A tough season is only going to get more difficult
It would have been hard for the Philadelphia 76ers to be more disappointing this year, but even with all the downfalls, there still are lessons to be learned in their remaining regular-season games.
A 27-43 record is hardly how Philadelphia saw this season going—and it's got to be frustrating. They probably didn't expect to have a 7-26 road record, or go through a stretch of winning one out of 13 games starting just before the All-Star break.
Nothing has gone as planned.
Now, on a more personal note.
I'm a ridiculous fan of the Sixers, so I couldn't be happier writing about them on a weekly basis. The only issue I run into is that I live in Utah.
This is a problem because I get only one opportunity every year to see Philadelphia in person. Watching them on television can't tell you everything, so I feel like it's crucial to see them in person. Unfortunately, I happened to finally see how bad it has really gotten when I saw them live on March 25.
The Sixers were playing the Utah Jazz and I truly couldn't believe my eyes. In fact, I almost felt bad that I showed up because Philadelphia clearly forgot to. Jrue Holiday was nonexistent, Thaddeus Young decided not to defend and Evan Turner looked like a third-grader who had just gotten his lunchbox stolen.
I bring this story up because even I learned things about the Sixers in their 70th game. If I could learn something from just watching, then they certainly can by being the ones who actually play the game.
Let's take a look at what some of those things might be by individually looking at their remaining regular-season games.
All statistics in this article are accurate as of games played through March 26.
It's time for Philly to play at home again
Having a road winning percentage just shy of 27 percent has got to weigh heavy on the brain. Maybe playing against the Milwaukee Bucks can shift that mindset.
The Sixers are 20-17 at home, and while good, a record like that shows room for improvement.
NBA teams schedule 41 games at home and 41 on the road. You almost have to expect that you are going to win more home battles than away ones, so taking full advantage of that is crucial. Expecting to win more than 50 games in a season—which gets an Eastern Conference team into the playoffs—means that you need to take care of business in your own stadium.
Winning just above 50 percent on the season isn't going to cut it. They need to aim higher. Playing against the Bucks might just be a good time to reinforce that belief.
Lesson: Each home game needs to be treated with more significance.
Cleveland should be shorthanded in this one
Philadelphia hasn't been the definition of injury-free this year, with Jason Richardson being out for the season and the Bynosaur becoming extinct, but they haven't been hit with injuries as much as some other teams.
Their core has played the majority of the year without pain.
The same can't be said about the Cleveland Cavaliers, who should be missing Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Anderson Varejao in this one. Varejao hasn't played in awhile, but Irving and Waiters being out will be the key in this one as Philly's backcourt should be relatively healthy and good to go.
All signs lead toward Philadelphia contributing toward their win total; however, it's going to be unlikely. Cleveland's stars aren't playing, but the Sixers have lacked a killer instinct all year. Nothing will be new against the Cavs.
Lesson: Take advantage of winnable games by developing a killer instinct earlier in the season.
Charlotte has been a frustrated team as well
An 82-game schedule is grueling and difficult. Long road trips are sometimes followed by four, even five, games in a week. A common problem organizations face comes from back-to-back games. Finishing a matchup only to have a night to sleep before you have to prepare your body and mind for the next one has got to be hard.
That's still no excuse to not handle business when the time comes.
Philadelphia must have lost that memo. They are a miserable 3-14 in the second of their back-to-back games.
Playing the Charlotte Bobcats at home after playing the Cavaliers the night before is a recipe for bad news. They'll have to travel right after the game, probably get in late, then wake up and have half a day until it's time for Charlotte.
Some of it is physically being tired, but the mind has a way of pushing through most physical pain and exhaustion. The Sixers' problem is almost entirely mental and it's going to hurt them again against the Bobcats.
Lesson: Mentally prepare for the long season. It's not easy, but everybody has to do it.
This will be Philly's golden chance to pick up one more road victory
This is going to sound similar to Game 2's lesson, but it's quite different. This game against the Bobcats needs to be won because Philadelphia is simply a better team.
It's not too difficult.
The Sixers have succeeded at always playing to their opponent's level. Not sure if it's something you want to be too successful at, but Philly has done quite a good job of it. If they are going against a talented team then they'll play hard. Put them against a poor team, though, and watch their game decline at the same time.
This Charlotte game really shouldn't be close. Philly is the better team so it's time they play like it.
There aren't too many more winnable road games on the schedule, so the Sixers need to and will snag this one from the Bobcats.
Lesson: Play at your own level, not to the level of your opponents.
Philly always seems to play well in Atlanta, but we don't match up well with them
Certain teams are significantly stronger at specific positions than others. For instance, the Sixers are deep at the small forward position as Turner, Thaddeus Young and Dorell Wright can play the spot well. The inverse to this is that certain teams are also ridiculously weak at other positions.
Philadelphia has been hit with two of those weak spots: At shooting guard and at center.
Unluckily, they square off with the Atlanta Hawks, who happen to have a great center in Al Horford. Spencer Hawes has been giving his all lately, something he certainly deserves credit for. He just doesn't match up well with Horford, even with how well he's playing.
Add this game to the list of wake-up calls that the Sixers have been routinely receiving regarding their weakness at center.
If you listen closely, you might even be able to hear the Bynosaur in the background laughing away.
Lesson: Another reminder of the Andrew Bynum trade failing and how they need to find a legitimate center as quickly as possible.
Sorry Philadelphia, you're not going to be stopping this streak
This game goes to show that you can have a forgettable season, but still make the history books.
Unsure of what I'm talking about?
Well, if the Miami Heat are fortunate enough to win their next five games, then that puts their historic 33rd win on the line against the Sixers.
Philadelphia will end up as the answer to a trivia question regardless of win or loss. Who are we kidding, though? If No. 33 is on the line then there's no way that Philly steals a victory from the streaking Heat.
Result: C'mon now, we all know this will be a loss.
Lesson: "Who did the Heat beat in order to win their NBA-record 33rd game in a row? Anyone? Anyone? That's correct! The Philadelphia 76ers!" Philly becomes the answer to a great trivia question. Not really a lesson, but fun nonetheless.
Former Sixer Reggie Evans has been a beast on the boards
The Sixers end their four-game road trip with a game against the Brooklyn Nets.
Philly has seen mixed results against the Nets. They lost a tight one in their first battle, then got blown out in the second. The Sixers came out on top in the third one, and something about this game feels familiar to what everybody will see when they play Brooklyn for the last time.
Being 7-8 in division games isn't terrible, but it's far from great. These are the games that end up separating you from everyone else in the end so they become somewhat crucial.
Not having a center will hurt them; however, they'll play hard in this one and it could definitely lead to a surprising win against a playoff-bound opponent. There hasn't been enough of them so we need to savor the wins when they take place.
Lesson: Division games need to be a priority.
Will we get lucky enough to see Moultrie line up against Horford?
Moultrie scored a career-high 14 points in the game I was at against the Jazz and looked like one of the only respectable players in a Sixers uniform. In only 23 minutes, he looked like he was doing exactly what he was supposed to be doing.
And that's going out there and earning his minutes.
Matching up against elite competition is more than important for Moultrie's development. Smith offers an athletic and versatile game, whereas Horford is less athletic but will test Moultrie's decision making because he won't know when Horford will shoot or drive.
The outcome is much less important than seeing Moultrie get his fair share of minutes.
Lesson: It has the potential to be a "welcome to the league" moment for Moultrie.
The Sixers might feel the need to foul in this one
There comes a time in every season where mediocre or poor teams get their coaching situations evaluated. Was the season really his fault? Could he have done anything differently or did he handle the job as best he could?
Playing the Washington Wizards could bring this to the forefront of Sixers conversations.
It's not that Philly head coach Doug Collins hasn't been on the hot seat all year because he has. The reason for concern with playing the Wizards is that it's just that, they are playing the Wizards.
All it takes is an awful effort out of this Philadelphia squad and it's going to make Collins look like one of the NBA's worst coaches.
Sounds bad, but some already feel like he is.
Lesson: We get a chance to see how comfortable Collins is with his job security. Chances are strong that he'll either look panicked or completely defeated before the final buzzer.
Maybe Philadelphia can win their final home game, just maybe
This Sixers squad hasn't played well all season, but they still have their moments that make you think about what could have been. They are painful and hard to watch, yet a feeling of hope creeps into your body and it's hard to shake.
If any Philadelphia fans are going to take the time out of their busy schedules to watch the team play the Cavaliers in their final home game, then they could be witnesses to another one of those feelings.
It doesn't have anything to do with Cleveland. This one strictly lies on the fact that Philly shines when it isn't supposed to.
It has happened all year.
Lesson: That hopefully the pain of what could have been teaches the team to not let it get to that point again.
"Talk to the hand, I have a game to win."-Jose Calderon
The Detroit Pistons have been steadily improving all season. They were the last team in the NBA to win a game, so the Sixers decided to be kind and give them their first earlier this year.
Since then, it's been mostly positive for Detroit.
At least, that was the case until 16 games ago when the team decided to embark on what would become a 2-14 journey. All bad streaks come to an end, though, and the Sixers could be the team that ends this one just like the first time.
This is the second-to-last game for Philadelphia and is going to feel like a "can we please get this over with" type of matchup. Not caring is the first step to being handed a loss and the Sixers will learn that firsthand in Detroit.
Lesson: Always care. Regardless of how well or poorly you are playing.
This is going to feel like a waste of a year
The final game of the regular season is against the Indiana Pacers and happens to be the Sixers' third game in four nights.
It almost feels like Philly would play loose and like they have nothing to lose, because to be frank, they don't. Unfortunately, the chance of Philadelphia coming out and playing with any fire is ridiculously low. They are going to be tired and it'll feel like a worthless game.
If Indiana were playing golf then the Pacers would call this one a gimme of a win.
The Sixers were dealt a rough hand with the Bynum situation, but they still had the opportunity to slowly improve throughout the year and make a push for the postseason. Somewhere along the line they forgot all about that and got away from playing team basketball.
Next year can't come soon enough, and the 2012-13 season will always be looked at as a what-if kind of year.
Lesson: Move past everything that took place this season and grow from it all. Next year is a new time and doesn't have to be a reflection of what took place this season.