What’s Different About the Sixers This Time Around?
It feels like Deja Vu for the Philadelphia 76ers. Last season, they made it to the NBA Playoffs and got past the first round with a 4-1 victory over an inferior team. Once they made it to the second round though, they were outed by the superior Boston Celtics by going 1-4. It was clear that a case of inexperience didn't help the Sixers out, but they also seemed to have lacked confidence at the time as well.
Is there any truth to that? Apparently not. According to Sixers' big man Joel Embiid, it was the opposite. The Sixers were overly confident heading into the series with Boston. After clinching their first series win under head coach Brett Brown, the young stars thought they were untouchable. That was until they got demolished by Celtics.
This time around, the Sixers will avoid the Celtics in the second round, but they will still play a strong squad in the Toronto Raptors. On paper, the matchup could be better for Philly, but the history between the Sixers and the Raptors doesn't make the matchup seem too promising for Philadelphia. But then again, the Raptors aren't playing the same Philadelphia 76ers as they did earlier in the year.
The last time the Sixers and the Raptors met was back in February. The Sixers had Jimmy Butler on board, but the big trade with the Los Angeles Clippers hadn't occurred yet. So crucial players such as Tobias Harris, Mike Scott, and Boban Marjanovic were not on board. Meaning, the Sixers were still trotting out guys like Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala, an injured Markelle Fultz, and the promising, but an inexperienced young rookie in Landry Shamet.
As we know, Sixers' General Manager Elton Brand put the Sixers through a makeover before the trade deadline. While the upgrades looked great in terms of basketball talent, they were also critical for the team's leadership. Are the Sixers at one-hundred percent in terms of team chemistry? Not exactly - but they are much better off after a 4-1 playoff series win, that's for sure.
Last year, the Sixers' were playing with Ben Simmons and a masked Joel Embiid, who never played in the postseason before. They relied heavily on TJ McConnell to come off the bench and play point guard. Their bench depth was solid, but eventually, it hit a cold streak. This time around, there's 'playoff' Jimmy Butler in the starting lineup, along with Harris. And now that Butler's in the picture, the Sixers don't have to rely on McConnell.
It's all finally coming together for Philly, and now they just have to prove they can win against a top-tier team in the conference. They struggled against Toronto throughout the year, but times were different months ago. Philly has the tools to succeed big and getting humbled in the second round last year could've been a blessing in disguise for this young team. Now they know they will have to respect their opponent and just go out and play without expectations.
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