Remember back on Christmas Day when all of us opened our NBA presents? The first one in our laps was the Celtics at Knicks. A playoff rematch from the season before and a matchup of the two clear favorites in the Atlantic Div…..um, check that.
As I write this the Philadelphia 76ers, also a playoff team last year, are running away with the division at 16-6. Okay, so they have just a 4.5 game lead over Boston (11-10) but still, in this lockout-shortened season you should multiply that by 2.
The Sixers are clearly the best team in their group both offensively and, surprisingly, defensively. As I write this, nobody in the league allows fewer points per game to their opponents than (85.9).
This is still a relatively young squad, one that’s grown over the years and gelled thanks to second year head coach Doug Collins. He’s been able to reach the same group that tuned out the well-respected Eddie Jordan in 2009-10.
Ten years ago I would’ve dismissed these Sixers as a group of young guys simply taking advantage of other teams’ misfortunes in a whirlwind season. I would’ve pointed to their lack of low-post scoring and minimal on-court leadership as reasons why a veteran team like the Celtics or Hawks would eventually wipe them out in a playoff series. Not these days…
In today’s NBA, having a scorer on the low block is as optional as a pregame ankle wrap. This started ten years ago when teams like the Bucks, Celtics, and Nets (NBA finalists twice) all made serious runs without a low post scorer. How about this same Philly franchise that saw Allen Iverson and 11 hard-nosed role players take a 1-0 lead in the 2001 NBA Finals (I’m not counting Dikembe Mutombo‘s random post touches here).
Today, hand-checking is a thing of the past while flopping is a thing of the future. This has made teams build from the outside in, something the 2012 76ers are riding to a likely homecourt seed in the playoffs.
They have athletic wing players in Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young, a veteran rebounder and leader in Elton Brand, and a proven closer in Sixth Man Lou Williams (their leading scorer at 15pg). Much like the Denver Nuggets, they balance their scoring to the tune of 6 players in averaging in double figures.
The Sixers recently blew out the Chicago Bulls by 16 and handled the Orlando Magic (okay, so who hasn’t lately). More impressively their getting wins by outplaying teams in the 3rd quarter…a true sign of a good basketball team. They regularly come out of halftime and play a solid “1st 5 minutes” as coaches love to say.
In a win against the Hawks, they held Atlanta to seven points in the 3rd quarter (minus a last second 3-pt heave by Willie Green) and 29 points in the second half altogether. Coach Doug Collins wrote a halftime note for his team on the board: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Not only is this group going but they’re growing…..together.
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