Every Philly fan's greatest fear for this Sunday should be the following: The Eagles take a one-TD lead into halftime of Super Bowl LII, then score again in the third to go up, say, 21-7. The Eagles D is dominant, and Tom Brady and the Patriots can't seem to develop any rhythm on offense.
Then, with a couple minutes to go in the quarter, maybe Jay Ajayi fumbles on the Pats' 35. Brady drives New England down the field, converts a couple tough third downs, and connects with Rob Gronkowski in the end zone early in the fourth to cut it to 21-14. Then Nick Foles, consistent all night, suddenly starts missing throws in a quick Philly three-and-out. And from there, it's only a matter of time.
Feels frighteningly likely, doesn't it? Especially if you've been watching the Sixers this season.
I should probably start by mentioning that in fact, the Philadelphia 76ers won their basketball game last night, 103-97. It was an important win for the Ballers, snapping a three-game losing streak, moving them back over. 500 and gaining them ground in the crowded East, where Miami now sits at 5th, but just two and a half games ahead of Philly.
However, if the tone of this game recap is slightly less than triumphant, it's because I had basically written an entirely different one in my head by the beginning of the fourth quarter — about how great Friday nights have been for the Sixers this season, with the Detroit smashing, the San Antonio road beatdown, and now this laugher against Miami, where we were up as many as 26 deep into the fourth quarter. The Sixers weren't even playing uncharacteristically well — Joel Embiid was in the midst of a brutal shooting night from the field — but the defense was stout, the shooters were hitting at a decent clip, and the Heat just didn't appear to have the juice. It looked like even the Sixers would have a tough time blowing this one.
Well, never let it be said that Brett Brown's crew isn't up for a challenge. With garbage time seemingly approaching, the Sixers quickly let up a 12-0 Miami run that forced Brown to bring back his starters. That slowed the bleeding, but didn't stop it, as the Heat chopped the lead down to single digits with five minutes to go. A couple times, the Sixers looked to have restored order with a bucket or two, only for Miami to surge back even further, cutting the deficit all the way down to four with a half-minute to go — right before the Sixers inbounded the ball right off Robert Covington's fingers, out of bounds. By that point, the sellout crowd of 20,000 had to be taking it personally .
By the grace of Moses Malone, the Sixers managed to hold on from there, largely thanks to Ben Simmons (brilliant most of the night) playing cornerback on the Heat's ensuing inbounds lob and getting the clean pick. Even then, WFC attendees had to sweat Justin Anderson missing two free throws at the other end and Kelly Olynyk getting a tough-but-not-impossible shot at three to cut it to one, which thankfully rimmed out and essentially ended the game. But by then ... yeah.
The especially annoying thing about the Sixers (and their bench in particular) not being able to hold the line in this one is that we really could've used a fourth quarter off for our starters — namely Joel Embiid, who plans to play in Indiana tonight, the first back-to-back of his still-young NBA career. He played 31 minutes against Miami, which isn't horrible, but if the reserves could've protected the Sixers' considerable lead for just a couple of minutes, he could've ended with just 24, and been daisy-fresh for the Pacers tonight — which, by the way, is a pretty big game for Philly, since Indy currently sits two games above them at 7th in the East, and the Sixers could clinch the season series from 'em with a W tonight.
Look, a win with a mostly blown lead at the end of it is still better than any kind of loss, probably. At season's end, when it comes to figuring out who has to face the Celtics or Cavs in the playoffs and who gets to face the Wizards or this Heat team — and who's outside the playoffs altogether, still a consideration for the Sixers with the Pistons suddenly surging — it won't matter how the wins and losses were accrued. This was still a good outcome for the Sixers to start their February with, especially in comparison to Wednesday's embarrassing showing in Brooklyn.
But man. Though this Sunday is gonna be a trying one for Philly fans no matter what happens, the one outcome that I will be personally unable to stomach is the one I outlined up top, where we let ourselves believe this is really gonna happen and then the Patriots pull out their usual Indiana Jones-like escape. I'd rather the Eagles lose as badly as the Vikings did two Sundays ago than have them go Full Sixers in their first Super Bowl of the post-Process era.
If the Birds only go 90% Sixers, as they did last night? I suppose we'd survive. But let's not push it, huh? Let's let this be the karmic flushing of all our city's lead-blowing from its system for the whole weekend. Nothing but straight-line progress and success from here, please.