But based on what weve seen so far I find it hard to believe that this Sixers team can beat the Spurs or Clippers. Against those two teams there are simply too many guys to stop. Thats two losses right there.
The next big challenge appears to be facing the Bucks on the road on the tail end of a back-to-back, and the Sixers werent even close on their first two attempts at slowing down Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks.
At minimum I see three or four losses coming the Sixers way, which is fine as long as they beat everyone else.
Will the Sixers be able to take care of business and perhaps sneak away with some other wins over the top-tier clubs in that stretch? Hey, thats why they play the games.
If the Sixers are able to come away with a decent homestand and Bynum becomes available around the All-Star break, the team will be able to make its move.
The problem is if the Sixers dont get the wins now in the confines of the Wells Fargo Center, that move may be toward the draft lottery.
E-mail Marshall Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org.