When we last left the 76ers, this hopeless professional basketball club had just suffered a humiliating loss to the Charlotte Bobcats that broke the team’s three game winning streak, but also helped improve their lottery odds.
So with ping pong balls in the minds and hearts of Philadunkia nation — except Doug Collins, who persists on playing for pride and an improbable playoff berth — the Sixers headed off to Atlanta and then Miami.
Fortunately, for all parties involved, the 76ers were eliminated from the 2013 NBA playoffs this weekend and officially transitioned into offseason mode. But, that’s not the only thing that happened during Final Four weekend.
After the Jump a Philadunkia Weekend Recap…
Friday Night Fallacy
Coming off a 5-point loss to the lowly Charlotte Bobcats just two days prior, in which they failed to score 85 points, the Sixers were able hang 101 on the Atlanta Hawks in Phillips Arena and beat Josh Smith and company by double-digits. Huh?
This 76ers victory was yet another late season head-scratcher that makes Sixers fans wonder what could have been this season if their end-of-season starting lineup played this entire year and produced at this level. Against Atlanta, Thaddeus Young, Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes all poured in double-doubles while Damien Wilkins also scored 16 and four players scored off the bench. Since Spencer Hawes’ first monster game of March, in a 106-97 victory over the Nets on March 11, the Sixers have gone 8-6. Not exactly a team fighting for their best lottery chances, eh?
A Swaggy Return
Another subplot of the Sixers’ win down in the ATL was the return of Nick Young. Young, the Sixers’ polarizing scorer returned to the court after missing seven-straight games and 16 of the team’s last 18 in total. And, in typical Swaggy P fashion, despite playing just 15 minutes in all of March, Young poured in 8 points in 14 minutes off the bench for Collins down in the ATL. Swaggy P won’t be returning to the starting lineup this season as a result of Damien Wilkins’ fantastic play of late, but he will be a fun supporting cast member over the 76ers’ last 6 games.
After a three-game absence caused by a strained right hamstring, LeBron James returned for the Miami Heat on Saturday, just in time to thrash the Sixers in the second night of their back-to-back road games this weekend. When the game got surprisingly close entering the fourth quarter, LeBron made sure his team would not squander an opportunity to get a game closer to home court advantage throughout the entire playoffs. At some points in this game, when Lebron just had his way, it seemed as if James just played in this game to quiet all of the recent Carmelo talk and secure his bid for a 4th MVP trophy.
Holiday Struggles Continue
Outside of the 3rd Q against Miami where he scored 11 points, it was another weak showing for Holiday over the two-game road trip. Jrue was 3-14 vs. an Atlanta team that was very suspect on defense Friday night. He did hand out 8 assists and commit only 2 TOs, but his shooting woes have become ridiculous. During that before mentioned 3rd Q against Miami, Jrue was awesome and kept the Sixers in the game, which led Malik Rose to scream “He’s back. Jrue is back.” Unfortunately it didn’t last against Miami and in the end Holiday finished with 18 points on 7-17 shooting. Jrue delivered 6 dimes, but also had 5 turnovers vs. the Heat.
Elimination Station, Baby!
Finally! With the Sixers’ loss to the Heat and the Bucks’ 17-point demolition of the Raptors at home on Saturday, the boys in red, white and blue were officially eliminated from the 2013 playoffs. Now, the team will engage in a battle with the Raptors for last place in the Atlantic Division and more ping pong balls in the May 21 NBA Draft Lottery. The 76ers currently hold a 2.5 game lead over the Raptors in the standings with just 6 games to go (the Raptors have 5 contests remaining) and it’s not impossible for the Raptors to regain control of the 9th spot in the Eastern Conference standings if the Sixers can collapse.
Looking To The Future
Sixers lose Bucks win. No playoffs. What we all have known for a while is reality. 100% focus on next season. Much work to do in the summer.
— Adam Aron (@SixersCEOAdam) April 7, 2013
Unfortunately, guys like Adam Aron will be at the head of the Sixers’ franchise-altering decisions this summer. When this dreadful 2012-2013 year concludes, the Sixers will have the contracts of Andrew Bynum, Damien Wilkins Nick Young, Dorell Wright, Royal Ivey, Charles Jenkins come off the books. This will essentially cut the Sixers’ payroll in half — with Elton Brand’s contract also ending — and leave the front office with around $20 million in cap space. How will they use it? Will they bring back Bynum, and, if so, for how much? Will they go in another direction? Will the strategically hold their cash until the fabled 2014 free agency bonanza? We will to watch and wait… in horror.