It's hard to imagine a more unlikely story this playoff season than that of the Philadelphia 76ers. Limping into the playoffs as the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference, the Sixers managed to triumph over the top-seeded Chicago Bulls after Derrick Rose's awful ACL injury. Most had written off Philly as having no chance against the Bulls, and again most had written them off in the second round against the Celtics (sound like a familiar story, Nuggets fans?). Yet, here they are, with a Game 7 to play at the Garden in Boston, a rematch 30 years in the making ...
I've never been much of a Philly fan.
Something about East coast teams and their fanbases rub me the wrong way. Whether it's the constant Apple-user-like superiority complex of their supporters, the overweening and exultant way in which the media praises them or just the numerous examples of embarrassing and ugly behavior by their fans, I just haven't been able to support an Eastern team in a long time.
But these 76ers are beginning to grow on me.
I refer to the 76ers in the title as "Nuggets East", because I feel that even if their play doesn't exactly mirror the way the Nuggets run teams out of the building, there are a lot of similarities.
- They're a young team
(3rd youngest in the NBA), second youngest in the NBA playoffs, with an average age of just 25.8 and the youngest in the playoffs.
- They have some dynamic young scorers in Lou Williams, Jrue Holiday and Thaddeus Young, buoyed by the veteran experience of players like Andre Igoudala and Elton Brand. I guess you could count Tony Battie as having veteran experience, but let's not push it.
- They're constantly playing like they have a chip on their shoulders, despite winning close games (two games against the Celtics decided by 1-point) one night and getting blown out the next (losing by 16 in two games).
Something about the way the Sixers play has me rooting for them, and it's not just because they're playing against a franchise that's got more banners in the rafters than most of the rest of the NBA put together. Igoudala can still throw it down with the best of them. Jrue's handles are ridiculous. Lou Williams has a sweet jumper and is very efficient (PER 20.22). Doug Collins is an excellent head coach by all accounts, and seems to have figured out how to create just the right mixture of youthful energy and veteran craftiness to keep them in almost every game. Their "Nuggets analogues" play well in transition, and love to create havoc by jumping the passing lanes. I even find myself getting jealous at times watching their play in the half court.
In a way, I also feel sorry for the 76ers, because it's not very likely that they'll make it past Miami - should they beat the Celtics in Game 7 - and will probably experience much of the same disappointment that stemmed from the Nuggets 2009 Western Conference Finals series loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. Still, though, as a No. 8 seed, they can't be too upset with making it as far as they have and showing that they have a lot of room to grow.
Golden Nuggets Links:
76ers Knock off Celts, Force Game 7 - Box score and recap of game 6 in which the 76ers forced game 7.
Who's the oldest team in the NBA? - The answer (as well as the youngest team in the NBA) may surprise you.
Udonis Haslem suspended 1 game, Dexter Pittman 3 - After a series of ugly, flagrant fouls in the last Heat-Pacers game, the NBA handed down suspensions to Haslem and Pittman and upgraded Tyler Hansbrough's foul to a flagrant 2.
Shaq eyed for Magic GM position - In a decision rooted in what I can only imagine is Orlando Magic owner Rich DeVos stuffing handfuls of peyote into his mouth, Shaq (?!?!?!) is apparently being considered for the vacant General Manager position of the Magic. Good luck with that, Magic fans.