Why This Season is the Sixers’ Best Shot at a Title.
This post-season has been a rollercoaster of emotions that Sixers fans forgot comes with every playoff push from this team. Coming in as the first overall seed for the first time since the ’01 season had everyone riding high. Going up three games over the Wizards in dominating fashion only propelled the hopes of Philadelphia fans far and wide even further.
Then the basketball gods remembered what fan base they were dealing with, and took us all off our pedestal. Joel Embiid left game four against the Wizards early, a game Philly would go on to lose. The following day it was announced Embiid had a small meniscus tear, something that would limit him but wouldn’t keep the runner-up MVP out of the playoffs. Without him in game five Philly closed out the first round series, and moved on to the Atlanta Hawks.
This series, as many of you know, has been very up and down. From losing game one, to blown leads in games four and five putting the Sixers on the ropes, I’m confident all Sixers fans that have actually watched the full series so far have lost years on their lives. Toss in the struggles of Ben Simmons and the loss of Danny Green to a hamstring injury and it is safe to say this series has been a wild ride regardless of the outcome of game seven.
Now why do I drum up the past couple weeks of Sixers playoff basketball? To remind you that even through all this pain, anxiety, and jubilation, the Sixers still have a good shot at lifting the Larry O’Brian trophy. While the Sixers are certainly in an interesting spot with a struggling Ben Simmons and not fully healthy Joel Embiid, the state of the playoffs could not help them out more.
For starters, the teams left all haven’t been here for a while if not ever. The Western Conference Finals is Clippers-Suns, with both teams notably missing their two stars for at least the first two games. While Chris Paul’s absence is due to stupid COVID guidelines, Kawahi Leonard is dealing with an ACL issue in his knee. Safe to say both teams aren’t at full strength, and who knows if either will be regardless of which one grabs their franchises first ever finals appearance of the 21st century.
On the East side, last night’s crazy game seven between the Bucks and Nets sent home arguably the best player in the world right now in Kevin Durant. While the Bucks aren’t an easy task in the slightest, they are a much better matchup than a Nets team given more time to get healthy. When Kyrie, Durant, and a healthy Harden all took the court no team looked scarier, and now all three get to book a trip to Cancun. I am also especially confident in a Bucks-Sixers matchup because of the size matchup.
Milwaukee hasn’t faced a team with nearly as much size as the Sixers bring, and that could make life on Giannis very difficult. Say what you want about Simmons’ offensive struggles, but you cannot deny his defense has still been top tier. Matching him up on Giannis or Khris Middleton would be a nightmare for the Bucks. On top of all of that, the Bucks looked very human against the full-strength Nets, and the stars around Giannis have been struggling to keep the team afloat on multiple occasions.
Obviously none of this matters if the Sixers can’t take care of business tonight against Atlanta, but it still serves a point. There hasn’t been a year with such a wide-open path to the title in over a decade for any of the teams remaining, including our Sixers. This has been a long process to get to a season like this, and I truly believe there may not be a better shot again for a long time. There are no excuses anymore, if Embiid, Simmons, and the rest of the squad want to bring home a championship to Philly, they’ve got nine games to win.
Mandatory Credit: Yong Kim.