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Tanking like they mean it
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Face it. The Sixers are better at tanking than you.

James Naismith's favorite sport is dying a slow painful death in Philadelphia. Let's talk about it.

There was a time when the Sixers were considered unbeatable ... okay, not really. But the Fightin' Ben Franklins did get off to a decent start. They won their first three contests of the year and they looked pretty good doing it. Michael Carter-Williams was Magic Johnson-like in a season-opening win against Miami while Evan Turner finally lived up to his billing with 23 points in a seven-point victory over Washington.

But that was months ago. Two of Philadelphia's starters for those first few games (Turner and Spencer Hawes) aren't even on the team anymore.

We now live in a world where Byron Mullens and Arnett Moultrie are playing meaningful minutes for an NBA franchise. Allow that to sink in for a few seconds.

If you were hoping for a tale about a lovable group of misfits banding together to overcome the odds, you might want to look elsewhere. This team just lost to Milwaukee ... by 20 points ... at home.

Monday's defeat was the Sixers' 11th-straight. During that span, they've been outscored by over 200 points (1,291-1,068).

If this isn't rock bottom we're getting awful close.

And fantasy owners are LOVING it. For the most part, at least.

LeBron James and Kevin Durant are always no-brainers but with most other players, it's about matchups. Starting Joe Johnson against the Celtics (19-39) is usually a good idea. But when he's playing the Pacers (42-13)? Well, that's a bit more difficult.

With the Sixers content to embarrass themselves on a nightly basis, that conversation hardly seems necessary. If February has taught us anything it's that borderline players become gods against the Sixers.

Here are some examples:

- Brandon Bass: 18 points, six rebounds

- DeJuan Blair: 18 points on 7-for-9 shooting

- Alec Burks: 26 points, 13-of-14 from the free throw line

- Ersan Ilyasova: 20 points on 7-for-9 shooting

- Wes Johnson 17 points, five steals

- Chris Kaman: 17 points, eight rebounds

- Shawn Marion: 22 points on 11-for-14 shooting

- Kyle Singler: 20 points, ten rebounds

- Marreese Speights: 32 points, eight rebounds, three blocks

- Mirza Teletovic: 20 points, 5-for-9 from three-point range

- Tyler Zeller: 18 points, 15 rebounds

And that didn't even include January 31st's loss to Atlanta, a night when Mike Scott (not the one who works at Dunder Mifflin) and Elton Brand scored 18 points each. Scott's season average is 9.7 while Brand's is 5.3.

We're way past coincidence at this point. To give you an idea of just how accommodating the Sixers have been to their opponents, consider Marreese Speights' stats from before and after his game with them on February 10. In his five games prior to playing Philadelphia, Speights averaged 4.6 ppg on 41.7 percent shooting. In five games since his 32-point outburst, Speights has collected a measly 3.0 ppg including a scoreless outing last Thursday against the Rockets.

Of course, Speights saw 26 minutes in his game against Philadelphia, which is well above his season average (11.6 mpg). That's probably because the Warriors had built a 33-point lead by halftime and were able to coast in the second half.

When the Sixers are getting blown out, it creates a whole new set of problems for fantasy owners. Sure, guys like Speights and Mike Scott are free to run hog-wild in garbage time but what about superstars like Chris Paul and Kyrie Irving?

Irving was limited to 24 minutes last week in Philly while Paul saw even fewer on February 9 (23). These guys average almost 40 minutes a night, so playing only 20-to-25 is a noticeable difference.

Of course, some nights the Sixers are so generous it doesn't matter. Blake Griffin played only 25 of 48 minutes on February 9 but still managed 26 points and 11 rebounds. Similarly, Steph Curry poured in 23 points despite sitting out most of the second half when the Sixers came to Oakland a day later (27 minutes).

As dire as things have been, one slight glimmer of hope remains in the City of Brotherly Love. And I'm not talking about the No. 1 pick in this year's draft.

Though most of his teammates bowed out a long time ago, Thaddeus Young is still trying REALLY hard. Fortunately for fantasy owners, that effort is finally showing up in the stat sheet.

Young had a mesmerizing night Friday against Dallas (30 points, 13 rebounds, seven steals, six assists) and followed it up with an equally impressive performance Monday versus the Bucks (28 points, seven assists, six steals, five rebounds). He's averaging 17.5 ppg for the season, his highest in seven years of professional hoops.

The Sixers' next chance to be bad will be Wednesday against Orlando. I expect them to be firing on zero cylinders.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Jesse Pantuosco at jpantuosco@sportsnetwork.com.

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