It’s almost like a reflex action to put the Los Angeles Lakers as championship contenders, but the team that visits the Sixers on Monday night looks far from being a juggernaut.
While the Lakers are usually hands-down favorites against the Sixers, it doesn’t have that feel for this game.
Certainly Miami was expected to beat the Sixers on Friday and the Heat complied with a 32-16 fourth quarter enroute to the 99-79 victory.
Yet at this point, the Lakers aren’t the Heat, except for the fact that the television networks still gravitate toward both teams.
The Lakers have more star power, but the Sixers posses more balance. And are a much better defensive team.
Los Angeles has three players scoring in double figures, Kobe Bryant (29.4 ppg.), Andrew Bynum (17.0 ppg.) and Pau Gasol (16.5 ppg.).
After that, the next highest scorer is Steve Blake (7.3 ppg.) who doesn’t exactly scare the opposition. Yes, Derek Fisher can hit an occasional big trey, but he’s shooting just 29.7 percent from beyond the arc.
Defenses are taking their chances with Fisher shooting the ball instead, of Bryant or any other better options.
The Sixers meanwhile have six players averaging double figures and two more averaging 9 or more points per game. That's eight players averaging between 9 and 15 points.
It’s said that in the NBA that championships are won with superstars and few dispute that fact. Yet the Sixers don’t’ have any superstars and have done a great job improvising.
To win at Atlanta a night after that loss to the Heat shows the Sixers resiliency.
By the way, this is not to suggest that beating the Lakers will be easy.
Any team facing Bryant, better be ready to fight all game long.
Yet it does appear to be a role reversal at this point.
So if the Sixers win, impressive as it may be, just don’t call it an upset, not this year, at this point of the season.