The Sixers have solid footing from the playoffs now, as Milwaukee’s loss puts them three games behind the Sixers and two behind the Knicks, with one Sixers-Bucks meeting remaining. In other words, Milwaukee has some work to do.
There’s some optimism arising from the last two performances. Earlier this year, whenever the Sixers met a mediocre team, they trounced them by 20+. While these last two wins have only been by 19 and 18, respectively, it’s a nice change from the lack of effort and passion and energy that the team showed in previous games against good teams. Players responded well on the whole to the lineup changes. Spencer Hawes may or may not have busted up some televisions, but he did play well off the bench, better than the entirety of his post-injury effort. Evan Turner moped a bit in New Jersey, but he looked dominant in the fourth quarter in Toronto. Jodie Meeks didn’t shoot all that well, but he got some looks. Nikola Vucevic finally got some more playing time, playing better than Hawes in the same situation. The changes worked out as intended – the Sixers won two games.
Is it a bit disconcerting that no one in our starting five topped 14 points in either game? Definitely – the bench has more scoring than the starting five, which is why I still don’t think the lineups are optimal. I still think Lou Williams is a better option that Meeks for that alone. And it’s not like the starting five performed greatly. But we’ll take it.
Obviously, not everything is peachy. We’re still the seven seed and have very little chance to move up from there. That means a first round pairing with Chicago (not close to optimal) and Miami (PLEASE NO THE HORROR). That also means a likely first round exit, unless a miracle occurs. So we’re back to where we were last year – an impending first round loss. Sadly, I’m not sure there’s progress, as while nearly everything else in the organization has changed, the on-court product is largely the same.