I walked by a house today that had a 76ers flag hanging out front (extremely rare for So Cal). It was struggling to hold on in the strong coastal breeze. It was creepy considering the team it represents is doing the exact same thing in the standings.
The Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics make up a unique rivalry on the east coast as the cities lack any other professional rivalries. The NFL’s Eagles and Patriots are in different conferences while the Phillies and and Red Sox of MLB are in separate leagues. You say ‘Philly vs Boston’ in the NBA and one immediately conjures up images of Wilt banging with Russell…Dr. J skying over Bird. It’s a colorful history filled with basketball immortality. This season is yet another chapter in that rivalry…..
The Sixers started the season like they had lost in the NBA Finals last year, not the Heat. Philly took advantage of a relatively weak schedule early to D people up and get out on the break. My, how times have changed. They’re division lead is long gone, taken over by the rival Celtics. The liberty ballers have spent the past few weeks swaying around 7th to 8th place…with a very realistic chance of falling out of the playoff race, altogether.
The Philadelphia 76ers lack consistent inside scoring, which is epitomized by their free-throw shooting (currently last in the league in both attempts and makes). In fact, they may set an all-time record this year in fewest attempts. This team shoots a bunch of long, contested two-pointers and very few 3′s. Add to that they’re 26th in the league in shots at the rim and it’s a migraine for head coach Doug Collins.
The Sixers also lack a consistent go-to scorer in close ballgames. Louis Williams is their leading scorer with at 15ppg while All-Star Andre Iguodala is only scoring 12 per game, currently 4th on the team. All these factors are the ideal recipe for a swan dive.
Recent losses by the Sixers are as follows: at home against Toronto and New Jersey, plus on the road versus the Howard-less Magic. It’s enough to make Michael Jordan smile down in Charlotte. I guess it’s not all bad for Philly…..they had the best field goal % defense all season and have only slipped one spot in those rankings. The team that now leads the league in that crucial defensive category, you ask?…..Boston.
Remember, back in February, when the Celtics were just a .500 team? Doc Rivers certainly does, which is why he’s not taking his foot off the gas till the Celtics are eliminated (which now looks like late May). Boston is still weak on the glass (ranking next to last) and definitely still very old…but they’ve found some consistency. No surprise that they’re also finally healthy too.
Ray Allen was the latest infirmary victim, but it was a blessing in disguise. It allowed second-year guard Avery Bradley to blossom and now the C’s finally have a legit 6th man…JE-SUS Shutlesworth.
Kevin Garnett‘s move to center, due to Jermaine O’neal‘s season-ending injury, has been a godsend for both himself and Rivers. The same team that was a step slow and predictable back in January is versatile and deep in the April. The Celtic season is something straight out of a Phil Jackson book:sleep through the Fall and Winter, and turn it on in the Spring. The turnaround has been impressive.
The two franchises have done a complete swap as the season has gone on. It’s almost Shakespearean…..
Okay, so this season isn’t the most memorable chapter in Celtics-Sixers history, it may not even be in the top 25…but it’s definitely worth a blog or two.
I wonder if that flag will be there tomorrow?