Only 16 games remain in the lockout-shortened NBA season and the Philadelphia 76ers sit atop the Atlantic Division. But they're not alone. The Celtics and Sixers have identical 28-22 records, with the Sixers owning the tiebreaker, based on head-to-head meetings. Despite their identical records, one team is trending up, while the other is trending down.
The Celtics are 13-5 since the All-Star break and have won three straight.
The Sixers, on the other hand, are 8-13 since starting 20-9. They're coming off a blowout victory over the Cleveland Cavilers, and will look to win consecutive games for only the second time since their 20-9 start, when they host the lowly Washington Wizards on Friday night.
At 11-39, the Wizards are the second worst team in the NBA, behind the Bobcats. As you can imagine, they rank pretty low in most statistical categories. They're the worst team in the league in assist rate. They're the second worst defensive rebounding team. And they rank in the bottom four in both offensive and defensive efficiency.
The Wizards have also been bitten by the injury bug, and will be without Andray Blatche and Rashard Lewis for Friday's contest.
Nene Hilario has probably been the Wizards most productive player since being traded for JaVale McGee, and could cause the Sixers some problems on the interior, given their lack of capable post defenders.
John Wall is insanely talented, but is still a relatively 'hit or miss' type guy from game-to-game at this point in his career. The lack of talent surrounding him certainly doesn't help, but he's always capable of going off.
For the Sixers, Andre Iguodala is questionable with knee tendonitis. He's missed the last two games, but Jodie Meeks has filled in nicely – he dropped a career-high (and season-high for a Sixer) 31 points, including seven threes – in the Sixers recent win over the Cavs.
This will be the fourth and final meeting between these two teams this, and with or without Iguodala the Sixers should be able to handle the Wizards with ease. They have beaten the Wizards by an average of 21 this season.
The Celtics are in Minnesota to play the T'Wolves on Friday.
For more on Sixers basketball, make sure to check out the SB Nation blog Liberty Ballers.