Elise Amendola/Associated Press
Only three times since 1985, the year the lottery was instituted, have we seen a team jump from the lottery one year to the Finals the next. There were the 2001-02 Nets, a squad that traded for future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd after a 26-win season. There were the 2007-08 Celtics, who captured a championship just one season after winning a measly 24 games, but that was thanks to trades for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. And then there were the 2014-15 Cavaliers, who, one season after winning just 33 games, rode LeBron James’ Cleveland return to a Finals run.
This Sixers team is different. By now you’re acquainted with the story. Four years in the league’s cellar, a process billed as, well, you know, only to reemerge from the dust as one of NBA’s premier teams. The Sixers won 28 games last season. This year they racked up 52, earned a No. 3 seed, ran the Miami Heat off the floor in the first round and, with the conference around them crumbling, suddenly morphed into favorites in the East.
It’s important to remember that, aside from a few exceptions containing outstanding circumstances, NBA teams never reach the peak without stumbling a few times first. It’s important to remember that the Sixers’ jump forward this season has been the result of organic growth and health—not an injection of shiny stars, unlike those other three examples.
It’s important to remember all this as we sit back and digest the beating the Boston Celtics laid on the Sixers Monday night during Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup, a