Monday, March 10, 2008

Hell Week Starts Tonight for Red Hot Sixers

The Sixers look to continue their playoff push, but this week they will meet their toughest challenge yet. They have won four straight, and 12 of their last 15, to climb into the playoff picture in the East. Most of those wins have come against the NBA JV teams, including their latest thrashings of the Sonics and Bucks. This week the challenge is much greater, with four total games, three of them against the NBA's elite. The Sixers start the week against the Celtics tonight, then face the Pistons, Bulls and Spurs. The Bulls game is a must-win, and if they can steal one of the other three, they will happily take a split for the week.

The Sixers continue to be led by Andre Miller, who is coming off his second Eastern Conference Player of the Week award. Miller has been providing the leadership this young team needs, and is getting it done on both ends of the floor. His scoring average of 16.2 points per game is the highest of his career, and he's a threat for a triple double every time out. He has to be getting at least some consideration for the MVP award given the way he is playing and the Sixers recent surge into playoff contention.

Also playing well for the Sixers of late is Samuel Dalembert. In the last two games combined he has scored a total of 40 points and grabbed 23 rebounds. It's just too bad he isn't enjoying himself. Dalembert expressed that he has felt confused lately and that the game isn't fun for him anymore. Seems like odd timing for such comments, with the Sixers on a roll and Dalembert starting to finally live up to his huge contract. Maurice Cheeks didn't seem too worried by the comments, so hopefully it won't be a big deal.

Thaddeus Young has also played exceptionally well the last two games, totaling 40 points and grabbing 13 boards. Young has continually proven that the Sixers were smart in drafting him with the 12th overall pick last year, even though everyone was clamoring for Al Thornton. Young looks better every game, and has tremendous upside.

The Sixers find themselves in great position as they enter the stretch run. With 19 games remaining, they sit in the 7th seed in the East, 4 games up on 9th seeded New Jersey. The Sixers are also a half game behind Washington for the 6th seed, but as I discussed last week, they aren't likely to pass the Wizards. With their tough remaining schedule, the best case scenario for the Sixers might be the 7th seed and a date with the Pistons in the first round of the playoffs. For the immediate future, they need a split this week, so assuming they can beat Chicago, they will need to knock off one of the league's elite. This week will prove to be a great measuring stick for the Sixers to see how far they have come.

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