As the NBA regular season reaches an exciting climax, with teams jostling for places in the 2021 Playoffs, the Philadelphia 76ers have already confirmed their participation in the postseason extravaganza. Next comes the chance to make this campaign one for the history books, as fans in Philly get excited about the potential of their basketball team.
Producing what could be their best campaign in almost two decades, the 76ers are now bidding to win a divisional title for the first time since 2001. Currently top of the Eastern Conference and the Atlantic Division, only the Brooklyn Nets can prevent that from happening in the last few games.
However, while the Brooklyn Nets have struggled without their main man James Harding, the Philadelphia 76ers look almost certain to claim the Atlantic Division title, thanks to the consistency of their winning form. The 76ers are priced as 12/1 NBA Championship outsiders in the latest basketball odds, which means they will be hoping to maintain their excellent results.
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) April 29, 2021
Interestingly, the Brooklyn Nets are currently considered to be 12/5 favourites to win the NBA Championship, despite lagging just behind the Philadelphia 76ers. That said, there is always a huge difference between regular season games, compared to the boiling pot pressure of competing in the Playoffs.
Hitting best form at just the right moment is the ambition of every team heading into the Playoffs. Although this will be the fourth consecutive season the 76ers have gone further than the Conference Semifinals, eliminated by the Boston Celtics in 2018 and the Toronto Raptors in 2019. In 2020, they didn't get past the first round, beaten 4-0 by the Celtics.
This year has been a massive improvement for the 76ers, during what has turned into an exceptional regular season campaign. Since his appointment as head coach, Doc Rivers has managed to forge a strong team ethic and brought the best out of his players. When he speaks, they listen, which has turned Philly into a genuine force to be reckoned with.
Doc Rivers says he was recently talking to another coach in the league about Ben Simmons' absence and the coach said to Doc:
"If anyone ever asks you again about how important Ben Simmons is on offense, just show them the last 4 games." pic.twitter.com/iKhyGq3BBX
— brianseltzer (@brianseltzer) April 26, 2021
Individually, several key players are also producing the best form of their careers. Since winning the 2018 Rookie of the Year award, Ben Simmons has thrived under the guidance of Doc Rivers. The 24-year-old Australian point guard is the team leader for steals and assists, while rating amongst the best official NBA statistics for steals.
The international flavour continues to enjoy success at the 76ers, with Cameroonian centre Joel Embiid also enjoying a great season. The 27-year-old is the team leader for points, rebounds, and blocks. He also boasts one of the highest points-per-game averages in the entire NBA, ranking third, just behind Bradley Beal of the Wizards and Stephen Curry of the Warriors.
All of these factors will be crucial in the NBA Playoffs, as the 76ers aim to continue punching above their perceived weight. At the start of the season they were given zero hopes of winning any honours, yet here we are at the end of the regular season campaign, with Philly in with a genuine shot at their first NBA Championship since 1983.