San Antonio Spurs vs. Philadelphia 76ersAT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
March 24, 2014, 7:30 PM Spurs Time
TV: FSSW - RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI
We're heading into the tail end of the NBA season, and what a funny tail end it's turning out to be. The Spurs have won 13 straight games, the longest of any team so far this year, but somehow only hold on to the the second-most talked about streak in the league when we consider the impressively terrible 76ers who notched their 24th loss in as many games against the Bulls on Saturday. Philadelphia currently owns the second-longest losing streak in NBA history, chasing the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers who dropped 26 in a row.
Tonight, the Spurs look to help the Sixers get one step closer to history.
It's normally quite difficult, though, to get excited about a matchup between the bookends of the league; one where the talent is so blatantly one-sided that you don't have to be a psychic to foresee the future. Much can be (and already has) been said about the ethics of tanking, this year's Sixers squad, and the league's model of incentivizing awfulness. Whether it's a purposeful mission or not, Philadelphia has made losing an art this season and will mostly likely be rewarded for it come the draft.
I, personally, have not been offended at how Philadelphia is (or isn't) working the system. As we know, there appears to be a strong draft class coming into the NBA, and while there may not be any LeBrons, Kobes, or Tim Duncans, there looks to be some players with high ceilings that a franchise can definitely build a strong foundation around. Sixers' GM Sam Hinkie has taken a situation that was bleak before the first game of the season was even played and set the franchise up for a very successful offseason. As it looks right now, Philadelphia will have two first-round picks and five(!) second-round picks in the 2014 draft. Whoever they pick will join Michael Carter-Williams, Tony Wroten, Thaddeus Young and a finally healthy Nerlens Noel. Most of next year's team will be too young to buy beer, but will hopefully be worth all of the sadness they've brought fans at the Wells Fargo Center this season.
As Spurs fans, seeing all of this happen to 76ers head coach Brett Brown is a tough pill to swallow. The former Spurs assistant coach deserves a better experience in his first year at the helm, and I pray that the high hopes for the future work out for his sake. As of right now, the Sixers' front office has pledged their allegiance to coach Brown as they know this is a long-term plan. Still, throughout all of this, Brown has exhibited class and faithfulness to his team and players.
Right now, the main face of the 76ers franchise is one that looks like he should just be getting his drivers license. Amidst all of the loosing, Michael Carter-Williams has shown some promise averaging 16.7 points per game, 6.3 assists (13th in the league), and 1.9 steals (6th in the league) in his rookie season. He started the season off quite well, looking like the top rookie of the year candidate, but has since been slipping as Victor Oladipo and Trey Burke get more comfortable with their roles on their respective teams. Where Carter-Williams lacks, as many rookies do, is efficiency. He's currently shooting 39.6% from the field, 26.9% from behind the arc, and 69% from the line.
Thaddeus Young leads the team in scoring with 18.1 points per game, is shooting 45.9% from the field, and is the current veteran of the team with six seasons under his belt. Many people were surprised that Young was not dealt to anyone while Philadelphia was cleaning house nearing the trade deadline. As they got rid of Evan Turner and Hawes, Young looked to be the next guy Philadelphia kicked off the plank. Instead, Hinkie has made a conscious effort to be totally upfront with him, explaining the franchise's rebuilding plan and how they want him to be a part of it. Young has said, publically, how impressed he's been with how the Sixers organization has communicated with him.
For both the 76ers and the Spurs, tonight's game is a mere pit stop on the way to two very different destinations. Philadelphia would love to get the rest of the season over with and begin prepping for a huge draft, while San Antonio knows that their season won't truly begin until the first round of the playoffs. Both teams have very specific goals and look to have the right people in the right places to achieve those goals. Duncan, Ginobili, and Bonner got rest on Saturday so they should be ready to go for tonight's matchup, but I wouldn't be surprised if some "extended rest" was awarded for this game as well.
Matchup to watch: The Sixers' Henry Sims, who came over in the Spencer Hawes trade, has had big performances in his past few games. Coming into the game against the Bulls, Sims was averaging 4.9 points and 4.3 rebounds, but has notched back-to-back double-doubles including a career-high 15 rebounds. Also on fire, as of late, is Tiago Splitter who has three double-doubles in the last four games. Splitter's comfort in the paint looks to be increasing and matching up against Sims should only increase his confidence. The Brazilian will score in double digits, and the Spurs will move to 23-0 when he does so.
76ers perspective can be found at Liberty Ballers.
Game Prediction: Spurs by 24
Line in Vegas: Spurs by 21.5 [ Editor: This is the season's largest spread in the entire league, and the second biggest in the past 11 seasons (a 22.5 was previously recorded, though I can't easily find what game it was.) The two previous times in the last 11 years a spread was 21 or more the favorite covered. The Sixers have covered their last four spreads, the last three by a single point, and the Spurs have covered their last seven by a comfortable average margin of 6.5. For entertainment purposes only. -CI ]
As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and NBA league pass is recommended for those who are willing to pony up the cash. Almost every Spurs game will be broadcast there, which is especially helpful for those of us who aren't in the San Antonio area. Please don't post links to illegal game feeds in the game thread. Links to illegal feeds are not permitted on SBNation, but you can probably find them out there on the internets if you're resourceful and desperate.
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