All Not Lost for Sixers, Pacers
Wednesday, 30 May 2012 14:12 | Written by Shawn Wagner
Make no mistake about it, championships are the goal for all teams of the NBA. And although it may be difficult to accept the reality that the season is over, the Philadelphia 76ers and Indiana Pacers should be proud of what their young teams accomplished and excited for what the future has in store.
Both teams are made up of a solid nucleus of young talent that knows how to play as a complete team. While the “Big Threes” and “Big Fours” of the league take a lot of the media spotlight, the Sixers and Pacers are led by any player on any given night and flew under the radar all season long despite their playoff berths.
The Sixers were among the Eastern Conference’s best for the majority of the season until a late collapse nearly knocked them out of the playoffs. But each postseason game served as a test of the growth and determination of a young squad having to get back up from each struggle. Doug Collins deserves much praise for what he was able to accomplish with his eighth seeded team. Down 3-2 to the Celtics prior to Game 6, Collins told point guard Jrue Holiday he needed to be more aggressive and drive to the hoop more often. Holiday responded with fearless attacks to the rim and 20 points to lead the team. The emerging playmaker took control of his team and added 15 points and nine rebounds in Game 7 despite a rough shooting outing. The continued development of the second-year pro will be critical to Philadelphia’s success in the coming seasons.
With a blend of experience in Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala and youthful role players who made giant playoff strides in Evan Turner, Lou Williams, and Spencer Hawes, the 76ers appear to be a team ready to contend for the next several years and overtake threats such as the Celtics as soon as next year.
Similarly, the Pacers became a team with several scoring threats. Danny Granger had been Indiana’s star for the past few seasons, but a great deal of pressure was taken off of his shoulders with the rise of Roy Hibbert. One of only a handful of true big men left in the league in a time of faster, more athletic post players, Hibbert was able to use his size, defense, and superior rebounding skills to make the Pacers a real threat to the superstar-led Miami Heat. In Game 3, Hibbert showed his potential with a 19-point, 18-rebound effort to lead Indiana to victory.
David West proved his leadership and heart with 24 points in the brink of elimination in Game 6 and combines with Hibbert for one of the best 1-2 down low punches in the NBA. Tyler Hansbrough, in his third season, has finally developed into the type of role player expected of him when he was drafted, while guards Paul George and George Hill should only continue to refine their skills and raw athleticism. Hill should especially be expected to become a standout performer next season after posting 15, 18, and 20 point showings against the Heat.
It always hurts to say that “there’s always next year,” but for Indiana and Philadelphia the playoffs displayed a sense of what is yet to come and provided hope for fan bases stricken with losing seasons and low expectations year in and year out. It is time for the resurgence of these budding franchises to their consistency exhibited in the early 2000s and fortunately for the fans, that will truly be “next year.”