Needless to say, 2010 was somewhat less than a banner year for the Sixers--the highlight of the calendar year was probably winning the #2 pick in the lottery, and even that has been largely mitigated by the subpar play of said pick-recipient Evan Turner in his rookie year to date. But hey, that's all in the extremely recent past now, and the Sixers are looking towards the future--one which could start with a surprising break-even on a tough eight-game road swing with a win tonight (baby steps, y'know) in New Orleans against the Hornets.
The Sixers will once again be working somewhat short-handed, playing not only without Andre Iguodala (still out with a sore achilles) but also starting center Spencer Hawes, who Kate Fagan tweets is out with a back sprain. after a subpar start to the season, Spencer seemed to have been finding something of a groove in the month of December, posting four double-double outings--four more than he had in the season to that point. Starting in his stead will be the bench-ridden Marreese Speights, who has played a grand total of 2:29 combined in the team's last five games. Will be an interesting match between all-fundamentals Hornets center Emeka Okafor and the no-fundamentals Speights, no doubt.
The best thing we have going for us in this game is recent history. No doubt you'll recall the match between these two teams three weeks ago where the Sixers held the Hornets to an absolutely unthinkable 23 first-half points, and only 30% shooting for the entire game, as the Liberty Ballers grinded out an impressive 88-70 victory. Those were the Dark Days for New Orleans, and hot off a surprise upset over the Celtics in the Garden at New Year's Eve, they're not likely to pull off a repeat performance. Still, the defensively-improved Sixers certainly had a solid gameplan for the Bees the first time around, and there's reason to hope that Coach Collins will have the boys geared up in Stopper Mode again tonight.
8:00 tip from New Orleans Arena. Should be nice to see our old friends Jason Smith and Willie Green as they enjoy their first seasons outside of Philadelphia, averaging 5.2 and 7.7 ppg respectively as key bench players for the Hornets. (And the phrase "Key Bench Players" as applies to Jason Smith and Willie Green is probably a pretty good reason why NO wasn't terribly likely to keep pace with their 11-1 start all season.)