Everybody feels like they have a personal relationship with their team. If you cross your legs the right way, Derrick Rose misses that foul shot. If Jrue Holiday got hot while your mom was peeing, you force your mom to spend the rest of the game in the bathroom. These are tangible ways that we as viewers can affect the game. And in the NBA Playoffs, those cause-and-effects are even more immediate and important.
Which is why the Sixers, simply to spite me, will win an NBA Championship. This season.
It'll start with the first round series against the Chicago Bulls. Everybody said they'd rather face the Bulls than the Miami Heat because it's a better matchup (true) but nobody really thinks they have a legitimate chance to win the series. A logical fellow would say Chicago in 5. Some would call for a sweep. But that's not what is going to happen. Not at all.
Because the Sixers, the spiteful jerks that they are, are going to beat the Bulls in 7 games. They'll win the first one because it's a crapshoot and Tony Battie and such, but nobody will give them any credit yet. One game does not a series make. Sure. Then the Bulls will win game two by 43 and sanity will be restored. Only then the Sixers will take games 3 and 4 too, behind 30 point nights from Elton Brand and Louis Williams respectively, and then it'll be 3-1 Sixers.
They still won't be getting to the foul line, Evan Turner won't be playing particularly well (chicken-related stomach pains), and Doug Collins' rotations and play-calling will draw the ire of many. But it won't matter because they're up 3-1 on the mighty Bulls and we'll recall the taste of strawberries that had long been forgotten since the days of 20-and-9-ness. But alas, it takes 4 to win the series, and the Bulls will handily take Game 5 with their backs against the wall and steal a Game 6 win in Philadelphia when Andre Iguodala misses four consecutive free throws in crunch time and C.J. Watson channels his inner Devin Harris to sink a half-court buzzer beater to tie the series.
And then the heads will roll and talk and roll again as the teams head back to Chitown for the final time in a deciding Game 7. We'll say it's unlikely. We'll say the momentum is gone. But we'll also say it's one game. And anything can happen in one game. Anything will happen, when Jodie Meeks catches lightning in a bottle to the tune of 25 points (19 in the second half) and exactly one assist, a mid-air split second decision to find a backdoor Thaddeus Young for a game winning layup with 2.2 seconds remaining. A Derrick Rose stepback over Iguodala will fall short, and the Sixers will celebrate in Chicago.
Happiness will ensue. Tepidly, we'll celebrate the team for what it did, dethroning the number one seed and advancing to face the Atlanta Hawks in the second round after they'd knocked off the Celtics in 6 when Rajon Rondo went down with a high ankle sprain and Avery Bradley couldn't hack it as the starting point. We'll start thinking, you know, the Hawks aren't that great. There's a chance they could end up winni-- and before we even finish our sentence, the Sixers will have swept the Hawks, a clean 4-0, and await the winner of an unsurprisingly gritty Pacers/Heat series that goes 6 games.
The owners, meanwhile, will take this opportunity to review what they've got. Fans are showing up to the Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers have been ousted by this point, the Phillies are picking things up but it's still May and Utley hasn't gotten past a few simulated games, and the Eagles are fresh out of Cox puns. Sixermania and exclamation points are everywhere by now. The idea of breaking this team up -- young! exciting! -- is laughable by now. Lou's 4/60 contract practically writes itself. We're still holding our breath on this thing. Hoping they don't resign Spencer Hawes, wondering whether losing is still best for the franchise, and wondering how long they'll be able to milk the life out of a fluky playoff run. All the same, we're rather enjoying ourselves in spite of our insecurities and stubbornness.
Finally, the Heat knock out the pesky Pacers. Tyler Hansbrough has bled everywhere, but Miami advances. So it's a 1985 Georgetown/Nova-esque rematch between the two teams that may as well be playing different sports. It'd be reasonable to think that if the Sixers won one game, it would be the first one. Catch a tired Heat team napping and capitalize on their rest. Nope, Miami wins by 14. LeBron James has 39. He's not taking a second off. Doug Collins stays positive. They know what they have to do. Keep playing them tough, transition offense, more Boss iso's -- that sort of thing. Game Two will be a bounceback game for them. Only it isn't. They lose by 8. Closer, but too many Dwyane Wade daggers to get any closer than 4 during crunch time. They go back to Philly without much hope.
But Miami gets down a ton early. Fueled by the #showyaluv rally towels and the re-emergence of mascot Hip-Hop, the Sixers take game three on the back of rookie Lavoy Allen, who gets the best of Ronny Turiaf and Udonis Haslem since defensive beast Joel Anthony went down with a concussion after taking a Norris Cole elbow to the temple. Lavoy piles on 18 and 17 and Erik Spoelstra waves the white flag midway through the 3rd. It's just one game though. Until, in Game Four, the Sixers keep pace with Miami all game long. Nobody leads by more than 5 throughout, and neither team is shooting over 40% from the field. The game gets sent to overtime when Iguodala gets fouled by LeBron on a midrange jumper and he hits one of two with no time left on the clock. That's Bron's 6th, so he's done for the extra frame. Wade goes back and forth with the Boss the first few minutes, but a steal from Jrue and an outlet to Thad ensures a Sixers win. That's 2-2. Back to Miami.
Now the national media gets on the Heat. Is it possible the Sixers could pull the biggest upset of our time? The Heat players are stalwart in their responses. If they defend their home court, they're fine. Just gotta take care of business. Game 5 doesn't go well when Evan Turner finally breaks out of his playoff slump to score 22 points on 13 shots, with 16 rebounds to go with 4 dimes. Bron switches over to him, but the refs are feeling awful whistle-happy and Evan gets rewarded with a number of trips to the line to LBJ's dismay. The Sixers beat a frustrated Heat team 101-92 for their 3rd straight win, putting them one win away from the title game, where San Antonio already awaits.
Game Six is when Wade goes off for his 45 points, but he's ultimately undone by a 2-14 effort from Chris Bosh, who was also outworked by Brand on the glass and fell victim to a few Nikola Vucevic tipslams as well. Tony Battie is, as expected, pumped on the bench. The game, expected to be close, takes a turn for the insane in the beginning of the 4th, when the Sixers rattle off 12 straight points and keep the Heat at arm's length the rest of the game. In front of their Philadelphia home crowd, they advance to the championship. Billy Penn is pumped, Zumoff is literally bleeding out of every orifice and doesn't notice, and Malik is dishing out more nicknames than is socially responsible -- the place is rocking.
Then they go on to face the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals and, well, you know what happens. You can imagine it just as clearly as I, especially when they go on to sign Dwight Howard to a max contract in the offseason. But what's really important is why. Why do they do this on a year when we all acknowledge they don't have the talent or the chemistry anymore? When ownership is more concerned with awareness than championships. It almost feels fake, that this year of all years is the one that lightning strikes us all simultaneously in the scrotum. So what's the reason for it all? Why does it happen? Why?!
Because the Sixers are jerks. Spiteful, self-aware, jerks. That's SO Sixers. Enjoy your asterisked jerk championship, Sixers fans. I'll be here licking my wounds and pining for a lottery pick. Get back in the bathroom Mom, the game's not over.