Well, well, well. If it isn’t playoff season. I’m sure a lot of you have been anxiously refreshing the blog on a daily basis waiting for the return of Flyers Kitten. The heartbeat of last year’s Stanley Cup Finals run is an elusive beast. Will Flyers kitten show up in time for the first round series with Buffalo? Allow me to channel Peter King with my answer: Possibly. What we know for sure, though, is that there is a new hoss in town, and that’s Sixers Mini-Donkey. Since I went to a Sixers game last month, putting me among the elite few thousand fans who have done that this year, I’m pretty much a die-hard. Last night the Sixers first round playoff match-up was set. Your opponent: The Miami Heat. And, with that, things become very interesting.
Two random bits of information stick out for me from the beginning of this season. I heard them both in passing, just general background noise for my day. The first was a Sports Guy podcast where he chose the Sixers under for regular season wins as one of his best bets for the year. I don’t remember what that number was, but it was in the 30s. The second was an interview with Dei Lynam that I heard right before the season started. Given her close family connection to the city and the Sixers you could tell that Dei probably wanted to be optimistic about this year, but she cautioned everyone about a brutal opening month on the schedule. It could be ugly early, and the Sixers might never recover or buy into what Doug Collins was doing. Well, it was ugly in the beginning, but somehow the Sixers turned things around (probably because 2/3 of the league is awful and doesn’t try), and they scratched their way to a seven seed and a date with The Miami Collusion.
I’ll come clean here and admit that as fun as Sixers Mini-Donkey is, and even though it is hard to suppress that personality, I’m not sure we’re talking about the Sixers if they aren’t playing the Heat. They would have entered any series, whether it be Miami, Boston, or Orlando as huge underdogs, but since all eyes are going to be on Miami and their playoff run will covered to the point of exhaustion by the national media–the Sixers become very relevant. Because of the distaste for the Heat, in the next week or two there might be more Sixers fans outside the city than in it.
I wonder if people still have venom left for Miami. Back in the days after The Decision the taste was still fresh in everyone’s mouth. I can’t wait to root against Miami in the playoffs. Whoever is playing Miami will be my team. This is the kind of thing you heard all the time, but the Decision feels like ages ago now. Will people really get behind the Sixers?
I have a feeling that the haters will be late to the party. They’ll probably assume the Sixers have no shot to beat Miami, and so they’ll save up their energy for a 2nd round series, or better yet the conference final. Because, honestly, it might take a lot more than some goodwill to push Philadelphia past Miami in this series. If the Sixers happen to steal a game, though, if they can somehow lull Miami to sleep and come back home tied at one game apiece, well, then the attention will start to mount. I think Sixers fever could catch hold, but it won’t really be pro-Philly, it’ll just be, please rid us of these Miami Heat.
I can’t come up with a scenario where the Sixers have a shot. Mini-Donkey says the fighting Zumoffs in five, but that seems unlikely. Has there ever been a bigger discrepancy in talent in the starting fives for a playoff series? I’m not trying to disrespect the Sixers, but just throw out all the intangibles, look at this from an NFL combine perspective. It’s pretty shocking. I’ve heard some people claim Miami is the best match-up for Philly out of the Eastern Conference powers. I’ll nod blindly, because I have no idea, but some quick research yields the fact that the Heat swept the Sixers this year, won each game by at least nine points.
I actually remember the most recent contest. And maybe the only one played this year after the Sixers found their stride. It was close for three quarters. The hometown boys were right there, but lost touch in the end. I think that is the game that is giving people all this hope. I appreciate the optimism.
The last interesting bit of this series, something to compliment the national hate on Miami and the possibility of a massive Sixers upset, is there are some that think the Heat will find yet another gear for their playoff run. They’ll finish the regular season as the 2nd seed, they’ll win 57 or 58 games, but some people think there is much more there. I think the day after these signings took place, some people were thinking 70 wins. This was before we realized there were about 6 guys on the whole roster, but still you could say this regular season was a disappointment for Miami. Can they rectify that? They aren’t going to get any deeper. It’d be hard for Wade and LeBron to play much better, but I think some people think that the best grouping of talent will always win out, and that’s probably Miami. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.