The Philadelphia 76ers played the second of back-to-back games against inferior competition on April 11. Normally, Sixers fans like myself could breathe easy at that prospect, but things are much more difficult now. As such, even after the Sixers throttled the New Jersey Nets on April 10 and visited the lowly Toronto Raptors the next night, there was still reason to expect the worst.
Philadelphia didn't worry about Toronto in April 4 and then got destroyed by 21 points at home. But a week later and in a different location, the Sixers did what they should have done the first time and took care of the Raptors by 93-75.
It wasn't an easy outing anyway, since both teams slugged through the first three quarters. The Sixers held a 63-57 advantage going into the final 12 minutes, although it was a 14 point lead early in the second half. Yet with the Raptors starting to come back, it could have led to a backbreaking come-from-ahead loss that would further torpedo this season.
Instead, the Sixers found their touch again and took off on an 11-0 run in the fourth. Despite scoring in the low 20's in the previous three quarters, Philadelphia ran off 30 points in the last one while Toronto was held to just 18. What's more, the Sixers ran up their shooting percentage to over 53 percent as the Raptors only got over 36 percent.
With that stat, it is a wonder that the game stayed close as long as it did. However, the Sixers still got their second straight blowout win - and more importantly, their second straight victory period.
Of course, for the second night in a row, the win was diluted by the Boston Celtics winning at the same time over the Atlanta Hawks, keeping them three games ahead in the Atlantic Division. Yet the New York Knicks provided a bigger service by beating the Milwaukee Bucks and dropping the No. 9 team in the East three games back of the No. 7 Sixers.
Although dominating the Nets and Raptors doesn't solve Philadelphia's problems - just like destroying poor opponents in January was fool's gold - it does at least make a playoff berth more likely again. The Atlantic Division might be a different matter at this point, given how the Celtics beat the Miami Heat and Hawks in this same span.
The Celtics beat playoff teams and look more like a division champion as a result, whereas the Sixers beat cellar dwellers and only look like a mere playoff team. But at this point, getting back in the habit of blowing out inferior teams is all the Sixers can do. At the very least, they're doing it better than they did before this week started.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and 76ers fan.
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