The Philadelphia 76ers can’t make a serious run at a playoff berth or at a high draft pick. Right now, the Sixers are resigned to a lost season without Andrew Bynum, a playoff berth or a chance at a bright new big star. The only thing the Sixers can do is play spoiler, which they actually got good at doing this past week.
The Sixers recently faced four opponents who had a lot more to play for in the last week. Yet Philadelphia knocked off a Brooklyn Nets team fighting for a division title, nearly beat a Miami Heat club on an historic winning streak, defeated an Indiana Pacers squad holding onto the No. 2 seed in the East, then beat a Portland Trail Blazers team just trying to stay alive in the West.
The Sixers’ 101-100 win over the Trail Blazers on March 18 dropped Portland 3 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Lakers for the final Western playoff berth. Since the Lakers and Utah Jazz both lost on the same night, the Trail Blazers lost a golden chance to gain a precious game of ground. If Portland misses the postseason by a game or two, this loss in Philadelphia will sting even more.
The Trail Blazers blew a 14-point lead and then nearly erased a four-point deficit in the final seconds, but couldn’t break through. Instead, the Sixers delivered a damaging blow to their postseason chances, which is all they can do for the rest of the season.
Philadelphia also made Brooklyn and Indiana’s playoff goals a bit harder last week. The Nets are now in a tight race with the struggling New York Knicks for the Atlantic Division title, so they need to win the games they’re supposed to. Yet the Nets didn’t do that in Philadelphia on March 11, which could be costly in the long run.
As for the Pacers, they are barely holding onto the No. 2 seed in the East, which could be decided by a slim margin. If Indiana is on the other end of such an outcome, its loss to Philadelphia on March 16 would loom large.
The Sixers are getting good at making life harder for much more successful teams. It can’t make up for how Philadelphia isn’t one of those successful teams itself, but this is the only consolation prize left.