The Philadelphia 76ers had a rough start to their 2019 NBA Playoffs campaign. It all started with a tough loss at home, which left the Philadelphia fan base with no option but to boo their own team for moments at a time throughout the entire matchup. The overreaction was serious. The Sixers didn't seem like the real deal. They weren't contenders. Instead, they were pretenders. There was no championship in their future.

Then, the rest of the round happened. In basketball, teams will lose. Not every series will be a sweep, and the Sixers know this well. They defeated the Miami Heat in last year's first round of the playoffs, but they couldn't win them all. They were defeated by the Boston Celtics entirely the following round, but they didn't lose them all. This year, the Sixers lost their first game in the playoffs, but then won four-straight. Now, are they viewed as a championship caliber team heading into Toronto this weekend?

If you ask their now former opposition, they would say yes. Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson has been quite honest throughout this series when it comes to his opponent. Every chance he has gotten he's credited the Sixers for whatever it was he wanted to credit them for. It didn't matter if that was his opponent or not - he showed respect and gave Philly credit where its due.

Nothing about that changed on Tuesday after the Nets were officially eliminated from the playoffs. Atkinson, once again, didn't hold back when asked about the Sixers. And his quote was promising for Philly. “Tremendous respect, tremendous respect for Brett…they’re going for big things, and I think they can compete for a championship quite honestly.” Last year, the Sixers were the young squad in the playoffs and were almost happy just to be there. This year, they have a real veteran star power and experience to be able to put it all together and make a legitimate championship run as Atkinson said.

Piggybacking off of what the Nets coach stated, Sixers' center Joel Embiid looked ahead and realized that anything is possible. While there are three other solid teams left in the Eastern Conference bracket, Embiid came to the realization that the Sixers belong exactly where they're at. "We think we can win it all," Embiid stated at the podium following Atkinson's press conference.

Last season, Philly's young squad might've been in over their heads, but this time around they have been built to last in the postseason. Now, they need to leave the Brooklyn series behind and get ready for some stiff competition in Toronto, because it doesn't get any easier from here on out. Game 1 of the second round isn't scheduled yet, but the Sixers at least know they will have to travel to Toronto for the first two games of the series.

Follow Justin on Twitter: @JGrasso_

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