This is the 40th edition of the weekly 76ers mailbag. Each week, Inquirer.com followers may submit questions to be answered.
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Answer: What’s up, Kevin? Thanks for the question. Based off what we saw Thursday night, I’m going to say no. We are talking about losing to a Nets squad that, while healthy, has yet to consistently find its groove. But this was worse. On Thursday, they lost to a Nets squad playing with their top three players — Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Spencer Dinwiddie — and six players total. It became obvious that the Sixers are a different team without all of their starters. They lost by 13 points on this night without Seth Curry. Back on Dec. 27, the suffered a 24-point setback to the Cleveland Cavaliers when Joel Embiid didn’t play. The Sixers don’t appear to be deep enough to beat a quality team when they don’t have their full compliment of starters. And in both instances, the Sixers opponents were also playing without core players.
Right now, the Sixers are giving up too many points on the perimeter and commit too many turnovers to be able to win the conference.
A: Thanks for the question, King. I think they’re talented enough to make the postseason without Embiid. It would probably involved them participating in the play-in tournament instead of getting one of the top six seeds. But yes, they lose a lot when he’s not on the floor.
In regards to the frontrunner, I would have to say no. He’s definitely a candidate. I just wouldn’t call him the frontrunner. Like I wrote last week, in no particular order, LeBron James and Durant are the favorites to win the MVP award. But the Sixers lose a lot when Embiid doesn’t play, so that should account for something.
Embiid is tied for 16th in scoring (26.4 points per game), fifth in rebounding (11.8), and sixth in blocks (1.8). He’ll receive some consideration if he continues to dominate and the Sixers blossom into a legitimate title contender.
A: What’s good, Charley? I hope you are well, man.
I thought the first big test was Thursday night in Brooklyn, and they failed miserably. With Curry or not, the Sixers were supposed to blow out what essentially was the Nets backup unit. However, they had their hands full en route to the double-digit loss. Some may point to the Sixers overlooking the Nets due to having a lot of players sidelined. But this should have been an easy statement game on national TV, a game where the Sixers get out a sizeable lead and are able to rest key players in the fourth quarter.
It didn’t happen.
I think their next four contests against the Denver Nuggets (Saturday), Atlanta Hawks (Monday) and Miami Heat (Tuesday and Thursday) will also be major defining tests.