Raptors will Provide a Tough Test, but Sixers are Optimistic
Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson thinks that the Philadelphia 76ers can legitimately contend for an NBA title this season.
"They're going for big things,” Atkinson said after the Sixers eliminated the Nets from playoff contention with a dominating victory in Game 5 on Tuesday night. “I think they can compete for a championship, quite honestly.”
The Sixers are an extremely talented team, and they demonstrated that against the Nets, but In order to contend for a title, they will first have to get through their second round opponent – the Toronto Raptors – and that will be a tall task. Though, for what it's worth, Sixers center Joel Embiid agreed with Atkinson.
"That's what we think. We think we can win it all," Embiid said. "Obviously, it is going to take a lot. You've got some great teams in the league. We're about to play one of them and then the next one will not be easy, either Milwaukee or Boston, and then you've got the West, which is pretty tough… We just have to take one game at a time, but we understand that we've got all the talent that we need, especially to win it all."
After a disjointed effort to open the postseason in Game 1 against Brooklyn, the Sixers bounced back and ran off four straight wins and appeared to scratch the ceiling of their lofty potential at times throughout the series. Head coach Brett Brown was encouraged by what he saw from his team, but he is far from satisfied.
"We have a team that is slowly coming together," Brown said to media members. "They don't have the luxury of lots of games and lots of context to share upon. ... These guys have been great on trying to form a team… This is good. Beating Brooklyn and advancing to the second round. This is good, but we still have more to do. A lot more to do."
The Sixers are just 3-21 against the Raptors under Brown, but the team heading to Toronto for the semifinals isn’t the same team that piled up all those losses, so Brown isn’t dwelling too much on the recent track record between the two teams.
"We understand what the math says with our success in Toronto and it's not flattering, but it's also not directed to the team that we have,” Brown said. "We are excited to go up there and try to fix some of the lack of success we have had… We’re excited to go up [to Toronto]. It’s going to be an incredibly tough series. Toronto is as good a team as there is in the NBA.”
The first round was a warm-up for the Sixers, and they took care of business. Now comes a true test.
Follow Michael Kaskey-Blomain on Twitter @therealmikekb.