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By Spike Eskin
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – November 2nd, 2010, Cartier Martin hits a three-pointer with .3 seconds left in regulation to tie the game for the Wizards. The Sixers go on to lose the game in overtime.
November 23rd, 2010, John Wall gets fouled by Jrue Holiday nearly 40 feet from the basket while shooting a desperation three-pointer as time expires. Wall hit all three free throws, the Sixers go on to lose the game in overtime.
December 3rd, 2010, the Sixers blow a 13-point fourth quarter lead to the Hawks, to lose their 8th consecutive road game.
January 9th, 2011, Austin Daye hits a loooooooong three-pointer with three seconds left in regulation, Lou Williams misses two free throws, and the Sixers lose to the Pistons in overtime.
January 19th, 2011, Orlando’s Jason Richardson is fouled while shooting a three-pointer with 17 seconds left, he hits the shot and converts a four-point play. Orlando’s JJ Reddick is fouled while shooting a three-pointer in overtime and converts a four-point play. The Sixers go on to lose to the Magic in overtime.
March 9th, 2011, Kevin Durant hits a three-pointer over Andre Iguodala to tie the game as time expires. The Sixers go on to lose to the Thunder in overtime.
Fast forward to …
February 6th, 2012, the Sixers get out-rebounded by 25 against the Lakers, Kobe Bryant scores 24 points in the first half, and the Sixers … win when Lou Williams hits clutch 4th quarter shots and Andre Iguodala shuts down Kobe Bryant. Wait, what?
There are a lot of writers who will break down the X’s and O’s of why the Philadelphia 76ers are winning games this year, and they’re right on the money. There will be plenty who will tell you that the Sixers turning the ball over only four times was the main reason the Sixers stayed in that game last night, and they’d be correct. But what I’m talking about isn’t stats, it isn’t about box scores, and it isn’t about X’s and O’s. This is about a team who has learned what it takes to win.
The process began last season. This process really showed its face for the first time when the Sixers were down six points with a minute and a half left to the Miami Heat in Game 4 of the first round of last year’s playoffs, and just decided they were going to do what it takes to win. This season, this team who has grown with each other, learned to trust in its coach and most importantly in each other, has shown it night after night. It takes a special coach to devise the plan, and a special group of players to buy in. Monday’s game against the Lakers was the latest example, and the most clear and exciting.
The Sixers are a team full of imperfect players, but all have a skill that makes the team work. In the last season and a half, they’ve all learned what those skills are and learned to trust each other to do them. It’s a process, and it’s not finished, but it’s definitely happening and come a long way.
It doesn’t mean they’re on their way to a championship, but it does mean they’re on their way to knowing what it takes to get to that level. And as I stood in the Wells Fargo Center last night listening to chants of “Beat LA! Beat LA!” that’s good enough for now.