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So… what exactly are the Sixers?

Jan 22, 2012, 5:00 PM EDT

Miami Heat v Philadelphia 76ers - Game Four Getty Images

From SBNation’s excellent Sixers’ blog Liberty Ballers (pardon the extensive blockquote, but I need it for context):

Denver, Atlanta, Miami. That was the “tough stretch” Jordan wrote about early last week. Finally, after 13 games where the opponents winning percentage was a lowly .371, they’d play some actual competition. Now, we’d find out if this team really had some marbles or if they were pulling the wool over our eyes with deceiving teaminess. 79% of you voted that they would win at least two of those three games.

Well, you know what happened. A crushing overtime loss to Denver at the spiteful hands of Andre Miller kicked it off. Next, the the Hawks came to town and it looked like they were going to upend the Sixers as well before a second half hurricane came through and blew Atlanta out of the water. And then last night, in what was the toughest game scheduled, a road game in Miami on the second night of a back-to-back, the defense couldn’t stop LeBron James and Chris Bosh, allowing them to pull away late in the third due to coaching miscues and frontcourt abandonment.

So where do we stand now? At 11-5, they have a commanding lead over the Atlantic, that much is certain. And with the 2nd place Knicks dealing with injuries and chemistry issues, a 5-game lead this early lets them breathe a little bit. But in terms of their place in the East come playoff time, have you gotten any indication that they could beat any of the better teams? Or does the record speak for itself and they’re still legit? I’m just interested in what you think, considering that the only two teams over .500 the Sixers have beaten are the Al Horford-less Hawks and the Danny Granger-less Pacers. The next best team they defeated is the 6-9 Suns. Just something to think on…

via Re-Assessing the Sixers After The Three Game Test – Liberty Ballers.

When you follow the league to the extent many of us do, that is, to a borderline-obsessive, even-beat-writers-think-we-should-get-a-life extent, you tend to get irritated with this idea that the end results tend to validate the preconceived notions.

To wit, the Philadelphia 76ers were considered a mediocre team before the start of the season, losses to top teams proved that they are such despite their record, and an inevitable first or second-round elimination will cement that as their identity. Except the Sixers aren’t a mediocre team. They’re a very good team that lost to the hottest team in the West outside of OKC (the Nuggets just went 4-0 in a four-games-in-five-night road trip with injuries,which is insane), and arguably the best team in the league. Furthermore, you watch enough 20-point losses, you learn which feel like 20-point losses and which don’t. The Sixers hung with the Heat. They made some plays. The Heat simply overpowered them because when the Heat are engaged, and not doing… whatever they were doing on that three-game road trip… they are nigh on unstoppable.

The Sixers are extremely well coached this season. And while it’s a virtual lock that Philadelphia’s bench unit will not continue their insane pace, they still have exceptional depth. Andre Iguodala took six shots against the Heat. For comparison, Joel Anthony took nine Saturday night. This isn’t to say the Sixers are as good as the Heat. They aren’t. They’re going to lose in the second round to either Chicago or Miami in all likelihood. But the Sixers’ lack of consistent competition creates a significantly small sample size, and we shouldn’t toss out their superb play against weak teams, because some of the best teams struggle with poor teams. Consistency is the mark of real value in this league, and the Sixers have been strikingly consistent. Their effort level doesn’t fluctuate game-to-game, half-to-half, quarter to quarter. They’re committed to one another, have balance, speed, depth and youth.

You can write the obituary for the Sixers now, barring one of the most miraculous runs in NBA history, but that doesn’t mean that the shotgun, first-glance perceptions we had in preseason reveal the identity of this team.

You have to watch Philadelphia to understand Philadelphia.


  1. scadevage - Jan 22, 2012 at 5:27 PM

    Two words … Doug Collins

    • areyesrn - Jan 23, 2012 at 6:01 AM

      Why does Doug Collins still trusts Andre Iguodala with the ball in the final minute…he’s a turnover/missed free throw/airball waiting to happen. The few times he’s actually passed the ball with seconds to play, his teammates have always been able to hit the shot/free throws

  2. captainwisdom8888 - Jan 22, 2012 at 5:27 PM

    Do you have good talent and/or do you have a good TEAM?

    Thanks in large part to “coach of the year” frontrunner Doug Collins, the 76ers have taken their modest talent and formulated an equation of depth that is unique and unmatched in the NBA. Dallas showed last season that good TEAMS beat good TALENT and if the 76ers continue to surprise with a mediocre lineup it’s only a matter of time until upper-echelon talent want to be a part of it all.

    God knows Iggy isn’t a #1 scorer…

    • miamatt - Jan 22, 2012 at 5:40 PM

      Well, the Mavs, like the Pistons of 2004, showed that occasionally a “lesser” talented team can win it all with precise execution of a great gameplan. The Sixers are good, but they are missing that piece of “upper-echelon talent”, as you say.

      I think it’s more accurate to say that the best balance of team and talent tends to win it all; stars in a system that maximizes their strengths is the typical model.

  3. skizzy79 - Jan 22, 2012 at 5:29 PM

    As a Sixers fan I can truly say that the loss to Miami doesn’t surprise me at all. The Sixers aren’t an elite team yet and everybody knows that. They are at the top of that second tier of teams who can have a good regular season and win a round or two in the playoffs. We are still a year or two away from making some real noise. (Think OKC from two years ago)

    • pudgalvin - Jan 22, 2012 at 5:40 PM

      I’m thinking more Memphis or Denver. Good team that will be good for awhile, but not going to be good enough to have a chance at taking down the best teams.

      • borderline1988 - Jan 22, 2012 at 11:01 PM

        Agreed. OKC 2 years ago had Kevin Durant and Westbrook, both of whom are way better than anyone on the Sixers. You could possibly make that argument about James Harden as well.
        The Sixers are not that good. They are beating up crappy teams. That’s about it. They’re a middle of the pack Eastern Conference team. Orlando, Miami, Chicago are all a lot better. I even think a healthy Hawks team is better.
        They’re probably going to play the Hawks in the first round (assuming Howard doesn’t get traded) and get blown out in the second round.

  4. miamatt - Jan 22, 2012 at 5:30 PM

    Watching this game from the Miami side, it was much closer than the final score indicated. The Heat led for the entire game, but Philly just wouldn’t die. Every time Miami began to extend the lead, the Sixers would get back to within three.

    The Sixers aren’t explosive enough to beat the eilte teams in a seven game series, but they are tough. Once they get past Elton Brand’s contract this team could have a chance to be special.

  5. goforthanddie - Jan 22, 2012 at 5:45 PM

    So… what exactly are the Sixers?
    The only team in the Atlantic with a winning record.

    • pudgalvin - Jan 22, 2012 at 6:03 PM

      Tallest midget.

      • goforthanddie - Jan 22, 2012 at 7:04 PM

        A back-handed compliment is still a compliment.

      • pudgalvin - Jan 22, 2012 at 8:49 PM

        Just bustin balls. All in good fun.

  6. sauey2000 - Jan 22, 2012 at 6:25 PM

    You didn’t mention that Spencer Hawes who is having an all-star year did not play in the Denver or Miami games.

  7. jucam1 - Jan 22, 2012 at 7:15 PM

    Not winning the title this year but already better than a heartless Knicks team, an old Celtics team, and if you underestimate the Sixers they will run you off the floor…

    • bossmangunny - Jan 22, 2012 at 10:11 PM

      They couldnt run the awful Knicks off the floor.

      • mojosmagic - Jan 23, 2012 at 12:50 PM

        No Hawes, playing back to back to back. Six games in 7 nights and on the road the Knicks won by 6. OK

  8. papimor3no - Jan 22, 2012 at 9:17 PM

    So… What exactly are the heat? Lost to the bucks lol

  9. bossmangunny - Jan 22, 2012 at 9:49 PM

    Sixers are playing well right now.Its early though,lets see if they can maintain that for the next couple months.Then i would be impressed.

  10. a185 - Jan 22, 2012 at 10:14 PM

    Sixers are good and you can say the Knicks suck but there hasn’t e en been a full month of basketball played yet… Basketball is usually sloppy until around Christmas or early January… the Knicks are playing like a team in November and the Sixers have played well but we have to wait and see… you can’t make judgments within the 1st month of play… maybe mid February.

  11. Mark Boland Jr - Jan 22, 2012 at 11:27 PM

    if you love the NBA…Google “Daily Grind Sports” for some great NBA coverage

  12. jlinatl - Jan 23, 2012 at 11:46 AM

    Sixers depth will be a difference maker all regular season long. The playoffs may be a different issue.

  13. mojosmagic - Jan 23, 2012 at 12:48 PM

    They aren’t elite but if I were an elite team I wouldn’t want to face them in a 7 game series. The Sixers are one “Star” level power forward type to contend with anybody. I don’t think that player has to be a “Super” star but rather an unselfish pick setting, rebounding, shot blocker type who can score a little from the block. They remind me a lot of the last champion Detroit team.

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