Nov 02 2013

Sixers host Bulls with Championship (belt) on the line

Championship belt

Does the transitive property apply to the NBA?

If so, let’s do the math: The Bulls lost to the Heat on opening night by 12 points. The Heat lost to the Sixers the next night by four points. Therefore, when the Bulls take on the Sixers in Philly tonight, the hometown heroes should be favored by 16 points… right? SCIENCE’D.

Even if Vegas doesn’t agree with said math (the Bulls are nine-point favorites, per Bovada.lv), there is one brilliant way the transitive property makes this a game worth watching: THE NBA REGULAR-SEASON CHAMPIONSHIP IS ON THE LINE. The belt, created by a brilliant Reddit user and promoted yesterday on Grantland, works as follows: The real NBA champions begin each season with the belt. The first team to beat them steals it from them, a la the WWE. So on and so forth. Since the Sixers took down the defending-champion Heat in the Philly home opener, and somehow didn’t lose last night to the Wizards, the team’s reign as the regular-season champs continues.

The Bulls, however, pose a legitimate threat to steal the Sixers’ regular-season championship belt. Here’s three things to keep an eye out for tonight, beyond the title-belt defense:

  • Michael Carter-Williams’ encore: MCW is going through a Billy Madison-esque week. He breezed through elementary school, dropping 22 points, 12 assists, nine steals and seven rebounds in a record-shattering debut against Mario Chalmers and the Heat. Middle school was a bit tougher, with John Wall and the Wizards lighting him up early, but MCW prevailed and moved on. Tonight, he faces his toughest test yet: High school calculus (Derrick Rose). Even though Rose and the Bulls’ offense have some rust they need to knock off, their defense remains as terrifying as ever. If MCW isn’t on his game tonight, double-digit turnovers could be in his near future.
  • The death of the Doug Collins offense: As Eric noted after the Heat game on Wednesday, the Sixers’ offense underwent a dramatic overhaul over the summer. After leading the league in mid-range shot attempts last season (2,400), per NBA.com/stats, the Sixers rank in the bottom third of the league for mid-range shots this season. It’s an extremely small sample size, admittedly, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Sam Hinkie and Brett Brown place a far heavier emphasis on analytics than the previous regime, and it’s not exactly rocket science that long 2-pointers are the least efficient shot in basketball.
  • Evan Turner’s rebirth: Again, small sample size disclaimer, but… two games into the season, it’s already time to wonder just how much Doug Collins was holding back Evan Turner. Forgive the hyperbole here, but doesn’t he look reborn under the Brett Brown era? He’s not forcing nearly as many shots—26 of his 37 attempts have come within 15 feet of the basket, per NBA.com/stats—which has led to a shocking jump in efficiency for E.T. Put it this way: Turner’s career-high PER heading into the season was a 12.6 (in the 2011-12 season). This year? He’s sitting at a PER of 22.6. If the Sixers can’t tank correctly, the least they can do is entertain. Can they make it three straight in a defensive slogfest over the Bulls? It’s not outside the realm of possibility, which is something I never dreamed of saying four days ago.