By Sterling Pingree
“The Process” was supposed to sweep the Kyrie-less Celtics. The C’s are too thin to beat a 76ers team who laid waste to the NBA in April. Here’s the thing about April in the NBA and I was yelling this from the top of the Greenway Equipment Studio in real time: APRIL IN THE NBA DOESN’T MATTER!! More than half the league is tanking for draft picks and the top seeds are generally resting starters the entire month because their leads are safe because the teams in pursuit have known their playoff fate since roughly November.
Somehow this evidence was completely ignored by sports media in the mania to anoint the 76ers the next “It” team and isn’t that what sports in 2018 has become? A race to anoint. Every game 1,500 more people pronounce Lebron James the greatest ever and it’s okay to do this because if you’re wrong in the moment, there is still a chance that in 2-3 years you’ll be right.
All of that being said, I think the Celtics might have broken the Philadelphia 76ers. Not permanently, but for 2018 they have. I’m not sure what has happened to Ben Simmons, but something has occurred. He had 1 point in game 2 and essentially melted down in front of a national audience in game 3. Some would say melted down was a little strong for a guy who put up 16 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists, but starting with the missed dunk in the 4th quarter, Simmons became a liability down the stretch and in overtime. Don’t forget, on Terry Rozier’s steal that set up seemingly the game winning layup with 1.7 seconds left in regulation, Redick’s pass looked like a give and go to Simmons. To the objective observer with no knowledge of the 76ers offense, it looked like Simmons cut towards the basket when he was supposed to set up at the top of the key where Redick threw the ball.
Brent Brown is in a no-win situation. Brown has played Simmons down the stretch, Simmons has contributed nothing and has acted as a detriment at times. T.J. McConnell hasn’t missed a shot since game one and has caused way more problems for the Celtics when he’s in the game, but if the 76ers lose with McConnell in the game and Simmons on the bench, Brown will probably be fired. In game 2, the 76ers opened up a lead with 5 minutes left with Simmons sitting on the bench since midway through the 3rd quarter. What happened? Simmons went back in and the Celtics immediately flipped the game.
The confetti falling prematurely from the ceiling of the Wells Fargo Center Saturday afternoon in a lot of ways is symbolic for the current sporting culture. We are so eager to celebrate the moment, in the moment that we’re okay with jumping to conclusions and making assumptions. Belinelli looked like he was pretty deep in the corner and the ball went in at the buzzer, thus it must have won the game. In our haste to crown the next big thing in the NBA, we overlook all other outcomes because the masses demand the creation of new super teams. In what has been called by many as the most open run to the NBA Finals in years, here we are on the brink of Celtics vs Cavaliers and Rockets vs Warriors with a possible 4th consecutive installment of Warriors vs Lebron waiting for us in the Finals.
Let’s not over complicate the NBA or fool ourselves. There is only a couple of teams that can win the championship and they’re the same favorites we had before the season regardless of injury. It’s the Cavs, Celtics, Warriors and Rockets. Don’t anoint false idols or dump confetti prematurely.
Sterling Pingree (@SterlingPingree on Twitter) is a co-host on The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter@DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.