|76ers slumping entering first postseason since '05|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 18 April 2008 00:17|
The four-game skid Philadelphia takes into its first playoff series since 2005 is enough of a concern without Detroit standing there as its first-round opponent. The Pistons earned the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference and have played in five straight conference finals, a round the Sixers haven't reached since 2001.
``We don't have to spell it out that we're the underdogs in this situation,'' said Sixers guard Lou Williams. ``Everybody realizes that.''
True, but it's also the way the Sixers (40-42) spent most of the season and it rarely mattered in the second half.
If the Sixers are swept in four games, lose in seven, or even pull off a series upset, coach Maurice Cheeks and his team have already had a successful year. No one on the Sixers could have seriously expected a playoff run, even in the mediocre East, when they started the season 5-13 or were 18-30 on Feb. 4.
Somehow, with a fast-breaking offense, they got there. Now Cheeks, who helped lead the Sixers to the 1983 NBA title as a player, has his first chance at winning a playoff game in his three seasons as Philadelphia's coach.
If only the Sixers were on the kind of hot streak they had going in March when they went 11-4 and flirted with the No. 4 or 5 seeds. Instead, they lost four straight, including two losses to nonplayoff teams (Indiana, Charlotte) and a loss to Cleveland that hinged on a foul called with 0.2 seconds left in the game.
``We're still confident,'' said Sixers guard Andre Miller. ``We've just had a few lapses. We played some tough teams and it's going to happen like that sometimes.''
Just not in the playoffs.
The Sixers play Game 1 on Sunday at Detroit (59-23). Game 2 is Wednesday, also on the floor of the Central Division champions. The 76ers return for their first home playoff games since they lost to the Pistons in 2005 on April 25 for Game 3 and April 27 for Game 4.
The Sixers need to win some home games for a shot at an upset because winning multiple games in Detroit would be a difficult feat for any team, especially in the playoffs. Detroit finished 34-7 at home and the Sixers were only 18-23 on the road.
``I think we expect to win,'' Williams said. ``We feel very confident in the way we've been playing even though we've lost (four) in a row. I think some of that is due to getting ready for the playoffs.''
The Sixers don't have an All-Star on their roster and key rotation players like Williams, Rodney Carney, Thaddeus Young and Jason Smith have never played in the postseason. Leading scorer Andre Iguodala (19.9 ppg) has all of five games of postseason experience, and none the past two years.
``The really exciting part about it all is these guys are 19, 20, 21 years old,'' Cheeks said. ``Hopefully, they have a lot of good basketball in them.''
What Philadelphia does have, what provides a glimmer of hope, is two straight wins over the Pistons. The season series is tied 2-2, with the 76ers winning in Detroit 83-82 on March 12 and again in Philadelphia 101-94 on April 9. That victory put the Sixers two games over .500, yet they haven't won again.
``One thing Coach Cheeks has always said is, 'Come the playoffs, any team can win,''' Williams said. ``Everybody has an opportunity to win.''