By Joseph Santoliquito

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Be honest, who out there thought the 76ers would be playing on national TV on May 9 in a second-round playoff game back in October?

Those out there with their hands up please line up for this lie detector.

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In truth, not many thought the Sixers would win more than 50 games this season—which they did. Hardly anyone thought they would win a round in the playoffs—which they did for the first time in six years.

This was a team that improved by 24 games in a season and has made itself a major destination point for any major free agent out there (hint, hint, nudge, nudge LeBron James).

So the Sixers lost in five games to the hated Boston Celtics Thursday night. It’s not that big of a deal when stepping back and absorbing the whole portrait of this season.

This young, brash and cocky group learned from the experience. Coach Brett Brown learned from the experience.

When they were down 3-0, the Sixers could have packed it in. When they trailed and were turning the ball over, frantically trying to piece together their offensive sets Thursday night, they could have melted and let Boston take over and run away.

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The Sixers didn’t.

They battled. They made it a game. They even got in a few pushes.

Moving forward, this Sixers’ team could be the basketball equivalent to the 1970’s Broad Street Bullies, in the sense that they’re loved by Sixers’ fans and will become hated by everyone else. When Joel Embiid unnecessarily stares down Celtic players, Philly loves it, but it comes across as antagonizing and bullying to everyone else.

So what.

They’re ours.

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And they’re only going to get better.

The NBA and the rest of the country better get used to it.