Beating Cleveland Cavaliers 132-130 in a roller coaster game extends Philadelphia Sixers winning run to 13. The last time Sixers won this many games on the bounce lasted from December 1984 to January 1985.
Philadelphia is on course to end the regular season with its highest total of wins since clinching 56 in 2000-2001 season.
The team sits third in the Eastern Conference and has made it to the playoffs after missing out for five straight seasons.
Everything the Sixers touch turns to gold nowadays. Long gone are the injury ridden seasons and poor production from high draft picks who stunted each other’s growth through no fault of theirs. Piling up players in the same position with similar traits does that to any franchise.
Key picks Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz have been impressive after shaking off injury issues. Though Embiid is suffering from an orbital injury, he is in a far better condition than Kyrie Irving of Boston Celtics.
Irving was recently ruled out for the rest of the season due to a setback in his recovery; add that to Gordon Hayward’s opening day injury and Marcus Smart’s absence and Philadelphia can count itself very lucky.
Ex General Manger Sam Hinkie prepared the foundation and Jerry and Bryan Colangelo have built on it.
Securing bumper but short contracts for veterans JJ Reddick and Amir Johnson is a shrewd move that has complemented the works of the young ones.
Should the standings remain same, Sixers will be up against Miami Heat in the playoffs first round which is a winnable matchup. Unless he makes a quick recovery, the world will be deprived of the latest on court, off court battle between Embiid and Hassan Whiteside as the two behemoths make for a rare all Center battle in the modern Point Guard heavy league.
Sixers opponent Cleveland Cavaliers are having a bad season in comparison but the playoffs are near and winning there matters most. The Cavs have been here before even if only five players from their last trip to the NBA Finals remain on the roster. Despite the team’s struggles, Cavs are expected to win the NBA title mainly as a means to get star player LeBron James to resign when his contract runs out after this season. Should Cleveland fail to win the Championship, there is a high chance James will leave the team to another that gives him the best to close down on Michael Jordan’s trophy tally. Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers and Houston Rockets are the biggest suitors aside Philadelphia Sixers.
However Houston and the LA teams play in the tougher Western Conference where the path to an NBA Final is complex and difficult. The Eastern Conference has an easier path and gives LeBron more opportunities to win titles which give Sixers a big chance of landing the coveted Forward. Philadelphia has a ton of cash to splash around this offseason since its young guns are not signing bumper deals any time soon. With the exception of Robert Covington and Embiid’s major contracts kicking in, management has little headache regarding salary unlike many teams who don’t have much wiggle room.
As a superstar, James will command at least $40 million per season just like his contemporaries James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Steph Curry and Philadelphia can pay. On the court, LeBron’s presence is the last piece the team needs to win its third NBA title because as good as they have been this season, Sixers lack the earth shattering personality to create something out of nothing. James is that guy; after leading as many as 30 points, the Sixers blew the chance to put the game away allowing Cleveland to almost steal it. James’ fit will be perfect as Embiid, Reddick and Covington’s three point shooting abilities create enough room for James and Simmons driving lanes not to be clogged.
While there is little range to his game, Ben Simmons is contributing at a high level beyond a rookie player. The Australian registered his 12th triple double of the season against Cavs to become the first player to do so in a game LeBron James has done same. Aside sharing similar playing styles, Simmons and James share the same agent and signed to Klutch Sports Agency; a situation which makes it a whole lot easier to throw in informal pitches.
After looking a distant outsider in the chase for LeBron for a long time, Philadelphia has emerged as the best destination for King James. Philadelphia’s combination of young talented players on cheap contracts with suitable playing styles is hard to overlook.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter