So long season. I’ve always heard that you can’t be let down if you don’t expect too much, and boy did my expectations sure let me down this time. Heading into game 6, I actually fooled myself into believing that the 76ers had a chance to beat the Orlando Magic without Dwight Howard and Courtney Lee. How foolish of me. How naive must I have been to have believed that a team at full strength, in an elimination game in their home building, could put forth the effort to defeat an opponent without two of their starters, including their best player? The worst part about the Sixers embarrassing 114-89 loss, besides the fact that I’m forced to dwell on it until October, is that fact that I was actually convinced that the Sixers could defeat the Magic sans Dwight, and force a seventh game, and then even potentially surge into the second round. However, my fantasy did not lost for long, and after the team came out flatter than a ten year old basketball, I was quickly dragged back down to reality and forced to accept another first round failure.
It is only fitting that the Sixers main defensive flaw all season, the inability to defend the three point shot, came back to haunt them in their final game of the season, as they allowed one of the best three point shooting teams in the league to successfully convert twelve threes, including five by the usual reserve, J.J. Redick. I mean come on, everyone in the arena knew that all J.J. does is shoot threes, and the stagnant Sixers allowed him to make five? He hasn’t made five threes in a game since he was at Duke! But sure enough there he was, scoring 15 points on 5 made three point shots, each one serving as a dagger to the Philadelphia faithful. The perimeter defense was inexcusable, and not only did it allow Orlando to pile on the points, it prevented the Sixers from scoring as well. These successful shots by Orlando eliminated the chance for defensive rebounding and fast breaks, which is where the Sixers thrive, forcing them to often to set up in a half court offense, where they looked confused by the mere concept. It seems as though they assumed without Dwight Howard clogging the middle they would have an easy path to the basket all game, and they were surprised when the other Orlando players didn’t grant them such easy access. Aside from the contribution from Lou Williams off the bench, Igoudala’s usual 20, and the ever-steady play of Andre Miller (who proved to be the team’s most consistent and reliable player throughout the series), the team was largely absent on the offensive end, and as evidenced by the 12 made threes, the defense was no better. Orlando wore down the Philly D with a balanced attack, with six players scoring in double figures, led by Rashard Lewis’ 29.
From the opening tip the Sixers lacked the energy and enthusiasm required to win a game in the NBA, let alone an elimination game in the NBA Playoffs. They were not committed defensively, looked largely sheepish on offense, and did not seem overly concerned with the outcome. Where’s the passion? Such a loss was disappointing enough, but coupled with the fact that the victor was missing its best player and two of their first-five overall is like throwing salt on the wound, and takes the loss from simply disappointing to embarrassing. Someone should inform this team that this is Philadelphia and such a paltry effort is not tolerated by the fans and hopefully not by the front office, as it is quite evident that changes need to be made if the team ever aspires to fight past the first round.
For now, I am once again forced to watch the many remaining playoff series sans the Sixers, and eagerly waiting for October, hoping that it may finally be our year.