It’s been a stellar season for the Philadelphia 76ers, who garnered 54 wins and 28 losses and emerged as the third seed in the NBA’s Eastern Conference.
The Sixers begin their postseason Saturday, hosting the Brooklyn Nets in Round 1 of the playoffs. Plus, the stars seem to be aligning for Sixers center Joel Embiid to be named the league’s Most Valuable Player. He was the runner-up in MVP voting in both 2021 and 2022.
Jennifer: Well, let’s look at the competition. It’s the first time the Sixers have played this team since it unloaded its two biggest star players who, more or less, got the Nets to the post-season.
Kate: Yeah, it’s very interesting that the team that everyone expected the Nets to be at this point in the season is gone and on other teams, one of which made the postseason.
Kevin Durant to the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference and Kyrie Irving is with the Dallas Mavericks. It is very much a young, fun Brooklyn Nets team. While they have a lot of talent, I am not afraid of doing any serious damage to the Sixers’ psyche or their physicality in the first round. So I think it could provide the Sixers with a fantastic opportunity to get set and really get into things in the second round.
Jennifer: This has been the 76ers’ best regular season since Allen Iverson took the team to the finals. I think it was 2001. What do the Sixers really have to do to ignite this city starting Saturday?
Kate: The louder they can be in all aspects of their performance in game one will be a good start. Whether that is their superstar Joel Embiid scoring 50 points, whether it’s their second superstar James Harden dishing out assists, whether it’s the young up-and-coming superstar Tyrese Maxey having one of his fantastic games in South Philly. As everybody knows, getting into the playoffs is nothing new for the Sixers. Even getting past the first round is nothing new. Everybody has said to me, “Talk to me when we get to the second round, and let me know how we do there,” because it’s really going to come down to how they do further in the playoffs.
Jennifer: Well, Embiid has had a great year. He led the league in scoring. James Harden led the league in assists, often assisting Embiid. Some fans say when Embiid and Harden take a seat during the game, the team can struggle. Are we lacking depth on the bench?
Kate: Well, I think anytime two of the best players, not just currently in the NBA but when they retire they’re going to be some of the best guys to ever play the game, I think there’s always going to be a drop-off. But the good news is that the depth this season is better than it has been in a while. Now the question is, can they perform, right? Because there’s a different level of consistency for guys who are coming off the bench than the superstars. But when those guys have performed well this season, there hasn’t been a drop-off and that is when the Sixers have had some of those sensational victories.
Jennifer: Now, the next round of playoffs creates what a lot of fans and analysts are saying, a do-or-die scenario. The Sixers have been petering out in the second round in recent years. And there’s talk of, you know, maybe players or coaching shifts if the team were to dead end in round two. What are your thoughts about that?
Kate: The expectations are incredibly high because of the individual talent they have for players, because of the great coach they have in Doc Rivers, and the staff that he has set up around him. And because of what you said, that this has been the best regular season that they have had since back in 2000/2001, when Allen Iverson and company were the last Sixers team to make it all the way to the NBA Finals. So as the athletes like to say and the broadcasters like to follow, we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves. Let’s get past the first round and then it’s going to be a really tough battle in the second round. But let’s get past that too. Let’s at least make it to the conference finals where there’s two teams left in the East, two teams left in the West. Heck, if we can make it all the way to the NBA finals, that would be great too. I don’t want to get that far ahead, but I’m happy to chat with you if and when we get there, and we can talk about the repercussions then.
Jennifer: You are very diplomatic. Joel Embiid is a huge contender for the NBA’s Most Valuable Player Award. What have you observed courtside that is so great.
Kate: That he is the most dominant player in the NBA right now, Jennifer. Like so many MVP awards in every league, every person who has one of those votes, I do not but a lot of members of the media do, national media, you define it differently. Some people are looking just at the statistics and other people just pull back and let their eyes kind of do the voting and talking for them. And so many other NBA players, when asked who is your MVP, have said there’s no doubt: Joel Embiid. He is the leading scorer for the second straight season when it comes to points per game in the NBA. No center has won that in back-to-back seasons since the 1970s, since Bob McAdoo, since before I was alive. And on top of that, he is the anchor of the Sixers’ defense. And to me, that’s what sets him apart from Nikola Jokic, who is the guy in Denver who’s won the last two NBA MVPs. I think he’s an incredible player. But when it comes to defense, there were multiple games this year that Joel cemented in the win column for the Sixers with a game-ending block, running down the floor, soaring through the air, just doing things that I have not seen any other player in the NBA do.
Jennifer: What do you think? Embiid for MVP or maybe even mayor of Philadelphia?
Kate: I think he’ll have a shot at that. I think the whole team would have a chance at that if they’re able to do what hasn’t been done here in 40 years.
Jennifer: Kate Scott, Sixers play-by-play TV announcer on NBC Sports Philadelphia, Thank you and have a ball in the postseason.
Kate: Thank you so much. Hope everybody tunes in. It’s going to be a really fun ride. Go Sixers.
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