loss eliminated the Sixers from contention for the #6 seed, and sealed their fate. They will face the Detroit Pistons in the first round of the playoffs. They cannot finish the regular season above .500. They won't go into the playoffs on the roll we'd hoped for.
These are all the negatives to take away from the game. The best we can hope for is a meaningless win over a lowly Bobcats team. That's the glass half-empty outlook right now for Sixers fans, and while sometimes the Philly faithful can be morose in their assessment of their teams, it's called for under the circumstances.
I'm starting to think this game is going to take on a different meaning altogether for the players on the court. After the jump, we'll dive into it.
When the Sixers had an 18-30 record on February 4th every writer, player, coach, fan etc. wrote this team off. You really couldn't blame any of them, the Sixers looked like a lost franchise. From that point on, they've won a remarkable 22 out of 33 games, and locked down a playoff berth. No small accomplishment, all things considered.
They started on their winning ways by beating the teams they were supposed to beat. No one took notice. It was a minor hot streak against bad teams. Then they beat a couple of playoff teams. Still, no one took notice. The explanations ranged from injuries (Dallas) to trades (@ Phoenix) to you name it. Everyone still had excuses. Then they started winning games no one expected them to win in a million years (@ Detroit, vs. San Antonio). Now people started to take notice.
Suddenly NBA writers were saying how much they loved the Sixers young talent and running style. Now the Sixers were dubbed "the team no one wants to face in the first round." Did they buy into their own hype? Tough to say for sure, but if I had to bet, I think this played at least a minor role in the losses to Indiana and Washington. Did other teams realize they have to bring their A game if they wanted to beat Philly? Again, this is certainly a possibility.
One thing is for sure, though. Climbing out of that giant hole they dug for themselves galvanized this team and brought them closer together. The cohesion showed on the court night after night. You didn't see anyone ever yelling at another teammate. All you saw was 5 guys on the floor pulling for each other. They were a group of players united to prove everyone else wrong. That gave them their edge. The lack of respect fueled them. They knew that every time they took the floor they could and would impose their will on the other team, no matter who that other team was.
For some reason they lost that for two games and three quarters. Last night, against the Cavs, that fire was back. Yes, the outcome was disturbing, horrifying, disgusting, disgraceful and deflating for us, the fans, but it's going to be something altogether different for this team. The very thing that gave them that edge, the thing that made them develop their foxhole mentality was given back to them. Going into the playoffs every player on that team knows he was cheated. They know no one is giving them a chance now. That enormous chip is right back on their shoulder where it needs to be.
I wouldn't want to be the Bobcats tomorrow night, and I definitely wouldn't want to be the Detroit Pistons right now because they're going to be facing a focused, determined team who now has something to prove again. Playing for seeding isn't about pride. It isn't about us against them. Playing for survival is. Playing for respect is. Playing for EACH OTHER is. That's what we can expect to see from the Sixers from here on out.