The Philadelphia 76ers have been miserable pretty much all season. In fact, the last time the Sixers had any real joy was when they fought the Boston Celtics to the death in last year’s postseason. Fittingly, the Sixers are hosting the Celtics on March 5 right as this season falls apart.
The last real high point for the Sixers was when they beat the Celtics in Game 6 of last year’s Eastern Conference semifinals. It was the last time Philadelphia saw Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams, Elton Brand and all of last year’s lineup together at home. Since then, they lost Game 7 in Boston before getting broken up at the alter of Andrew Bynum.
The Sixers have never been the same since that final postseason win over the Celtics last year, and it may be reinforced in the rematch. Boston hasn’t made out that much better since beating Philadelphia months ago, but it is at least still on track for the postseason.
The Celtics are mainly trying to avoid falling into the eighth seed, where they’d have another playoff showdown with the Miami Heat. If the Sixers were any better, they could have put pressure on the Celtics and threatened to overtake them with a win in Philadelphia. Instead, all they are doing is playing spoiler.
The Sixers were good at playing spoiler last season, as they made sure the Celtics didn’t coast to their Eastern Conference final showdown with the Heat. However, maybe things would have been different now if Philadelphia beat Boston in Game 7. On the other hand, it might have just made the Sixers more desperate to land Bynum and take that next step.
If the Sixers had upset the Celtics last May, it would have certainly made this season’s regression look even worse. These two teams really weren’t all that different months ago, as each of them even lost key pieces in the offseason.
Yet Boston is barely skating by without Ray Allen and is even winning without an injured Rajon Rondo. In contrast, Philadelphia can’t survive without Bynum or everyone it gave up for him. That kind of resiliency is why the Celtics finally survived the Sixers last year, and why they still have something to play for in their reunion.