As fun as it's been getting to rack up W's against the league's lesser lights--four straight against teams with losing records, though the most recent one about the Cavs was way too close for comfort--it couldn't last forever. The Sixers were bound to face another legitimate test sooner or later, and indeed, tonight they face the Dallas Mavericks in a meeting of the two teams with the longest active winning streaks in their respective conferences. The Mavs are 43-16 for the season, and a jaw-dropping 16-1 in their last 17 games. Something tells me they're not going to be too impressed with the Sixers' recent hot stretch.
Still, the Sixers' four-game winning streak, and their resultant plus-.500 record at 30-29, is something worth celebrating. Not since the team was 2-1 under Eddie Jordan have they been able to refer to themselves as a "winning team," and even if the margin is still fairly slim, that has to count as some sort of progress. And as always, they've been doing so as a team, with 'Dre, Elton, Thad and Jrue all taking their turns as players of the game, and Jodie, Lou, Evan and even Spencer and Marreese all playing key roles in securing victories as well. This is our team, and they're pretty good.
Do they have the potential to be great? Well, games like tonight's are the only way to really find out for sure, but at the very least, the Liberty Ballers aren't contenting themselves with having broken even. "It's time to go on with the rest of the games and try to stay above (.500)," said Thaddeus Young recently. "We're all here to get to the playoffs. We all want to be part of something great." Elton Brand, a locker-room leader all year, concurred. "A .500 record is OK, but we aspire to be better," quoth Elton. "We aspire to catch teams in front of us and keep teams behind us at bay." Well, the Mavs ain't either of those, but guarnateed that a win tonight against 'em will catch the attention of all who are.
7:00 tip from the WFC, where the Sixers are now a sparkling 19-9 on the season. Speaking of Elton, there was a scary moment in the game against the Cavs where it looked like we might lose our leading scorer and rebounder to a dislocated pinky finger, but Brand played out the game and looks to be OK for the immediate future. It's a valuable reminder though of how lucky the Sixers have been most of the season in terms of health, and of how important the veteran forward has been to the team's success this year.