Philadelphia 76ers: Predicting the Outcome of Their Remaining February Schedule
The rest of the month will truly test the mettle of the 76ers, who have been fortunate enough to play 14 of their first 22 games at home. Working in their favor is the fact that most of their games this month against potential playoff teams (the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Lakers, among others) will take place at the Wells Fargo Center.
With the Bulls already in their rear-view mirror, let's take a look at how the rest of the 76ers' remaining February schedule will play out.
February 3: Vs. Miami Heat (Loss)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
After Wednesday night's performance against the Bulls, the 76ers will be primed for their matchup against the Miami Heat.
Dwyane Wade missed the first game between these two teams on January 21, and the Heat still found a way to win by 19 points. With that result still fresh in the minds of both teams, expect the intensity to be turned all the way up to 11 for this contest.
Unfortunately, the 76ers are catching the Heat at a very inopportune time. Miami inexplicably blew an 18-point lead and lost to the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday 105-97, despite 40 points from LeBron James.
Currently in a dogfight with the Atlanta Hawks for the Southeast Division lead, Miami will bring its A-game to the Wells Fargo Center on Friday night. And just like in their last meeting, the 76ers will hang with the Heat early, but they'll be overwhelmed by Miami's talent in the second half.
February 4: @ Atlanta Hawks (Win)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
A trip to Atlanta one night after an intense game against the Heat seems like the perfect recipe for a letdown. That said, a loss to Miami will give the 76ers all of the motivation that they'll need to pull out a victory down at the Highlight Factory.
The game won't be a cakewalk for the 76ers: Atlanta currently sits at 16-6, and has been playing tremendous basketball despite losing center Al Horford to a torn pectoral muscle earlier this season.
With Horford out, Philadelphia destroyed Atlanta on the boards (51-32) back when the teams met on January 20, and Thaddeus Young's 20 points off of the bench led the 76ers to a 90-76 win. If injured centers Spencer Hawes and/or Nikola Vucevic are back in the middle for the 76ers this time around, expect Philadelphia to dominate the glass once again.
February 6: Vs. LA Lakers (Loss)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Yes, the Los Angeles Lakers have been terrible on the road this season (2-7 heading into Thursday's action). Yes, only three players on the team are averaging double figures in scoring this season (Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum). But the 76ers have had difficulty with the Lakers in recent memory, and that trend looks to continue on February 6.
Even though Philadelphia held Bryant to a season-low nine points back when Los Angeles visited the Wells Fargo Center last season, the Lakers still found a way to come way with a 93-81 victory. Even if Andre Iguodala keeps Bryant in check, the Sixers don't have many answers for the duo of Gasol and Bynum.
For the Lakers, the game is sandwiched between the two sets of back-to-backs they'll play on their six-game road trip. A solid showing in Philadelphia likely means an off day before they face the Boston Celtics on February 9—that might be reason enough for the Lakers to take care of business against the 76ers.
February 8: Vs. San Antonio Spurs (Win)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
The 16-6 Sixers haven't lost consecutive games all season, and they'll keep that streak alive with a win against the San Antonio Spurs on February 8.
It wasn't the prettiest 48 minutes of basketball, but the 76ers knocked off the Spurs 77-71 last February 11 in one of their most memorable victories of the season. San Antonio came into the game with a 44-8 record, but Philadelphia's defense harassed them all night, forcing the Spurs to 33.3 percent shooting from the field.
That result, combined with the absence of Manu Ginobili (who's currently dealing with a hand injury), tips the scales in Philadelphia's favor. Since the Spurs are virtually a mirror image of the 76ers (no dominant scorer, team principles on offense, solid defense), Doug Collins should be ready for just about anything Gregg Popovich will throw at him.
February 10: Vs. Los Angeles Clippers (Loss)
Harry How/Getty Images
One look at the standings will tell you one very important thing: These aren't your father's Los Angeles Clippers.
The team that was almost a guaranteed win on the schedule is sitting at 13-6 and in control of the Pacific Division. The duo of Blake Griffin and Chris Paul are one of the most explosive tandems in the NBA, and will give the 76ers fits when Los Angeles comes to town on February 10.
While Griffin will get most of the headlines, this game will likely hinge on the point guard battle. According to Synergy Sports, Chris Paul is the best player in the NBA in isolation sets (1.17 PPP). Conversely, Jrue Holiday is 88th in the league when it comes to defending isolation plays. The game may be close, but expect Paul and the Clippers to pull it out in the fourth quarter.
February 11: @ Cleveland Cavaliers (Win)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
The Cleveland Cavaliers rank in the bottom half of most of the major statistical categories, and outside of star rookie point guard Kyrie Irving, they lack a consistent scoring threat. That may be a harbinger of things to come for the Cavs as the 76ers should take care of business in the first of their two trips to Cleveland this season.
Philadelphia has done a fantastic job of destroying the lesser-talented teams in the NBA this season, and this game won't be any different. Cleveland leads the NBA with 17 turnovers per game—look for the 76ers to jump all over those mistakes and rack up the fast-break points in a double-digit victory.
February 13: @ Charlotte Bobcats (Win)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Mere hours before Valentine's Day, don't expect Philadelphia to show any love to the Charlotte Bobcats.
When the two teams met on January 27, the 76ers defeated the Bobcats 89-72 in a game that was decided long before the final horn. Charlotte was only able to muster 10 first-quarter points, and Bobcats' coach Paul Silas was so frustrated by his team's performance that he was ejected with 4:48 to go before halftime.
Just as in the first meeting, the Bobcats likely won't have an answer for the 76ers swarming defensive attack. Philadelphia held the Bobcats to 38.6 percent shooting in the teams' first meeting, so expect more of the same when they face off later this month.
February 15: @ Orlando Magic (Loss)
Brett Deering/Getty Images
In a game they should have won by 20, Philadelphia only managed a 74-69 victory over the Orlando Magic when the two teams squared off back on January 30. With pride being the motivating factor, expect the Magic to take some measure of revenge in their rematch on February 15.
Even with its recent struggles, the Magic has to be embarrassed on some level by its "performance" against the 76ers last week. Orlando only managed to score nine points in the third quarter of that contest, and the team shot a paltry 33.3 percent from the field for the game.
The Sixers had no answer for the Magic's Ryan Anderson that night (14 points, 20 rebounds), and if he has a similar effort in this contest—along with the usual production out of center Dwight Howard—the 76ers will find themselves on the losing end of the ledger.
February 17: Vs. Dallas Mavericks (Win)
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
The Mavericks may be suffering from an NBA Finals hangover, but they're still battling the San Antonio Spurs for the top spot in the Southwest Division. Even so, they simply don't have the young legs that can keep up with the 76ers for 48 minutes.
Against the Dallas team that took home the Larry O'Brien trophy last season, the 76ers would have been hard pressed to pull out a victory. But with Tyson Chandler and Caron Butler gone—along with disappointing starts by Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd—Philadelphia has a great chance of beating the Mavs for the first time since the 2009-10 season.
With games versus the New York Knicks, the Boston Celts and the Los Angeles Lakers following their matchup against Philadelphia, Dallas might be in look-ahead mode. If that happens, expect the 76ers to jump all over the Mavericks and cruise to an easy win.
February 19: @ Minnesota Timberwolves (Win)
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
The 76ers beat the Minnesota Timberwolves by double-digits in both of their meetings last season. This game shouldn't be much different.
This matchup comes almost exactly a year after Philadelphia's last trip to the Target Center. On February 12 of last season, seven 76ers scored in double figures as Philadelphia rolled the Timberwolves 107-87.
Working in Minnesota's favor is the fact that Michael Beasley missed that game with a sprained ankle. He, along with rookie forward Derrick Williams, could give the Timberwolves the additional scoring punch that they'll need to take down the Sixers.
Due to the unbalanced schedule this year, this will be the only time that the two teams will face each other this season.
February 21: @ Memphis Grizzlies (Loss)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Don't be fooled by the relatively pedestrian record of the Memphis Grizzlies this year. The 76ers have struggled against them recently, dropping three of the last four meetings between the two teams, including both contests last season.
Much like the 76ers have with Lou Williams, the Grizzlies boast their own dynamic scorer coming off the bench in shooting guard O.J. Mayo. The 6'4" Mayo, who is averaging 12.2 points per game, could be the X-factor for a team that is short-handed due to the right knee injury to Memphis power forward Zach Randolph.
If nothing else, the game sets up to be a defensive struggle. Philadelphia is currently first in the NBA in scoring defense (85.9 points allowed per game) while the Grizzlies are 10th (92.3 PPG). On paper, this seems like a win for the 76ers, but for whatever reason, Memphis appears to have this team's number.
February 22: @ Houston Rockets (Win)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
The Houston Rockets score a lot (98.3 PPG - 5th in the NBA), but they also give up a lot (97.0 PPG - 24th in the NBA). Their defensive deficiencies will doom them against a balanced 76ers team that has eight players who average at least nine points per game.
The victory won't come easy for Philadelphia, however. They'll have their hands full with Rockets point guard Kyle Lowry, who has been filling up the box score for Houston during the first third of the season (19.3 PPG, 8.0 APG, 6.2 RPG). And while shooting guard Kevin Martin is basically one-dimensional, he still is a prolific scorer who can go off for 30 points on any given night.
Don't be surprised if you see a big offensive performance out of Andre Iguodala in this game. Houston small forward Chandler Parsons is a mediocre defender at best, and will have a hard time checking Iguodala, who had a triple-double (13 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists) when the 76ers visited Houston last February 16.
February 28: @ Detroit Pistons (Win)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
The 76ers probably won't hold the Detroit Pistons to 34.9 percent shooting like they did in their first matchup back on January 28, but they shouldn't have much problem with a Pistons team struggling to find its footing this season.
The standout star of that first game was 76ers swingman Andre Iguodala, who notched his eighth career triple-double (10 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) in Philadelphia's 95-74 win.
If Detroit has any chance of stealing a win, they need to do a much better job of defending the three-point line. The 76ers shot 9-for-15 from beyond the arc when the two teams faced off last week - if that happens again, the Pistons will be in for a long night.
February 29: Vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (Loss)
With their 17-4 record, the Oklahoma City Thunder are the class of the NBA. Make no mistake about it: This game will be the ultimate measuring stick for the 76ers as they close out the month of February.
The Thunder's explosive offense (100.1 PPG - 3rd in the NBA) will test the will of the 76ers' defense for all 48 minutes. But most importantly, Philadelphia will have to limit Oklahoma City's effectiveness in isolation sets.
Kevin Durant (12th in the league in PPP on isolation plays, according to Synergy Sports), Russell Westbrook (6th), and James Harden (5th) each make a living breaking down opposing defenders when matched up one-on-one. Andre Iguodala, Jrue Holiday and the rest of the 76ers wing players will have their work cut out for them, and despite their best efforts, they won't be able to stop Oklahoma City's multi-faceted attack.