What's good, guys? It's Spurs - Sixers tonight, so it wouldn't be right to head into the game without talking to Liberty Ballers' Michael Levin about the Philly team that tortures him with regularity. And also Andrew Bynum. And his knee. And depression...
Michael Levin: First one! I'll start.
Are the Spurs planning on ritual limb detachment before the game? Because that's the only way I see the Sixers maybe winning.
Matthew Tynan: I mean, probably not. I doubt Pop has engaged in such practices since his Air Force days, and he surely hasn't considered it since Richard Jefferson and his $10 million a year (negotiated down from $15 million a year hilariously) were traded to Golden State for Stephen Jackson. The Spurs are probably a little mad and somewhat rested after the New York beatdown, so you're probably right. Speaking of limbs: Andrew Bynum, knee, suckiness of situation, stream of consciousness rant.....GO!
ML: I plead the 5th on all Andrew Bynum questions. While I'm at it, I'll plead 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th, as well.
MT: Ugh, fine.
ML: The Sixers just lost to OKC by a thousand. They're 2-5 on the road trip. They're 15-19 on the season. Orlando is only 2 games behind them in the standings. Things are going well!
At the end of the day the Sixers are a very average team. Lose to better teams, lose to some bad teams, and get hot every now and then. If Bynum doesn't come back this season, they'll finish around .500, likely a few games below it. Thrilling.
For tonight, I'd like to see Jrue take it to Parker with extreme regularity. The Sixers are horrendous at getting to the basket and the foul line, and against the Thunder, they only attempted 8 foul shots. All of them were by Nick Young, mostly shooting jumpers. Collins was reportedly pissed about that (despite his offense tailoring itself to isolation plays and jump shots) so I'm interested to see if they actually go to the basket against the Spurs. My money's on no.
MT: Tell me a little about Jrue. Dude's been a monster as of late and is having a hell of a year, and along with Thad Young and Evan Turner seems to be forming a nice triumvirate for the future in Philly. Of course, it'd be a lot nicer with Bynum in tow. How good can those three be (since we're not talking about Bynum)?
ML: Jrue's been dirty. He's really taken a big step forward this year as the primary ball-handler and initiator of the offense with Iguodala and Lou gone. He can do basically everything on the court, but his shot selection and decision-making are still questionable at best. That comes from being thrust into this position and, more importantly, not having a stud big man to make things much, much easier. Best case scenario, Jrue is the second best player on a championship contender. Think Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook, Dwyane Wade (2nd ring). That kind of player. Very special, but not enough to carry a team by himself. Evan and Thad can both be above-average starters, but they need the big guy to take some pressure off.
MT: So I know the Lakers
suck are struggling, but what did Philly do well in that game? Is it something that can be duplicated in San Antonio?
ML: They got to the line a reasonable amount (20 times), hit some threes (8), and didn't turn the ball over (10). Defensively, their normally terrible big men played inspired defense on Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol. Lavoy/Kwame/Hawes all executed the plan perfectly, which was to not let Dwight and Pau get easy buckets. They didn't, and the Sixers managed to pull out a win in which they actually played well. Very rare.
It probably can't be duplicated against the Spurs. Coming off an OKC loss, last game of an 8-game roadie, and really, SA is just too good.
MT: You already talked about the Sixers needing to get to the basket offensively, but what do they need to execute defensively to slow the Spurs?
ML: Personally, I think the Sixers double-team too much. That's a result of not having a big man inside that will deter shots at the rim. Their rotations get slow and opponents can get open looks. I don't see any of that not happening against San Antonio.
MT: Philly has to have SOME chance of winning, right? Or is there no hope?
ML: The only way they pull out a win is if something stupid happens. Like Hawes goes for 25-14-5 or Nick Young gets 40. Or Pop loses due to spite. The Sixers are going to be super tired and overmatched. It's likely a 20 point loss.
MT: OK then, as fun as pessimistic Mike is, let's hear optimistic Mike. Pretend Bynum has a definite return date. What is the 76ers' ceiling given the uncertainty around the Eastern Conferece?
ML: Depends on the return date. With Bynum and an actual offensive attack (they just play iso ball now and it's terrible to watch), they can be as high as 2 in the East and a matchup problem for everyone. But he'll only play 30 games MAX this season and with chemistry and adjustments taken into account, a low playoff seed is likely.
MT: Man are you sure you don't want to talk about Bynum's knee?
ML: You cannot comprehend how upsetting all of this is. The Sixers made the best trade in franchise history and he may never play a game here. If you don't appreciate David Robinson's injury netting you Tim Duncan in 1997 (and all the other annoyingly Spursy moves that shouldn't have worked out but did), I despise you. Appreciate what you have, people.
MT: We appreciate the hell out of it, bro. And you. For stopping by.
Oh, and one more thing. I need one word to describe Bynum's hair game this season...
MT: Well said.
Follow along on Twitter: @mtynan_PtR and @Michael_Levin