Are The 76ers A Legitimate Playoff Threat?
The Philadelphia 76ers have had their best season in a very long time. In fact, they haven’t had a winning record in a full season of the NBA since 2004-05 (43-39), and are just two games away from having their first fifty win season since 2000-01. That year, they lost 4-1 in the NBA Finals to the Los Angeles Lakers. They will be making their first postseason appearance since the shortened 2011-12 season on the back of some brilliant team play, as well as a record of 24-6 in the last thirty games.
There has been plenty of talk about when it comes to how far the 76ers can go this postseason. The likes of Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric all have been impressive enough to bring Philadelphia back into the playoff picture. While the Eastern Conference Finals are by no means set in stone, we can still look at how far “The Process” can go into the postseason. Could they win a ticket to the NBA Finals?
Projected regular season finish: 3rd Seed
Currently, Cleveland and Philadelphia are fighting for the third seed in the Eastern conference. Crucially for 76ers fans, CBS Sports has listed the run home for Philadelphia as the easiest in the league. Their final two games are away to Atlanta before finishing up against Milwaukee. Cleveland has the trip to New York against the Knicks in home and away fixtures.
The equation is pretty simple for Philadelphia if they want to remain the third seed heading into the first round of the postseason: Either win the final two games, or get jumped by Cleveland. The Cavaliers have a 1-1 record heading into the Knicks series, as of the time of writing. If they lose one of those two games, the 76ers clinch the third seed.
Projected first round: Win 4-2 vs Washington Wizards
This could very well be the best series to watch, with the Wizards and the 76ers taking two games a piece during the regular season. Washington nearly had the upset over Cleveland last week, and they now have John Wall back to help guide the side around the court.
On the other side, Philadelphia has the potential Rookie of the Year in Ben Simmons, as well as JJ Reddick coming off the bench, Dario Saric and Joel Embiid (if healthy). They also have rookie Markelle Fultz, who could turn into quite the player in seasons to come. In theory, they would have home court advantage to start, and the two games they won against the Wizards were at home. Philadelphia should get up in the first round here.
Projected second round finals: Win 4-2 vs Boston Celtics
There is one crucial note here that leads a lot of people to believe that Philadelphia will end up taking the series win against the Boston Celtics: Boston is without Kyrie Irving for the rest of the season. To put this into perspective, the one game that Irving did not play against the 76ers this season, the 76ers won 89-80.
In two of the three games that Irving did play against Philadelphia, he was the top scorer for the Celtics. The team has also lost three of their last four games. Granted, it is difficult to read into that as they are resting a few guys, however, it will be even more difficult to get past Philadelphia in the form they are in.
Projected Conference Finals: Lose 4-3 to Cleveland Cavaliers
This is the toughest of the lot. Lebron James has been on fire ever since Cleveland and Philadelphia most recently met, however, the record is still 2-2 between them. Ben Simmons was nearly unstoppable last week against the Cavs, and he will need to be at his best to make sure that the 76ers have a chance.
This series will purely come down to big game experience, and Lebron James has the most in the league. Simmons, Embiid, Saric and company would need to execute their gameplan if there is any hope at forcing a game seven. They can most certainly do it, but will they be able to finish it off in game seven? In my eyes, James will just be too strong in the end, and will end the run of the 76ers.
Philadelphia will be in this position for quite a few years to come, assuming they can keep the mitts of the 31 other teams off their elite talent. It will get to a point where Philadelphia could win a championship, quite possibly in the next three years. It has been incredible to watch how Philadelphia has improved by “trusting the process”, and there is a chance that they upset Cleveland and advance to the NBA finals.
Early Prediction for next year’s finals – Philadelphia 76ers vs Minnesota Timberwolves.
Mitchell Leff | Getty Images
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