The Philadelphia 76ers still had hope to become a playoff team in the second half of the season. However, the Sixers faced harsh reality against the Orlando Magic on Feb. 26 in more ways than one. Not only did the Sixers lose by 98-84 and get chewed out by Doug Collins afterwards, they went from a playoff challenger to a last place team.
As of Feb. 27, the Sixers are 22-33 and percentage points behind the 23-34 Toronto Raptors. Not only have the Raptors now become the ninth-place team in the Eastern Conference, they got out of the Atlantic Division cellar while they were at it. This leaves Philadelphia as the worst team in the division, which puts any remaining playoff dreams into perspective.
Once upon a time, the Sixers were expected to be a real challenger for the Atlantic Division title. Before the season started, the Brooklyn Nets were untested while the New York Knicks were still underachievers and the Boston Celtics finally looked too old. Everything was in place for Philadelphia to take over the Atlantic, yet it is now the frontrunner for the cellar.
Even at last place, the Sixers remain tied for ninth in the East, which speaks more to how pathetic the bottom half of the conference is. However, Philadelphia belongs with that bottom half a lot more than it belongs in the top half right now.
Getting to the eighth spot technically shouldn’t be that hard, since the Sixers are five games back of a sub. 500 team. Although the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Dallas Mavericks on Feb. 26 and increased their lead over the Sixers and Raptors, they are still only 27-28 overall. Yet despite their lack of a winning record, the Bucks are blowing out their competition by default.
It is something that the last place team in the Atlantic Division still has faint playoff hopes, since no other last place team can say that. However, being the best last place club in the NBA was not the Sixers’ goal this season.
The Atlantic Division is not good enough to have five teams fighting for playoff spots, let alone four. This shows just how far Philadelphia has to go to rally back, although the distance is getting way too far for comfort. But with even the Raptors now ahead of them in that road, it may be too late to change course.