Sixers close out road trip the hard way

by Max Rappaport Writer

by Max Rappaport,
Posted: January 4, 2013

Don't listen to country-western star Willie Nelson. Life on the road is tough. Just ask the Sixers, who will play their seventh and eighth straight road games Friday and Saturday night.

Soon enough, however, they will get some much-needed relief. Tuesday, Philly begins a month-long stretch in which they will play 13 games at home and just two on the road (January 8 through February 11). But before securing this welcomed refuge, they'll will face one final challenge – back-to-back games against Western Conference powerhouses Oklahoma City (24-7) and San Antonio (26-9). 

The Sixers know that these will likely be the two toughest games of their current trip. And it certainly doesn't help that their first opponent, the Thunder, is coming off just its third home loss of the season, and first since November 14 – Oklahoma City fell to the  Brooklyn Nets 110-93 at Chesapeake Energy Center Wednesday.

"Oh, they're gonna be ready," said former Thunder guard and current Sixer Royal Ivey. "They don't lose two in a row at home – they're competitors. They're gonna come with their hard hats and we're going to have to be ready to [play hard] in those first five minutes [of the first quarter], because this building is going to be on fire."

It's not just the recent rattling of Oklahoma City's cage that has Ivey convinced, though. When Sixers and Thunder faced one another on November 24 at Wells Fargo Center, OKC's starters combined for 94 of their team's 116 points. The Sixers were able to force overtime, but the Thunder, led by All-Stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, scored 18 points in just five minutes of extra time.

"That game is in the past. We're two different teams now," said veteran swingman Jason Richardson of his team's November meeting with the Thunder. "We just need to forget about that game and go out and try to get a win tonight."

While playing on the road can often be an onerous task, it can also serve as a stimulus for maturation.

"We've been on the road [for a while now], playing in some tough environments and [these next two games] will be tough, too," said Richardson. "We've pulled together in a lot of these games. The outcome [hasn't always been what we've wanted], but I think we've grown from it."

Holiday Expected To Play With Groin Strain

The Sixers announced Friday that point guard Jrue Holiday has a minor right groin strain. He's not expected to miss any time as a result of the injury. 

Posted: 1:00 PM, January 4, 2013