Echoes of Iverson and 2001: the throne of the East will pass through Philadelphia

The Sixers 2020-21 journey has culminated where they wanted in Philadelphia, where they have worked to be all season, the most consistent team of those who really have aspirations to win the Conference: them, Nets, Bucks … and Heat? With a placid victory against the limp Magic (122-97), the Sixers made it 48-23 with one game to go and they finally secured first place in the East. The prize is obvious: they will have a home court factor during all the playoffs in their conference. And although this year is not so important, things of the pandemic, it does have weight: the Sixers are the best home in the East and the second best in the NBA (31-5 the Jazz, 28-7 them), they have twice as many away losses (7 by 16) and they will be able to fill in the qualifying rounds 50% capacity of the Wells Fargo Center. That’s already close to 10,000 fans. A not inconsiderable figure in a city where the stands, when the big games arrive, make a lot, a lot of noise.

After a couple of losses against the Pacers and Heat, one without Joel Embiid and the other with the center in poor condition, the Sixers received the salve of Orlando Magic, a team that’s only better (21-50 now) than the Pistons in the East, who has been thinking of little more than the draft for a long time and had Ignas Brazdeikis as the top scorer (21 points, 6 rebounds). His list of casualties is worth seeing: Fultz, Isaac, Ross, Porter Jr, Carter-Williams, Okeke … The reconstruction, official after the departures of Vucevic and Fournier, will not be easy but it is underway after two seasons falling in first round a playoffs that this time they will see on television, of course.

The Sixers will wait for the play-in rival, from where they will receive the second classified, the one who wins the last and final game. The wild Wizards or the Celtics, their great historical rival and a team that has eliminated them in two of the last three seasons, can still loom around., in Florida with a 4-0 that ended the Brett Brown stage. What has come next is the arrival of Daryl Morey to the offices and Doc Rivers to the bench and a new competitive impulse to a team that needed it. So what will finish leading the East for the first time since 2001, the year of the last Finals (4-1 against the Lakers). The year Iverson was MVP, Mutombo Defender of the Year, McKie Best Sixth Man and Larry Brown Coach of the Year.

It will be the fourth season in a row in the playoffs after the ugly (but useful, something is something) trance of the Process, an abrupt reconstruction that included 47 victories in three seasons… and the arrival via draft of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Useful, yes, but tough for a proud franchise that hasn’t won a title since 1983 and that the assault will begin on May 22, in just one week.

Against the Magic, no starter went from 26 minutes after a 39-19 in the second quarter (66-43) to halftime. Joel Embiid, after his trance due to illness in recent days, added 13 points and 11 rebounds between chants asking for an MVP that will be for Nikola Jokic, Simmons finished with 13 points and 9 assists and Seth Curry made almost everything he shot: 20 points in 23 minutes on 7/9 shooting.

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