Originally posted on Buzz On Broad  |  Last updated 1/10/12

The nation is beginning to hop aboard the Philadelphia 76ers’ bandwagon after their 6-2 start and current five-game win streak. As reported earlier, ESPN’s Hollinger rankings have dubbed the Sixers as the No. 1 team in the NBA ahead of the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls. There’s a lot of hype around this team, especially because they are in the midst of a back-to-back-to-back stretch that started off with a 96-86 victory over the Indiana Pacers (6-3) last night.

The middle game in the “Triple Play” stretch features the Sacramento Kings (3-6) in what will be the only matchup between the two teams all season. The Sixers and Kings have gotten off to two contrasting starts this season.

Philadelphia is first in the league in both scoring defense (85.6 ppg) and field goal defense (39.1% FG) whereas the Kings are allowing 102.3 ppg, which ranks 29th in the league. The Kings are a very young, inexperienced team that is a few years away from hitting their strides. Philadelphia is often coined as a very young team, but in fact, the Kings are the youngest team in the NBA with an average age of 24.347 and an average experience of 3.14 years.

Their top youngster, Tyreke Evans, will make his return to his home state of Pennsylvania tonight. The Chester, PA native is averaging 17.1 ppg and a team-high 3.8 apg in his sophomore year. He will team up with Sacramento’s leading-scorer Marcus Thornton (18.7 ppg) in the backcourt, while the team’s oldest player and former Sixer, John Salmons (8.3 ppg), will start at small forward.

While Evans and Thornton will certainly pose a threat for the Sixers, the biggest concern for Philadelphia will lie in the paint. Despite his off-the-court antics and rumored trade request, 21-year old DeMarcus Cousins has stepped up his game recently and has provided the Kings with a legitimate threat in the paint. Prior to the team’s last two games, Cousins hauled in just 11 rebounds during a two-game span, however he has collected a whopping 25 boards over the past two games. That stretch boosted Cousins in the stat-box as he is now averaging a double-double (14.6 ppg and 10.1 rpg) this season.

Spencer Hawes and Elton Brand have done a fairly decent job in recent games against opposing big men; however, Indiana’s Roy Hibbert and David West combined for 36 points and 19 rebounds in a losing effort. But that is, arguably, the toughest front court Philly has faced so far this year; that is, until Wednesday’s game against New York’s big man: Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler.

While Cousins, Evans and Thorton will all start tonight, Sacramento's potentially biggest threat lies on their bench. Last season, the college basketball world was exposed to the phrase “Jimmer Mania.” The term revolved around BYU’s three-point shooting guard Jimmer Fredette. Made famous because of his ability to hit ridiculously long shots from behind-the-arc, Fredette was selected in the first round by the Kings this past offseason. He has been a hit-or-miss type of player so far this season, coming off a dreadful shooting night in which he finished with just two points against the Orlando Magic. He has, though, at times proven to be a threat from deep, recording a season-best 4-6 from three-point range against the Memphis Grizzlies en route to a career-high 17 points. He’ll see about 25 minutes on the court tonight as he tries to find his groove from deep against the Sixers.

The Kings are a young, exciting team, but unlike the Sixers, their youth isn’t quite on the level that is needed to compete in the playoffs. In a few years, the Kings will be legitimate contenders if they all continue to progress and remain intact. But for tonight, Philadelphia has a terrific opportunity to extend their winning streak to six heading into their division game against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. 

Be sure to follow Kyle on Twitter @Kyle_Phillippi!

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