By Art Beitchman
The Sixers are coming off a 52-win season that no one expected, and they beat Miami Heat in five games to advance to the conference finals.
That should classify the Sixers as having a wonderfully successful season.
But losing in five games to the hated decades-old rival Boston Celtics just can’t sit right with Sixers Nation, and it doesn’t!
The 76ers’ defense was exposed badly in this series — no answers for stopping or slowing down rookie Jason Tatum, Al Horford, or Terry Rozier, who appeared to get whatever they wanted all five games.
Defending the 3-point line was non-existent all series long.
On the other side of the coin, Sixer 3-ball shooters had been running wild the last two months, but the Celtics’ D squelched that major advantage too.
Making matters worse, if possible, was small forward Robert Covington’s hypnotic play throughout the 2018 playoffs, but even more prevalent in the Celtics series, scoring zero field goals in two losses. His field goal percentage dipped to 32.5%, 31.3% from 3-point land, virtually giving the Sixers no scoring punch when it mattered most.
It would be a shock to see Covington come back in a PHILA uniform next season.
The Sixers played a gritty game 5, taking a small lead late in the 4th quarter, but Boston scored when it needed to. The 76ers got outshot from the FT line 41-31, and with the game on the line the refs swallowed their whistles as Joel Embiid got mugged three times by Boston’s newest goon Aaron Baynes, just too much for the 76ers to overcome after a furious 4th quarter comeback.
It was a good season for the upstart Sixers, but there is still work to do this offseason to truly become one of the NBA’s top echelon teams.