If the 76ers want want to avoid the following: 1.) An 0-7 finish to the season, 2.) The 7th playoff spot, 3.) Fan frustration ... tonight's game against the Toronto Raptors is a must-win.
After tonight, there are two games left: a back-to-back against the Boston Celtics (thought to be the return of Kevin Garnett) and at the Cleveland Cavaliers (who will be going for a 40-1 home record since they're beating the Celtics today). Those are long odds.
Here's how the playoff picture looks (after the first four teams): 5. Miami Heat, 6. Sixers (1 game back of Miami). 7. Chicago Bulls (1/2 game back of Sixers) 8.) Detroit Pistons (1 game back of Bulls). But the Heat own the tiebreaker (conference record) over the Sixers, so technically the Sixers are two games back of the Heat. Chicago has the Pistons tomorrow and the Raptors on Wednesday.
If the Sixers finish in 6th, they will play the Orlando Magic. If they finish in 7th, they will play the Boston Celtics.
All right, with the number logistics out of the way, let's look at this game. Sixers (40-39) vs. the Raptors (30-49). There is no excuse to lose this game. The Raptors are the second to worst team in the Eastern Conference with pretty much nothing for which to play. The Sixers aren't on a back-to-back, they didn't practice yesterday, they should be rested.
Here are a couple of things that might come into play:
1.) Toronto's outside shooting: In the opening game of the season, a Toronto win at the Wachovia Center, Jason K. made too many outside shots. And considering the Sixers have been leaving shooters all season, and especially of late (39 three-pointers allowed in this 0-4 stretch) they need to be focused on limiting open shots. Toronto shoots 37.4 percent from three, compared to 31.8 percent for the Sixers. The Sixers try to close the gap with extra free throws, but recently have left a lot of points on the board from the free throw line. Tonight they need a combination of stronger three-point defense and solid free throw shooting. Nothing spectacular: limit Toronto to around five threes, and make 75 percent of their free throws.
2.) Andre Miller. His assists have been down during this 0-4 stretch. That might be because of Thaddeus Young's absence, because he might be trying to do more of the scoring. That makes sense. If he has 7-plus assists, that would mean some of the role players -- Willie Green, Marreese Speights, etc -- are involved.
3.) The mental thing. I just spoke to Miller and he said tonight's game is the most important of the season. The Sixers played well on Friday night against the Cavs, well enough that it should inspire some confidence for tonight's game. But a lot comes into play. Like I said earlier, you would think the Raptors have nothing for which to play. But it's their final home game, and if they have some self-respect, they would want to close the home season with a win. And with the Sixers, knowing the games they played before this one, and the two that remain, this game isn't tricky: You have to win it.
4.) Andre Iguodala. As always, this is his team. It's hard for this team to win if he isn't contributing in all the ways he usually contributes. And some shameless self promotion, if you haven't read it, this Sunday story: Iguodala Profile.
Should be an interesting game. If the Sixers can't win this game, there will be a lot of Sixers fans shaking their heads.
p.s. 127: Your photo. FYI, I've been trying to post photos all the time, but there is this size limit and unless I lower the quality of the photo (I know, hard to believe my photos can become even lower quality), it won't upload. I took about 10 more, including one of the Air Canada Centre, but none of the files were small enough. So here is one of the Sixers locker room ... on 5 times zoom.