Detractors of the Philadelphia 76ers point to their easy schedule thus far. On Wednesday night, they have an ideal opportunity to prove those folks wrong.
The Chicago Bulls visit Philadelphia in Wednesday’s best NBA game and should be one of the toughest tests the 76ers have faced thus far.
Philadelphia (15-6) is just 3-4 against teams with winning records, and one of those wins came Monday night vs. floundering Orlando. The 76ers have lost to Portland, Utah, Denver and Miami.
The Sixers have climbed to the top of the Atlantic Division with defense. They lead the league by allowing just 86.1 points per game and has held its last three foes below 80.
Philadelphia has needed that defense because its offense has struggled without center Spencer Hawes (strained Achilles’ tendon) in the lineup. The Sixers are averaging just 90.7 points without Hawes as opposed to 102.6 with the facilitating big man on the floor.
Guards Lou Williams, Andre Iguodala and Jrue Holiday all have seen their scoring numbers and shooting percentages slide dramatically without Hawes, who is unlikely to return Wednesday.
This is the first of a series of tests for Philadelphia. On Thursday, the Sixers face Miami, followed by Atlanta on Saturday before hosting the LA Lakers, San Antonio and LA Clippers.
The Bulls (18-5) play a little defense, too. They are second at 87.4 points allowed and also lead the NBA in rebounds (45.3).
Chicago also has something Philadelphia does not – a legitimate superstar. Derrick Rose has been playing like a man possessed, scoring 34, 34 and 35 points in his last three games. On Sunday, the MVP became the first player to score over 30 against Miami this season.
Last season, the Sixers were one of just two teams to take a series from the Bulls, who will be shorthanded as well. Guard Richard Hamilton is doubtful for the game. Forwards Luol Deng (torn wrist ligament) aims for a return Thursday against New York.