I have seen Shawn Bradley and Clarence Weatherspoon play in the ugliest uniforms known to man. I have seen the 76ers play so poorly in such an empty arena a fan yelled out for everyone to hear, “Let ‘Nute bring it up!” (He was referring to the 7′7″ Manute Bol, who one year led a frontcourt along with the 7′6″ Bradley. I believe they wore the numbers 77 and 76, respectively — but don’t let the sideshow act fool you, the Sixers were more Washington Generals than Harlem Globetrotters.)
I have seen the post-Barkley years, the early post-Iverson games and everything in-between. There have been some amazing moments, some incredible comebacks and many losing seasons. Last night might have been the worst game I have ever seen the 76ers play. The Detroit Pistons not only eliminated the 76ers from the playoffs last night, they destroyed them.
A lot of fans didn’t show up for last night’s game; there were only just over 14,000-plus in the Wachovia Center. The 76ers gave away a boatload of free tickets, including my pair, which I won during an email contest during Game 5. (The 76ers hilariously sent out an email saying they had “released more tickets” yesterday afternoon, and it some people even fell for it.)
While the fans didn’t show up, it’s not like the Sixers did either. Yes, the 76ers were not even expected to win a game in this series, and they led twice. Pistons coach Flip Saunders must have told his team something magical at halftime of Game 4, with the 76ers up 10 points looking like they could grab a 3-1 series lead against the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Sixers were simply outclassed in the final 10 quarters of the first round series, but a little effort would have been nice. Last night could have been an Irish wake — when the 76ers rolled off eight consecutive points in the second quarter, the crowd was loud, and excited, even though the 76ers still trailed by double digits — but the Pistons scored the first 10 points en route to a 30-12 lead at the end of 12 minutes.
Thats’ not to say the 76ers season wasn’t fun, unexpected and that the players tossing their shoes to fans in the stands after the game wasn’t a tremendously classy, fitting end to the season. Things are looking up for the Sixers next year; after starting the season 18-30, the 76ers went on a 22-8 stretch before dropping their final four regular season games.
Yes, I am finally excited about the 76ers again for the first time since the team traded for Chris Webber. That didn’t end up turning out so well; let’s hope this year’s second-half finish can carry over into next year.