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Critically Acclaimed Sixers Face Different Form of Test with Visiting Kings

Jan 10, 2012, 6:03 PM EDT

The Philadelphia 76ers passed a big test last night against the visiting Pacers—now can they keep it up against the lackluster Kings?

So we’re all agreed that yesterday was a test for the Sixers, right?
They’d beaten some lousy road teams, they’d absolutely destroyed the
subpar competition at home, but with the 6-2 Pacers visiting, they
finally had the chance to prove themselves against a legitimately good
team—albeit one who was missing a couple key players, and had padded
their stats against some subpar competition themselves. And by all
accounts, they passed the test—they didn’t run the Pacers out of the WFC
the way they did the Pistons and Raptors, but they still won soundly,
and kept their win streak and its accompanying momentum alive and
kicking.

All good, then. Tonight, however, the Sixers face a very different, but
equally important and perhaps more dangerous test. They will be playing
host to the 3-6 Sacramento Kings, a team which, if not for the existence
of the Washington Wizards, would define the word “dysfunctional” in the
NBA, already having fired coach Paul Westphal amidst a PR scrape
between he and budding-star big man DeMarcus Cousins, and having some
definite issues sharing the ball against the team’s many formidable
scorers (including Cousins, bruising combo guard Tyreke Evans, one-time
Sixer swingman John Salmons and hyped college gunner Jimmer Fredette).

Meanwhile, the Sixers are suddenly among the toast of the league. Four
out of five ESPN pundits labeled them the fifth best team in the league
right now, while stat guru John Hollinger has done the unthinkable by
placing them atop his Power Rankings—which are derived via scientific
formula and thus don’t carry the weight of him actually calling the
Sixers the best team in the league, but still. They are now being viewed
as a team legitimately on the rise, and almost unarguably, they are a
team that is fundamentally sound in all the ways that the Kings are not.

So, common sense says that they should murder this Kings team, and be
well into Garbage Time by the start of the fourth quarter. But in the
NBA, as in all pro sports, it’s never that simple. The Kings have beaten
the Lakers at home already, and recently came from 21 back to steal
what looked to be a sure Bucks win. If the Sixers are as rock-solid a
unit as we’re starting to think they are, they should still win this
game handily, but if the Kings are still hanging late, it’ll be
interesting to see if this team has the stuff to put them away without
getting caught in an Andy Reid-style trap game. Regardless of how they
do it, a true top five team wins this game—so needless to say, we’d like
the Sixers to prove all the critics right and extend their winning
streak to six games with this one.

7:00 tip from the WFC. No Marcus Thornton tonight for the Kings, as the
team’s leading scorer is out with a knee contusion. Not like it’s a
catastrophic loss for the Kings—they have so many one-on-one scorers
that the loss might actually simplify things for Sac-Town—but it’s a
little weird how the Ballers seem to keep facing teams temporarily down a
key member, as they did with the Warriors (Stephen Curry), the Pistons
(Rodney Stuckey and Ben Gordon), and of course, last night’s Pacers
(Danny Granger and George Hill). Makes you grateful for our health
thusfar this season—knock on everything—and makes you hope Spencer
Hawes’ back doesn’t cause any more trouble than it already has.


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