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Sixers Play First Actually Good Opponent in Weeks at Home Tonight

Nov 24, 2012, 5:13 PM EDT

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The Philadelphia 76ers recently completed a six-game pre-Thanksgiving
stretch which included five games at home and opponents including the
Jazz, Raptors, Pistons and Cavaliers (twice). It would’ve been awesome
if the Sixers had grabbed five or (lord forbid) all six of those, and
would’ve been good if they had won four of ‘em, but instead, the Ballers
split the six-gamer down the middle, getting three and giving three.
Now, things are about to get a little tougher, starting tonight with a
contest against the 9-4, Northwest-best Oklahoma City Thunder.

OKC has been a little stilted out of the gate, struggling to adjust a
bit after trading away a core player in the off-season in dynamic
scoring guard James Harden. They got a good return in bench
sharp-shooter Kevin Martin, but have missed Harden’s stability and
play-making, and have struggled offensively at times—though when you
have two All-NBA scorers averaging over 20 a game in Kevin Durant and
Russell Westbrook, “struggle” is always a relative term. In any event,
OKC dropped a tough one last night against the erratic Boston Celtics,
so look for the Thunder to be out for blood tonight at the Wells Fargo
Center.

The Sixers should be smarting a little themselves after a brutal
loss against a crappy, injured Cavaliers team in Cleveland, which saw
Cleveland connect on 13 out of 23 threes as little-used reserve guard
Jeremy Pargo went for a career high 28 after franchise Cav Kyrie Irving
was held to 14 in the two teams’ first matchup of the season. “Just one
of those games” was my Dad’s analysis and I’m inclined to agree, though
some of the team’s flaws were badly exposed in that game—particularly
their lack of a solid presence in the middle, as the team’s small lineup
(with Thad at the five) was pummeled on the boards by Anderson Varejao
at the end of the game, getting the team endless second opportunities
that they used to bury the Sixers.

It’ll be interesting to see what big man rotation Coach Collins goes
with tonight, as well as what he plans to do about the superstar
swingman Durant, as the last time the Sixers faced a dynamic wing like
KD, the Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony, the results were not pretty. You’d like
to see Evan Turner, who has struggled with his shot in the last few but
contributed with his rebounding and passing, picking up the challenge,
though Dorell Wright and Thaddeus Young will also likely see action on
Durant as well. And Jrue Holiday will have a hell of a matchup of his
own to work with, as he will undoubtedly be stuck to his fellow UCLA
alum Westbrook for most of the game.

7:00 tip from the WFC. If the Sixers struggle out of the gate
tonight, a starting lineup shakeup might be called for, and we don’t
want to see that—with the possible exception of actually getting a
starting center at some point.