The 2008-09 Eastern Conference champion Orlando Magic had a dominant big man, a 6-foot-10 forward who shared ball-handling duties and a three-point assassin acquired in free agency.
That year, JJ Redick was in his third season in Orlando with a front-row seat as the Magic shocked the NBA world by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals.
“In theory maybe, but our style of play is completely different from [that team],” Redick said. “Like them, we’re building toward winning a championship for sure. But not a ton of similarities in terms of style.
“Joel (Embiid) is a gifted scorer in the post, Ben (Simmons) is just sort of a unicorn. There haven’t been many players like him … ever … but if you look at us and any team in the East over the next three, five years, Boston, whoever LeBron plays for, Toronto … we’re positioned well to make a run.
The Sixers beat Orlando, 118-98, Thursday night (see observations).
Even with a 21-point halftime lead, the 76ers didn’t let up. They held the Magic to 4 out of 23 from the field and extended the lead to 30 points by the end of the third quarter.
“I think that our third period was the thing I was most impressed with,” Brett Brown said. “We were able to maintain a sense of urgency and treat it as an opportunity … I think that was a statement period for our team.”
The Sixers can now clinch a playoff spot with a win over the Timberwolves on Saturday and are just one game behind the Cavs for the No. 3 seed in the East — exactly where Orlando began its run in ‘09.
That’s the question the Sixers should be asking themselves. They’ve gone 16-5 after starting the season 25-25, and with seven of their last 11 games coming against teams with losing records, the Sixers have a realistic shot at the No. 3 seed.
Embiid has revived the role of a dominant center, averaging 23.4 points and 11.1 rebounds. Simmons has nine triple-doubles, the second most in the history of rookie seasons. Redick is shooting 41 percent from long range and averaging 16.6 points per game.
“After we got the fourth position, we wanted to come out and let everybody know that we were going for the home court,” Embiid said. “After this game, I decided we have a new goal: I want 50 wins. If we can do that, that would be great. We will be pushing for that.”
Sure, the Sixers lost their first eight games to Toronto, Boston and Cleveland earlier this season. But wouldn’t you know it, they’ve beaten all three of them since then.
Maybe this team is a year or two away, but why not dream big this year?