Well, it’s here.
After a season that began in October, paused in March, and resumed in July, the Sixers will commence with what they hope to be a lengthy postseason run in August.
This season, nothing went according to plan for Brett Brown’s squad. After an encouraging start to the season, the team sputtered after Christmas. The team’s two major offseason moves (swapping Jimmy Butler for Josh Richardson, signing Al Horford instead of JJ Redick) showed diminishing returns. Richardson, while an effortful and accomplished defender, showed neither the secondary ball-handling acumen nor long-range acuity the team hoped for after his acquisition. Horford, despite an earnest effort to raise his 3-point attempts per game, neither shot nor defended well enough to keep the big man from being benched in lieu of an additional wing player.
Ben Simmons still didn’t shoot and then he broke his back. Joel Embiid sleepwalked through many of the games he started, and then he hurt his shoulder.
Then COVID-19 struck, and everything stopped. When things resumed in the Orlando bubble in July, the team and Sixers fans felt rejuvenated. Ben Simmons was healthy. Team chemistry was better than ever. No more away games (kinda).
And then, Ben Simmons got hurt again. A loose body in his knee led to surgery, which led to the end of his season, before the playoffs were even set to start.
And now we’re here. The playoffs start tonight. Al Horford is starting again. The Sixers are the freaking 6-seed, and playing the Boston Celtics.
You’re not alone if you’re a Sixers fan feeling a certain gravitational pull toward the offseason — you feel so fatigued by this frustrating team and this frustrating year that you’re ready to start over.
I’m not going to tell you that you’re wrong for feeling that way. I’m not even going to tell you that burying your head in the sand until the team’s dismissal from the postseason is a bad move. It’s smart! Submit to that inertia, if you can.
But if you can’t, the Sixers are about to play the Celtics in the playoffs, and it’s time to talk yourself back in. Sports fandom is no place for logic and reason. To bastardize Alfred Lord Tennyson, ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do and die.
So, yeah. Tonight, the 43-30 Sixers begin their first-round series against the 48-24 Celtics. In the bubble, Philly went 4-4, Boston went 5-3.
G: Shake Milton
G: Josh Richardson
F: Tobias Harris
F: Al Horford
C: Joel Embiid
G: Kemba Walker
G: Jaylen Brown
F: Jayson Tatum
F: Gordon Hayward
C: Daniel Theis
Who guards Tatum with Ben Simmons out? Where do you hide Shake Milton? Is Matisse Thybulle ready to shoulder a larger responsibility under a playoff microscope? Can Embiid really carry the underdog Sixers through this series to fight another round?
We’ll start finding out together, tonight.
I’ll see you there.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Boston Celtics, Game 1
Where: ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Orlando, FL (The Bubble)
When: 6:30pm ET
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic