There is no questioning the importance of this game: It could mean the difference between the seven seed and the six seed for these 76ers, the difference between playing the Boston Celtics or playing the Orlando Magic. But what is up for debate is what a win tonight would actually mean, considering the Cleveland Cavaliers are playing without LeBron James, Mo Williams, Zydrunas Ilgauskas -- all resting for the playoffs.
Yes, winning this game is important, but it won't go a long way towards proving a point, towards repairing the damage of this six-game, end-of-season slide. The way this season has ended, with losses to the Nets, Bobcats, Bulls, Cavs, Raptors, Celtics, and now, maybe or maybe not the Cavs again, the Sixers have lost all of their momentum, and at least some of their fan interest.
So what does this mean? Who the heck knows. Would anything really surprise Sixer fans at this point in the season? You can't predict this team's play. Right now, it would seem they would maybe win one game in the opening round, possibly get swept. Maybe steal two games, but it sure doesn't look like they're in the hunt to win a first-round series. Things have changed quickly this season -- from bad to good, from good to bad. No matter how depressed and pessimistic Sixers' fans are, there has to be a little part thinking, "Maybe?"
I really don't believe tonight's game will prove anything. If they win, that's great. But it will be against a Cavs team even more depleted than last night's Boston team. If they lose, well, that will make it seven straight and they'll leave the Quicken Loans Arena the same way teams have 40 times this season: As the losing squad.
But tonight should be an interesting night. Keeping one eye on the Sixers game, another on the Chicago Bulls vs. Toronto Raptors. Since the Bulls have been amazing at home since trading for John Salmons and Brad Miller, it's going to take a big effort from the Raptors to even make the Sixers/Cavs game relavant.
Here's a quick look at the two possible playoff opponents: the Celtics and the Magic. Which team would the Sixers rather play? Which team would the fans rather the Sixers play?
1.) Celtics. There is the trouble -- mentally -- that Boston is the defending champs. And, that they are the vaunted Celtics. But are the Celtics a better match up for the Sixers? I guess it depends on Kevin Garnett's knee. The Sixers looked awful against Boston early in the season, looked great against them at home a couple of months ago. But the last two games, Boston has played without Garnett, who is obviously the key to this team. Someone in the Sixers mentioned that they believed the Celtics are a better matchup than the Magic.
2.) Magic. The tough thing about the Magic is their outside shooting, which, as we all know, is the Achilles heel of the Sixers defense (which lately has had a lot of holes). I don't see how the Sixers are going to defend the perimeter against the trio of outside shooters that Orlando has, while at the same time contain Dwight Howard. Especially with Samuel Dalembert picking up two fouls early in most games lately, this inside-outside combination seems impossible for the Sixers to stop.
Of course, on paper, both these teams look impossible to stop. That's why they're at the top of the Eastern Conference.
In a few hours, who the opponent is ...