Stop me if this sounds familiar. The Sixers go into the playoffs as huge underdogs. They end up shocking the world by stealing game one on the road. In the days following, all the "experts"-- including the ones who said they wouldn't win a single game -- said their opponent gave the game away and they still had no chance.
Yeah, in case you haven't noticed, this year's scenario is exactly the same as last year's. Or is it? Simply glancing at the two series, one would think that a game two loss for the Sixers is inevitable, but let me tell you why I think this year will be different.
Many believe the Sixers were lucky to win game one. Oh really? Were the Sixers lucky that Dwight Howard shot 11-13 from the field and 9-12 from the line? Were the Sixers lucky that Dwight dropped 31 and 16? Were the Sixers lucky that the Magic shot 49 percent from the field? No, no, and no.
Last year the Pistons shot 39 percent. Rip Hamilton was 5-17 from the field, Rasheed Wallace was 9-21, Chauncey Billups was 3-9, and Tay Prince was 5-13. They only had only one over-achiever in Jason Maxiell. The Magic on the other hand, received monster performances from Dwight Howard and Courtney Lee.
The Sixers were lucky last year: fact. The Sixers were lucky on Sunday: fiction.
Last year's Pistons were coming off four-straight conference finals and a championship. This year's Magic have won only one more playoff series than the Sixers in the past 5 years.
Last year was Andre Iguodala's first playoff series as "the man" and Thaddeus and Lou's first real playoff experience.
It's safe to say -- especially after watching game one -- Iggy, Lou and Thad are all different players. If you've watched any Sixers games this season you know Thaddeus "baby legs" Young has improved his offensive skills greatly, you know Andre Iguodala's jewels have doubled in size, and you know Lou Williams can score consistently -- none of which were true last season.
Last year: Sixers experience < Pistons experience.
This year: Sixers experience = Magic experience.
Against the Pistons, the Sixers relied on the likes of Reggie Evans, Jason Smith and Rodney Carney to play quality minutes. This year Reggie's minutes have decreased significantly (Thank God) and the Smith/Carney combo has been replaced by the veteran trio of Donny-Ice, Theophilus Ratliff and Royal Ivey. The bench has been upgraded wouldn't you say?
Evans/Smith/Carney <<<< Marshall/Theo/Ivey.
I haven't even mentioned the most exciting new addition -- Marreese Speights. Mark my words, M16 will make a huge difference in one game this series. He's the ultimate X-Factor.
Bottom Line: Are the Sixers immune to a game two letdown? No. But do I feel more confident going into this game two than last year's? Yes. I think the first quarter is going to ultimately determine the outcome.
Less than 24 hours away from game two. Get pumped!