First, let me put out this disclaimer—it's my fault, I jinxed the Philadelphia 76ers and I apologize.
No Kevin Garnett, no Ray Allen, and still no Sixers victory at home vs. the Celtics. After failing to cash in on an 11-point lead midway through the third quarter, the Sixers dropped their sixth straight game, with a visit to LeBron's house looming in less than 24 hours. Hello—LeBron James' house.
The 76ers are now virtually assured of playing Boston in the first round, barring an unthinkable victory on the road, where the Cavaliers have only been beaten once all season. That was to the Lakers—the league's second best team statistically, and arguably the league's best.
Nobody could ever mistake the Sixers for the Lakers, and Cleveland very much wants to equal Boston's NBA home record of 40 wins set back in 1986.
Mark it down—Philadelphia will enter the Garden on a seven game losing streak and will exit the playoffs having lost 11 straight overall games.
Sadly enough, a few weeks ago, I was debating whether to write an article about why the Celtics don't want to face a young athletic team like Philadelphia in the first round. Granted, there would be no upset, but it's not the kind of series you want an aging squad of veterans to engage in prior to taking on Orlando in the second round before hoping to tackle Cleveland, following that.
Now I'd have to admit it's the perfect draw for Boston—a young team which can't close out wins on a seven game losing streak with zero confidence.
Having followed the Pittsburgh Pirates all of my life, I can confidently say that inferior teams almost always follow a good streak with an even worse bad streak.
Just as soon as they flash that potential, they show you the opposite end of the spectrum before you can even begin to smile. And it's usually very ugly.
Prior to their six game skid, the Sixers had won 10 of their last 14 including road wins at the Lakers and Blazers—two very difficult teams to beat on the road. They had even trounced the Hawks by double digits during that stretch back when it was still possible the Sixers might earn a fifth seed to face them in the first round.
Everything was finally starting to come together for Philadelphia.
But as with all pretenders, they promptly followed that up with six straight losses, four of which to teams with losing records at the time.
Optimists, like myself, pointed out the fact that upstart forward Thaddeus Young was out with an injury during that stretch, but he was back tonight looking like his old self again.
Yet it wasn't enough to beat a Celtics team which had nothing to play for and was playing without two of their big three—Garnett and Allen, and at home, no less.
Next week when the playoffs begin, you can count on the entire Boston Three Party starting. Get out your brooms, and make sure you get those industrial strength ones, because the Sixers aren't going to just get swept, they're going out on an 11-game slide.
That's gotta be a record for any playoff team.