It would be fair to say that fans of Philadelphia’s major sports teams have had plenty of misery to contend with over the past few months.
The tale of woe started last November when the city’s soccer and baseball teams came up agonizingly short in their respective championships.
The Union lost a penalty shootout against Los Angeles FC in the MLS Cup final, while the Phillies were beaten 4-2 by the Houston Astros in the World Series.
While those defeats left Philadelphia sports bettors out of pocket, they had the chance of redemption when the Eagles made it to the NFL’s Super Bowl. Many punters boosted their bankroll by playing tournaments on Bitcoin poker sites, and they waded into the Eagles in the outright market as if losing was out of the question. However, the Kansas City Chiefs had other ideas, recording a thrilling 38-35 victory to leave Philadelphia sports fans heartbroken again.
The result, unfortunately, marked the second time in history that Philadelphia had teams lose three finals in the same season.
In 1979/80, the Flyers lost the Stanley Cup final, the 76ers were defeated in the NBA Finals, and the Eagles were beaten in the Super Bowl. With the Flyers having a miserable campaign in the National Hockey League, Philadelphia must now rely on the Sixers to put a smile back on the city’s face.
The Sixers have reached the playoffs in each of the past five seasons, progressing to the Eastern Conference semi-finals on four occasions. They are on track to qualify for the post-season again, although the bookmakers think they will have their work cut out to reach the NBA Finals.
Despite this, their recent performances suggest it would be foolish to underestimate the Sixers’ chances of ending Philadelphia’s losing streak. In a recent run of five games in seven days on the road, the Sixers recorded victories over Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, Indiana Pacers, and Minnesota Timberwolves. Their only defeat came against the Dallas Mavericks, where a disappointing display in the third period scuppered their hopes of winning.
With the Sixers’ roster missing some key players for the road trip, the 4-1 outcome takes on even greater significance.
Seven of their next ten fixtures are on the road, and they will be keen to continue in the same vein as they strive to secure a high seed in the playoffs.
Head coach Doc Rivers has worked hard to ensure the players live up to expectations, regardless of whether they are playing at home or away. That ethos should stand them in good stead as the campaign progresses and could play a crucial role when the post-season comes around.
In addition to their solid results on the road, one of the primary reasons why the Sixers are genuine contenders for the NBA championship is the link-up between James Harden and Joel Embiid. When the pair are on the court together, the Sixers’ offensive output booms – a factor that should serve them well when the season reaches the business end.
Harden’s form is particularly noteworthy, given that he is out of contract at the end of the season, and his future is very much up in the air. He has the option of triggering an additional year on his contract with the Sixers, but there have been strong rumors that he wants to return to the Houston Rockets. If that is the case, the 33-year-old will be fired up to end his time with the Sixers by finally getting his hands on an NBA championship.
The Rockets are a long way short of winning the title, which means the Sixers are Harden’s best chance of achieving his dream. While Harden and Embiid are undoubtedly the Sixers’ standout duo, they are not alone in giving the team a genuine shot at success.
Tyrese Maxey has become a vital cog since regaining his place in the line-up following a foot injury, bringing an exciting dynamic to the team’s attacking play. He is averaging 20.2 points per game this season, and his ability at both ends of the court makes him the perfect support act for Harden and Embiid.
Maxey was in fine form during the Sixers’ recent road trip and is the type of player who makes others look better when he is on the court. Given the Sixers are in the same Conference as the Bucks and Boston Celtics, progressing to the NBA Finals will not be easy. While they have defeated the Bucks twice in three attempts this season, they have been unable to defeat the Celtics in any of their three meetings.
If the Sixers can safely navigate their way past that pair in the playoffs, they could end Philadelphia’s sporting misery.
However, recent history suggests the city may have to wait a little longer before one of its teams wins a major championship.
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