I can't believe I'm about to say this, but don't look now—the Philadelphia 76ers are playing their best basketball of the season as the playoffs approach, and I'm kind of excited.
You might not even recognize any of these Sixers, even if you sat across from them in a first class seat out of Philadelphia International, but that's OK.
There's no Answers on this team, no Stilts, no Doctors, and no Sirs. Role models you ask? I would venture to say actually there are, Sir Charles, but that's for another topic.
The former leading scorer of this year's team is in rehab, and the current one doesn't even average 19 points per game. Their leading assists man barely dishes out six a game, and their leading rebounder grabs less than nine on average.
In their past three games, three different players led the team in scoring, three different players led the team in rebounds, and two different players led in assists.
Quick trivia question—who is the Sixers' coach? Mo' Cheeks you say? Not so fast...
Unless you don the words Celtics or Cavaliers across your chest, it's pretty easy to get overlooked in the Eastern Conference. Just ask Orlando, who has the fourth best record in the entire league...does anyone care though?
On any given night, you can hear more about the ninth place Phoenix Suns out in the West than you will about the Magic. I dare you to name even two players on the Magic who weren't in the slam dunk competition this year.
With that said, why am I excited about this team, a team that will be happy just getting out of the first round in the playoffs?
For only the second time this year, they sit at three games over .500—big deal. If they were in the Western Conference they'd be six games out of the playoffs.
Against the top three seeds in their own conference they are an unimpressive 0-8.
So why am I excited again?
In their past eight games they are 6-2, including wins against the Lakers and Blazers (both on the road), two teams that had combined to only lose 10 home games all year prior to the Sixers' arrival. In seven of our last 10 games we actually eclipsed 100 points.
Last night was their final matchup of a five-game west coast swing during a seven day stretch. Playing on a back-to-back, in front of a very raucous crowd at Quicken Loans Arena, you might have thought it was Portland who was playing their fifth consecutive roadie.
Granted, my Sixers blew a nice 14-point halftime lead in the typical way they have seemed to master, but as grit as my witness, this team once again gutted it out to the end. Tired legs? Who us?
In a season that has shown Sixers' fans what it's like to lose at the buzzer all too often (Devon Harris anyone? How about Dirk or Parker?), it's been a pleasant surprise to see us be on the other side of that coin in two of the hardest arenas in which to win, about as far away from home as you can get no less.
In our remaining 13 games, we have four games against teams with above .500 records, with our next two at home versus Minnesota and Charlotte. Trailing Miami for the coveted fifth spot in the East by just one and a half games, it is crucial to not have a let down now.
While the rest of the country may not know who Orlando is, I do, and I do not want to face them in the first round. No disrespect to Atlanta, but at least we've actually beaten them once, and by 15 at their place I might add.
I can't predict that this year's 76ers will make it out of the first round for a change, but at least I can confidently say that for the first time since 2002, it won't be Detroit who ends our post season glimmer of hope, which is refreshing in and of itself.
Hey, if the Hawks could take the Celts to a game seven last year, then anything is possible.
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