Despite wanting the number one seed in the Eastern Conference, Brett Brown's Philadelphia 76ers haven't precisely lived up to their head coach's expectations. Part of that is because the East is much stronger than anticipated. The other part has a lot to do with the Sixers losing themselves and going on cold streaks, making it difficult for them to remain high in the rankings.
By no means are the Sixers having a down season. It would be false, though, to say that they don't go through extremely disappointing phases, considering the expectations that were set for them before the season begun. Sometimes, the Sixers will go on a tear, notching multiple convincing wins in a row against notable squads.
Other times, they could drop a handful of games consecutively to teams that they should be playing better than. As the holiday season approached this past week, the Sixers were heating up heading into their marquee matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks.
With back to back wins before their Christmas day game in South Philly, the Sixers were gifted the opportunity to pick up a statement win against the Eastern Conference's hottest team. Hours before the game, Brett Brown labeled the Bucks as 'NBA royalty.' Then, the Sixers went on and essentially destroyed the Bucks with a final score of 121-109.
They had a nice start to the holiday season, but their follow-up performances were quite underwhelming. So underwhelming that CBS Sports labeled the Sixers as 'Losers' from the holiday season in Dennis Chambers' latest winners and losers columns of the week.
"A statement win over the Milwaukee Bucks had people buzzing around the league that Philadelphia might be the real deal," Chambers wrote. "Alas, the Sixers followed up their impressive performance with two straight losses in Florida. Both by a point. Both riddled with mistakes, turnovers, scoring droughts, and head-scratching decisions."
No lies detected here. With back to back games against the Orlando Magic and the Miami Heat, the Sixers had a chance to prove they are heating up for a run at the top spot after taking down the best. However, it felt as if the Sixers used up all their energy on the Bucks, and didn't save any for what should've been a simple win over the Magic, and a tight victory over the Heat.
Talent clearly isn't an issue in Philadelphia, as it's true they possess one of the better starting lineups in the NBA. However, as the Sixers tend to play down to their opponents, they quickly realized that coasting through a matchup doesn't guarantee anybody a win, no matter how talented their team may be. And by the time they realized that, the Sixers were already in a slump -- struggling to get themselves out of it.
All in all, the Sixers are still a playoff-caliber team, and that won't change. But as Chambers stated in his piece, "the Sixers need to pay attention to every game on their schedule -- not pick and choose like they did last week."
If the Sixers can get on the same page and prevent looking down on their opponents, then the sky is the limit for this year's team. There's hope that another small slump knocks that kind of sense into them -- but so far, the 2019 Sixers have proven they haven't learned anything from that lesson so far this season.