The Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics faced off as two bottom feeding teams on Jan. 29. Yet just two years ago, the Sixers and Celtics fought to the death to make the Eastern Conference finals. Since then, the Sixers and Celtics have had to start tough rebuilding processes -- yet they recaptured some of the thrills of the old days when the Sixers prevailed in Boston at the buzzer.
Evan Turner made Philadelphia escape with a 95-94 victory on a last second layup, which redeemed the decision not to call a timeout first. Instead of planning out a last shot, Turner drove up the court himself, then got up the winning shot right on time.
The Celtics could have put the game away seconds earlier, yet Kris Humphries missed a shot that would have put them up by three. Those are the kind of breaks that have gone against Boston this season, as it is now worse than Philadelphia -- the team projected to lose more than anyone this season, on purpose or not -- as a result.
18 months ago, the Sixers and Celtics fought to the wire in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. This thriller merely determined who would fall to last place in the NBA's worst division. Despite now being just 3-10 in their last 13 games, the Sixers have still gotten out of the cellar for now.
After everyone in the Atlantic had a losing record to start the season, there is finally some separation. The Toronto Raptors are the closest thing to a good team, while the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks are finally starting to dig out of their disastrous opening stretches. However, the two teams that seem to have no real hope are the Sixers and Celtics.
Perhaps if Philadelphia won that Game 7 in Boston, the Celtics would have started and gotten ahead of the rebuilding process a year early. Of course, the Sixers likely wouldn't have been any less reckless in getting Andrew Bynum and triggering their own downfall.
However it happened, both the Sixers and Celtics have gotten stuck in NBA purgatory, with a long road towards getting out. All they can do is occasionally have blasts from the past like last night, although this blast turned out better for Philadelphia.