The last time I wrote about Allen Iverson and his friends, the Sixers were still the early season surprise. Now, they’re the late season question:
Are they really the beasts of the East?
I still say the answer is yes.
Why have they struggled lately?
They lost five in a row because Allen Iverson was hurt. Now, he’s back, and they will put the rest of the weak Eastern conference back where they belong.
Despite a major mid-season trade, the Sixers are still using the same basic formula that makes them way better than Milwaukee, Charlotte, New York and Miami: Hard work plus intelligence plus speed equals lots of victories.
Dikembe Mutombo isn’t as fast as Theo Ratliff, but he is even better at grabbing rebounds and can still block a shot or two. He also makes the Sixers even more perfect as the NBA-version of Georgetown basketball.
As for the rest of the East, the Sixers really don’t have much to worry about.
Charlotte is an up-and-down team that relies too heavily on players like Jamal Mashburn. Mashburn is extremely talented, but he’s not a star. He’s good for 20 points in a big game, but he’s not the kind of guy you want taking a game-winning shot. Throw in the fact that Syracuse-alum Derrick Coleman sometimes plays for them, and they’re easy to dismiss.
New York has a great track record of suddenly becoming awesome during the playoffs. This year, though, the Georgetown connection is mostly gone. Othella Harrington plays occasionally, but he’s not Patrick Ewing. The Knicks do have some great scorers in Sprewell, Houston and Rice, but they don’t have the kind of team personality that the Sixers have or the Knicks of the past had. Basically, they’re an average team that has some history in a city that gets a disproportionate amount of media attention.
Milwaukee is to offense what Philly is to overall awesome-ness. These guys can light it up. Ray Allen?despite being from UConn?is pretty cool, and, as Chris Webber says, he is “a great actor.” Glen Robinson is not a very big dog, but he is a lot like Mashburn. He is so talented that he can get 20 points in a big game. Throw in the fact that their 6th man, Tim Thomas, is still bitter about the fact that the Sixers gave up on him, and the Bucks are a significant threat.
There is one big problem though: they have nothing inside, meaning that Iverson can go to the hole as often as he wants without much penalty. Unless they hit 50 percent of their threes, they can’t beat Philly head to head.
Philly’s most interesting opponent will be Miami and newly healthy Alonzo Mourning. He partially neutralizes Philly’s Georgetown advantage, and he is one of the best defenders in the league. Mourning gives Miami’s defense the inside presence needed to shut down a team like Philly. The question will be offense. Anthony Mason isn’t a great scorer. He wills his way to a lot of points, but guys like George Lynch and Ty Hill will shut him down in the playoffs. Their best hope for offense againt Philly is Eddie Jones, and he’s injured right now. He’s too big for Iverson or Eric Snow to handle, but he’s also not the ideal guy to follow Iverson all over the court.
Oh yeah, Toronto has this team called the Raptors. They’ve got Vince Carter. He’s awesome, but they are from Canada, so they probably won’t do anything. Count them out.
If anyone is going to take down Philly, it’s going to be someone with a Georgetown player, but Miami has a tendency to not to do well in the playoffs, especially if they have to play the Knicks before the Sixers. Even without Ewing, Georgetown still rules the East.