If the Sixers beat the Pacers tonight, they lock up the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference for the first time since 2001, when Allen Iverson took a group of role players to the finals.
You’d think Philly sports fans would be ecstatic, right? Sixers talk DOMINATING the air waves. Twitter ABUZZ with chatter.
But… no. Nothing. Crickets out there.
At least that’s the way it seems. There does not seem to be a lot of juice for Doc Rivers’ team right now, and I’ve identified three reasons why this might be the case:
- high expectations: they were supposed to be good and supposed to make a playoff run
- a large portion of people still do not like Ben Simmons and the way he plays
- no interest in a regular season with COVID issues, players constantly out, no fans, etc
Let’s start with #1 –
Everybody is expecting a deep playoff run from this team. Anything short of that is going to be regarded as failure. The Sixers tanked for years to get to this point, and because of the divisive nature of the rebuild, there are a lot of people out there who feel like the Process can only be justified with a run to the finals, and/or a ring.
It’s hard to disagree with that. The Sixers have a MVP candidate and a #1 overall pick on their team. Tobias Harris is a max player who is performing much better under Rivers while Seth Curry and Danny Green are the shooters this team has not had since 2018. Nobody is going overboard with praise for a team that is doing exactly what was expected.
Point #2 –
I was listening to WIP earlier today (perhaps a mistake) and heard a bunch of callers say they just don’t like Simmons or his game. He “doesn’t shoot the ball.” They are wary of late game, half court scenarios where this weakness may manifest itself. Additionally, they seem to think Simmons is selfish, or arrogant, or something along those lines. He’s just such a divisive character in this town for some reason, which is crazy to think since he defends, plays hard, and rarely misses game. If we handed those traits to any other player on any other team, Philly fans would love him.
Point #3 –
The regular season was a joke. Let’s be honest. Too many players out with injuries or load management or COVID protocol. Too many throwaway games that just didn’t have any real meaning.
For the Sixers, their best wins were at home, over the full-strength Jazz and full-strength Lakers. Those were the two “barometer” games we got this season. Otherwise, they didn’t play a single game against the Bucks or Nets in which both teams had all of their players available. We didn’t get a single sniff of what a playoff series against either of those teams might look like.
Beyond that, I think there’s a bit of a fear that exists deep down in the hearts of some fans. They’ve seen this team falter on the biggest stage a few times before. They’re worried that they stacked up wins against crappy teams and they just aren’t feeling that gut instinct:
I think it’s mostly that they don’t “look” like a title contender. They’re not really running teams off the floor or looking unstoppable. Very few stretches where you see them click into another gear and just overwhelm teams.
— VAX EVERYONE #needlemeetarm (@Samizdat24) May 11, 2021
It’s a fair point, and the Rivers question is another one to seriously consider.
Can he get it done in the playoffs? His Clippers blew a 3-1 lead to the Nuggets in the bubble last year. In three of the four prior seasons, his LA teams lost in the first round. Doc only won three playoff series in seven seasons with the Clips, and only one of his six series losses was to the Golden State Warriors.
Interestingly enough, we haven’t seen much in the Xs and Os department from Doc this year. They’ve run some multi-read ATO and SLOB sets in close games, but overall he’s really simplified and streamlined the offense, which features a lot of post-up and isolation and pick and roll. Long gone is Brett Brown’s motion offense, and while Rivers has pulled so much more out of his individual stars, the way he adjusts throughout a seven-game series is something that’s a total unknown as we head into his first Sixers postseason. The whiteboard portion of this campaign really is just getting started.
These are all legitimate questions, and it’s understandable why people feel the way they do. Hopefully getting fans back in the Wells Fargo Center and locking up the #1 seed will get those juices flowing, and get people excited for a team that really does have a real shot at winning the whole damn thing.