Playoff Basketball Is Different Basketball

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Jump in the time machine and go back a few weeks. The Philadelphia 76ers were cruising to a series win over the Miami Heat and pundits were all but handing them a spot in the NBA Finals.

Meanwhile, the Cleveland Cavaliers were in a 7-game dogfight with the Indiana Pacers, and social media was all over LeBron’s lack of support from his teammates.

Guess what? The Sixers are one game away from a sweep at the hands of the gutsy Celtics, while the Cavs are likely to close out the pathetic Raptors in Game 4 in Cleveland.

And now, the cynics and LeBron haters are going to have to face facts – the Cavs could end up back in the Finals, even with a cast of characters many call the worst LeBron’s ever played with.

Today’s games were a perfect example of playoff basketball and how the NBA regular season in many ways is meaningless.

The Sixers came out strong after dropping the first two games in Boston. Ben Simmons, who scored just one point in Game Two, was more aggressive, while Joel Embiid threw down a massive dunk at the expense of poor Aron Baynes.

But when the going got tough, the Sixers panicked. Three times Philly handed the ball to Boston in crucial situations. They blew it defensively, offensively and on the sidelines and now find themselves in a 3-0 series hole.

Playoff basketball.

Marco Bellinelli sent the game to OT but forced up dreadful shots at the wrong times on the way to a 4/12 shooting day. Dario Saric continued his woeful series (4/11), while Robert Covington was 0/8 from the field.

And Simmons threw a casual, one-handed pass that Horford picked off and ultimately cost the Sixers the game.

Playoff basketball.

Boston’s playing it and they’ve been sensational, led by Horford and a cast of kids including Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier and super rookie Jayson Tatum.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens used his timeouts beautifully and was called a ‘genius’ and a ‘guru’ by his players for drawing up this out of bounds play:

It will take an historical achievement if Philly is to come back – teams that lose the first three games in a seven-game series are 0-129 in those series. Ouch.

As for LeBron, well there aren’t enough superlatives to describe what he did today. Aside from scoring 38 points and answering every Toronto run, he won the game with an incredible running jump shot:

This against a Toronto team that won nine more games than the Cavs and set a franchise record for wins.

And all of that means nothing when you’re up against LeBron and a few guys – Kevin Love, Kyle Korver, J.R. Smith – who have been there before and know what to do when the chips are down…and that’s mostly give it to LeBron and get out of the way.

Playoff basketball.

What do you think?