Philadelphia 76ers: 5 Things to Watch on Upcoming Road Trip
One Key Matchup for Every Game on the Sixers West Coast Trip
After losing to the worst team in the NBA in the Milwaukee Bucks the Philadelphia 76ers got a much needed week off during the holidays. They pick action back up Saturday night when they begin a five-game Western Conference Road Trip. The Sixers traditionally head out West every season over the new year. A long trip like this usually tests a team, especially a young team like the Sixers.
The Sixers are already a horrible road team, having lost 12-straight after winning their season opener on the road, and this trip will not make things any easier. The trip starts on Saturday against the Phoenix Suns and then they have to travel that night and play the Los Angeles Lakers the following day. The third game is Wednesday against the Denver Nuggets followed by another back-to-back against the Sacramento Kings before finally heading up to play the Portland Trailblazers on Saturday. Every team on the schedule has a record of .500 or better at home except the Kings.
Young teams like the Sixers struggle mightily on the road because they let mistakes get in their head without the backing of the home crowd. This five-game swing will be a test for some of the better players on the Sixers and it will be interesting to see how head coach Brett Brown keeps players like Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes and Michael Carter-Williams motivated if the losing continues.
If you're a die hard Sixers' fan like me, you are going to check the team out on this west coast swing and here is one thing to watch for in each game of the trip.
5. Young Point Guard Battle
I love to see what MCW can do when he is up against supreme talent and Eric Bledsoe (18.9 points, 4.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists) is one of the most exciting young point guards in the game. Look for these two to battle back and forth all night long with the edge going to the team with better play from their young star.
4. Streaky Former Sixers From Three
When the Sixers travel to L.A. to face the injury-depleted Lakers, two of their top scoring options could be former Sixer castoffs. Nick Swaggy P Young (15.7 ppg) leads the team and Jodie Meeks is fourth (12.9 ppg). The Sixers have made a living this year of making mediocre players look like superstars, (just ask Caron Butler) so believe it or not, these are probably the two guys Philly has to key on defensively.
3: Battle on the Boards
When the Sixers play the Nuggets, two of the top ten teams in the league in rebounding will be squaring off. The Nuggets crash the boards hard with guys like Kenneth Faried and JJ Hickson. I think Hawes and Thaddeus Young actually match up well with the Nuggets froncourt, especially when it comes to offensive boards.
2. 2010 NBA Draft Re-Do
Every time the Sixers play the Kings, I look at it as Turner vs. DeMarcus Cousins even though they don't play the same position. I look at Cousins and his averages of 22.5 points and 10.8 rebounds and wonder where the Sixers would be right now if they took Cousins with the second overall pick instead of Turner in the 2010 draft. Maybe they wouldn't have had to trade for Andrew Bynum and they wouldn't be in the midst of a tanking party. In the rivalry, Turner has modest numbers (8.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 5.2 assists) whereas Cousins is averaging a double-double (13.6 points, 10.0 rebounds). Whichever team gets a better game from their star player can win this game.
1. Revenge for Embarassing Loss
Last time the 76ers played the Blazers they dropped 139 on the Sixers while pouring in 21 threes. It will be the last game of the trip and the Sixers will be ready to go home, but hopefully they have enough pride to try and make up for the pathetic loss the last time out.