I know that you're thinking.
You're probably wishing that the NBA would just skip the first two rounds of the playoffs this year so that we can see two of the league's elite teams—the Chicago Bulls and the Miami Heat—battle it out in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
That matchup isn't a foregone conclusion, however. Not if the Philadelphia 76ers have anything to say about it.
The smart money isn't on the 76ers to make a lot of noise this postseason, but it definitely wouldn't be a complete surprise if the scrappy young team from the City of Brotherly Love pulled off a first-round upset.
So while many prognosticators have already counted them out, let's take a look at five reasons the Sixers could shock the world in the next couple weeks.
Andre Iguodala is quite simply the best wing defender in basketball. Because of that fact, his ability to limit the opposing team's primary scorer will give the 76ers a chance to win virtually every night.
While numbers sometimes lie, 82games.com has indisputable evidence of Iguodala's skill. The 6'6" swingman is holding opposing small forwards to Metta World Peace-level production—an astonishing feat considering that the league is loaded with quality 3s. Iguodala is the key to Philadelphia's elite defense and will be counted on to lead the charge in the playoffs once again.
The 76ers may have been one of the NBA's most inconsistent teams this year, but the one constant has been Iguodala's defensive intensity. That won't change in the postseason.
After a compressed season, energy levels aren't what they typically would be for most NBA teams.
The 2011-12 campaign has been nothing short of a grind for all involved, but the 76ers are in a better position than most due to the youth of their roster.
Of the top nine players in Doug Collins's rotation, Elton Brand is the only one over 28 years old. And while the Sixers' lack of NBA years directly correlates to a lack of experience (especially as it concerns the playoffs), the fact that they're fresher than just about every other Eastern Conference team is not a fact to be overlooked.
For the second straight season, Philadelphia has one of the more productive bench units in the NBA. With teams tightening up their rotations in the playoffs, the fact that the 76ers can legitimately go nine players deep is an undeniable asset.
Lou Williams and Thaddeus Young are two of the 76ers top three scorers, despite the fact that they've only started one game between them the entire season. Swingman Evan Turner and backup center Nik Vucevic also provide solid energy in a reserve role.
While Chicago's and Miami's starting lineups are very intimidating, neither teams gets nearly the same amount of juice from the bench than the Sixers do. Philadelphia's reserves are talented enough to steal a game or two in a first-round series, and that could be just enough for an upset.
What we've also learned is that teams may have an advantage once the second season rolls around. With the exception of Spencer Hawes, the 76ers have been relatively healthy this year, and the lack of games missed gives them an edge over both Chicago and Miami. There was no need for a Heat-like "maintenance program," and the chemistry built by that continuity should be a benefit once the postseason begins this weekend.
Even as they've limped to the finish line this season, the 76ers have done a masterful job of winning the turnover battle practically every night.
This year, Philadelphia is on pace to average the fewest turnovers per game for any team in the history of the NBA (breaking the 2005-06 Detroit Pistons' mark of 11.4 per game). Not only is the feat remarkable given the youth of the team, but Doug Collins's insistence on ball security means that the Sixers won't often shoot themselves in the foot with costly giveaways.
Excessive turnovers against a team like Chicago or Miami will prove to be fatal, but as long as the team limits its mistakes, it should be able to make it a series.