The Philadelphia 76ers are at a pivotal moment in their season right now. They will either hold on to their chance at making the playoffs in the East or fall into the bottom tier of teams in the NBA. Philadelphia is coming off a loss to Indiana on Friday where the Pacers were able to take care of business without too much trouble from the Sixers. With Jrue Holiday out for the time being, in addition to Andrew Bynum, the Sixers are left even more shorthanded. The Philadelphia roster lacks a fair amount of depth to begin with and these injuries only make that more apparent.
The Sixers have now lost two straight games and five of their last 10. They have a sub .500 record on the road and the Indiana Pacers, who started the season relatively slow for their expectations, has started to play much better basketball as of late. Indiana is a team that should definitely make the playoffs in the East and with Friday night’s victory they just jumped over the Sixers for eighth place in the conference. Meanwhile, Philadelphia now sits at ninth in the East with a 12-11 record.
The good news for head coach Doug Collins and the Sixers is that they have a little bit of a cushion between them and the Orlando Magic who are currently sitting in tenth place in the Conference. The East is also very close right now and the Sixers are only one game behind the Milwaukee Bucks who are currently in fourth place at 12-9. The bad news is that when you look at the teams that are ahead of them, there is only one team that we can say is a surprise to be in such good shape to make the playoffs: the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks are currently third in the conference and may be playing as surprisingly well as anyone in the league right now. They have won eight of their last 10 games and with Joe Johnson jumping ship to the Brooklyn Nets many people would have guessed the Hawks playoff days were about to sit on the back burner.
So the Sixers are sitting in quite a predicament. How are they going to figure a way to win games and stay in the playoff race? Well I can tell you one thing, and that is that Doug Collins will turn to Evan Turner to be the man in Jrue Holiday’s absence. Evan Turner has played great this season averaging 15.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 4.1 assists. In the month of December Turner has upped his points per game and assists per game slightly and has been playing over 40 minutes a game. He is first among all guards in rebounding and his passing is among the best in the league for a shooting guard.
In the loss against the Pacers last game, Evan Turner scored 22 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. He was by and large the best player on the floor for the Sixers. Hopefully Jrue Holiday will be back soon so that Philadelphia can remain a relevant team this season. With all of the injuries they have had to deal with though, we should give Doug Collins some credit. Year in and Year out, he has this Sixers team in the playoffs despite the odds stacked against them.
When Holiday and Turner are in the backcourt together they are proving that they will be a force to reckon with for many years to come. Jrue Holiday is blank and Evan Turner is only blank years old. If they can resign Andrew Bynum this team will be in good shape (if Bynum can ever get healthy) for the future. But the truth is that nobody knows what’s going to happen with Andrew Bynum, not even himself. And Doug Collins is certainly focused on trying to win games right now.
Looking at the Sixers’ upcoming schedule, it’s not much of a stretch to say it’s quite brutal at a time when they are not entirely healthy. They will host the Lakers on Sunday, then travel to face Dallas and Houston on the road, come home to play the Atlanta Hawks, and then take off on their longest road trip of the season (8 games). Not only that, five of the eight teams would be in the playoffs if they started today. Two of the three teams that would not be in the playoffs are the Portland Trailblazers, who are extremely tough at home, and the Los Angeles Lakers who are always difficult despite the awful stretch they are currently on.
All Sixers fans can hope for is Jrue Holiday gets back quickly. Even without Andrew Bynum, Philadelphia is still a good team. They have a lot of talent and a lot of youth. Sometimes when they are missing one or two guys it is hard to notice that. But ninth in the conference without their star should attest to that. When they can count on their top eight players they can hang with just about anyone. And Doug Collins is among the best coaches in the league that is capable of getting absolutely all that he can out of his players. The Sixers certainly need Coach Collins to be on his game right now. Keep coaching Doug; you might be in for a cold winter.