Looked ahead on the Sixers' schedule recently? The recent slate of relative creampuff games should have been a clue that a much harder run lied around the bend, and sure enough, we got a doozy of a week coming up--five games in eight nights, two on the road, all against teams .500 or better (Atlanta, Orlando, San Antonio and New York twice.) The stretch will make for a nice test of the Sixers' mettle at this stage in the season, no doubt, but it also might very easily make for a handful of losses as the Sixers' struggle to stay above water in the East playoff standings.
All the more reason, then, to get a win tonight against divisional foes New Jersey in the Garden State. Sounds easy, given that the Nets are a paltry 15-34 and apparently well out of the playoff picture, but when considering that the Nets are 12-11 at the Prudential Center (including five home W's in a row), and that Sixers-Nets games are NEVER easy, it might take a bit of focusing from the Liberty Ballers after all.
The Nets' recent home surge comes after the announcement from Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov that the Nets would be pulling out from trade talks with Denver for hopelessly indecisive superstar Carmelo Anthony, feeling that said talks were providing too much of a distraction. Looks like ol' Prokhy might've been onto something, as since then, the Nets have rolled off home wins against the Jazz, Pistons, Cavs, Grizzlies and most recently, those very Nuggets, ensuring that at the very least, '10-'11 will mark some kind of improvement over the end results of last year's 12-win squad.
Meanwhile, the Sixers must look to start getting their act together on the road. Last week's win in Toronto was encouraging, but it was against one of the worst teams in the East playing at 60% health. If the Sixers are really to demonstrate themselves a playoff-worthy bunch, they should be able to decisively prove themselves the better team against a Nets squad that, while hardly devoid of talent (resurgent point guard Devin Harris, low-post beast Brook Lopez, and of course the eternally-promising lottery pick Derrick Favors), is nonetheless surely lottery-bound this season.
7:00 tip from the Rock. (I still prefer calling it The Prude, ftr.) And overdue congrats to our man Jrue Holiday for making the Rookie-Sophomore Squad, the Sixers' lone representative at this year's All-Star Weekend, and a worthy one at that. Balls to whoever decided that the Clippers' Eric Bledsoe (6.2 ppg, 4.1 apg, 40% FG) was a worthier candidate for the Rookie team than Evan Turner, though. Make 'em pay for it tonight, ET--I feel a nine point, four rebound, two assist explosion coming on.