Thanks to a 105-87 win over the
Brooklyn New Jersey Nets on Monday night, the Philadelphia 76ers have clinched a playoff berth for the fourth time in the last five seasons.
At one point the Sixers looked like the favorite to win the Atlantic Division after running out to a 20-9 schedule padded start in the strike-shortened 66 game season. However, the Sixers’ offensive woes and a tougher schedule in the second-half cued a free-fall that saw the Sixers win just 14 out of their next 21 games. The result is likely the eighth-seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Though the Sixers are tied with the New York Knicks with identical 34-30 records with two games remaining, the Knicks hold a tiebreaker over Philadelphia by virtue of their head-to-head wins against the Sixers. The Sixers most likely first-round opponent is the Chicago Bulls, who have played the better part of the second-half of the season without MVP Derrick Rose. The Bulls are 17-6 in the 26 games that Rose has missed this season.
But enough looking ahead, the 2011-2012 Sixers simply played above their heads to start the season before coming (predictably) down to earth. That’s just what happens when you don’t have a player in the top 30 of scoring in the NBA. The league is about scoring and despite the Sixers tremendous defense (2nd in points allowed, 89.2), they simply could never score enough to beat the elite teams like the Chicago’s, Miami’s, Boston’s and even Indiana’s.
The lack of a true “superstar” is hard to ignore on a team that has all the other ingredients to be a championship contender. The black hole the Sixers have at shooting guard is a glaring weakness on the offensive side of the ball, where Evan Turner currently resides. Turner isn’t a bad player, in fact, he’s quite good and improving. But that said, he’s not an NBA two-guard. He doesn’t have a pure jumpshot and struggles to create his own shot. But he’s the best option the Sixers have right now, if you don’t count the one-trick pony that is Jodie Meeks’ three-point shooting.
Just imagine for a second, Kobe Bryant wearing No. 24 (dreamworld) and starting in a Sixers lineup with Jrue Holiday, Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand and Spencer Hawes. Would that team contend in the East for real? I think absolutley. Kobe would allow Iguodala to become a second or third option and would allow Holiday to purely distribute the ball rather than having to score all the time. While Bryant is an extreme (and unreal) option, a guy like New Orleans’ Eric Gordon would create alot of the same options for the Sixers (Gordon is a restricted free-agent in the off-season).
While the Sixers will be making the postseason for the fourth time in five years, they’ve failed to make it out of the first round in any of those appearances. The last time the Sixers advanced past the first-round was in 2002-2003, when Larry Brown and Allen Iverson were still around.
Both the Bulls and Miami Heat are good basketball teams who should easily dispatch of the offensively challenged Sixers, but anything can happen in the playoffs. If the Sixers play suffocating defense like they know how, and get efficient offense from Jrue Holiday, Andre Iguodala and Co., they could catch one of the east’s powers sleeping in the first round.