ATLANTIC CHAMPS ???

Once upon a time; in a previous reality, the iPod was a revolutionary idea, Ja Rule was relevant, braids and cornrolls were in vogue, and gas cost just $1.46 per gallon. 

That reality was the year 2001.  Obviously 76ers’ fans will remember 2001 for the dramatic ride they took all the way to the NBA Finals.  Unfortunately, not only have we never take that ride again, we also have never seen our beloved Sixers be crowned division champions.

But, after a long and tumultuous 11 year wait, NOW could be the time that Atlantic Division crown could finally come back to Philadelphia.

Through the 2011-2012 infancy stage, the Sixers sit alone in first place at 10-3; and with the boost of a favorable January schedule, they have begun to distance themselves from the pack and could very well be on their way to sitting firmly at the top.

 

The last time the 7-6 were 10-3 was that memorable 2000-2001 season.

After trouncing the hobbled Pistons and lowly Raptors, knocking off a tough Pacers squad at home, and destroying the un-royal Kings, a very tired Sixers squad stumbled in New York.  Since then, they have won 3 straight and they have done it with style.  They are not squeaking out wins.  It has been all about domination.

They have an astounding average margin of victory of almost 21 points per game.

Coach Collins’ young bunch has done most of their damage at home where they are a perfect 6-0.

All the pundits and basketball theorists thought they would be an improved team, but very few (like no one) thought the Sixers had even a Tebow’s chance of winning the division.  Now they look to be the class of the Atlantic in a division that includes the elderly Boston Celtics, and the defensively inept New York Knicks.

—- The Boston Celtics (4-8)

Doc Rivers and the original modern super-team of the NBA have showed their age on the court despite their youthful sparkplug in Rajon Rando. The Celtics have failed in all of their biggest tests (in games against the Heat, the World Champion Mavericks, the Knicks, and the Thunder).  All of their wins have come against the Junior Varsity teams in the NBA. 

The prevailing problem with the Celtics is that they lack any production from their bench which is desperately needed with aging veterans, even if they are superstars.  They also could use Kendrick Perkins right about now.

—– The New York Knicks (6-7)

The Knicks need to put the “Guard” back in The Garden because even with Tyson Chandler they are 13th in the League in opponents’ points per game allowed.  Surprisingly, they aren’t even scoring at the rate we thought they would.  They are just 18th in the league in points per game and are still influx at the point guard position.  If things don’t change, they, like the Celtics, could end up being a non-existent factor in the Eastern Conference playoff factor by dropping as low as a 5, 6, or 7 seed and completely out of the division race.

The Raptors and the Nets are…. Ugh….. Well, let’s just say that it could be a safe assumption that neither team will be a challenger for the division championship.  That was a nice way to put it.  Right?

Meanwhile, the Sixers reverse nearly every negative trend that their division foes have encountered thus far

The Sixers are:

A.      2nd in the NBA in opponents’ points per game allowed

B.      Highly productive from their bench (Lou Williams is team’s leading scorer, averaging 16.1 points a game among  – in addition to Thaddeus Young averaging 12.4, and Evan Turner averaging 10)

C.      Settled at the Point – Jrue Holiday is a stream of consistency for the Sixers at the lead guard.

D.      The Sixers are 3rd in the NBA in points per game. (That’s 15 spots higher than even the supposedly vaunted Knicks attack).

Still, it almost seems inconceivable that a team whose only household name is Andre Iguodala could dare outlast Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Carmelo Anthony, and Amare Stoudemire for a division title.  Yet, in the case of argument for the Sixers, the cliché, “Numbers Never Lie,” truly applies.

Being in 1st place, with a 4 game cushion is a wonderful spot to be in – especially because they still have 9 of their next 10 at a Wells Fargo Center that has been very kind to them.  They have a golden opportunity to put some serious space between themselves and the Knicks and Celtics.

They had better, because in February, things get a whole lot tougher.  Not only do they take on the Heat, Bulls, Lakers, Spurs, Mavericks, Thunder and the Lob City Clippers, they have 8 games on the road including visits to Atlanta and Orlando.

That little nugget of information may have slowed the bandwagon boarding a little bit, because recently it was filling up at a ridiculous speed.

Yet, for some, it was, and is unimaginable that the humble, starless, gritty group from South Philly overtake a division that’s now suddenly for all-star loaded teams.

Of course, as the old saying goes, “That’s why they play games.”

It’s been 11 years!  Why not them?  Why not now? 

Their early hot streak has asked the question and ultimately their play will determine the final answer.

 

 

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