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May 31, 2023

A Nuggets-Heat Finals is a nightmare for Sixers fans

The NBA Finals will be Nikola Jokić vs. Jimmy Butler. Everything has gone wrong for Sixers fans.

This year was supposed to be different, just as the last handful of seasons were supposed to be. Joel Embiid finally wrestled the MVP Award away from Nikola Jokić. James Harden led the NBA in assists and looked to be as good of a playmaker as ever. Tyrese Maxey was primed to have his national-level breakout. Where did that leave us all? Right back to watching some other teams playing in the Eastern Conference Finals. 

Doc Rivers is gone. Nick Nurse is here. Who knows where Harden will be come October? For the umpteenth straight offseason, we are entering the "most important Sixers offseason ever."

Before we fully get to free agency, however, the NBA Finals need to unfold and, jeez, what a sight it is for Sixers fans.

From the Western Conference comes the Denver Nuggets. Just as things appeared to turn in Embiid's favor for the title of the best center in the NBA, Jokić went supernova and led the Nuggets to a place Embiid's never taken the Sixers: the damn Finals. While Embiid had a colossal meltdown in a Game 7 flameout against the Celtics after previously holding a 3-2 series lead, Jokić is averaging a 30-point triple-double this postseason while shooting 53.8 percent from the floor and 47.4 from three. If Embiid had done that on the way to a possible title, statues would already be in the process of being built. 

All those debates against the stat heads and the VORP gang that I gladly joined were for naught. Sixers fans won the battle when Embiid hoisted the MVP trophy. Denver and the analytical community won the war with Jokić's entire playoff run. A championship for Jokić might lock him into being a top-10 center in the history of the league. It coulda/shoulda/woulda been Embiid, but this is what happens when you bungle a 3-2 lead and a potential close out game at home staring at you. 

On the flip side of things is the one who get away: Jimmy Butler. Butler teamed up with Embiid during the 2018-19 season and, in retrospect, looks to have been the best running mate the big man's ever had. Butler brought a tenacity to the game that offset Embiid's style, allowing Butler to be a figurehead while Embiid was the dominant force on the court. Things got messy between Butler, Ben Simmons and Brett Brown in a way I don't fully understand from the outside, but at the end of the day, Butler left for South Beach and the Sixers wound up with Josh Richardson and Al Horford instead during the summer of 2019. 

The Sixers lost a 1964 Pontiac GTO and got a pair of unicycles in return. Awesome stuff! 

After the shade thrown Butler's way for choosing the warmth and relaxation of Miami over competing for a championship in Philly, Butler has already made his second Finals appearance with the Heat. The Sixers have made it beyond the second round twice in my entire lifetime. 

If you're a masochist (and you probably are if you're a Sixers fan) maybe you want Butler to win. I think that's what I'd prefer. Butler's Heat capturing their title makes the Sixers organization look bad. They should feel embarrassed currently and even more so if they have to watch Butler win Finals MVP. I know all the parties involved aren't still with the team, but the last time I checked, the front office executive in charge that summer is still technically the team's GM. 

Jokić's Nuggets winning is more so a blow to the fervent energy Sixers fans have put behind the Embiid-Jokić debates over the years. If it's the option to make the franchise look worse or the fan base look incredibly dumb, I know what direction I'm leaning.

Know what also sucks? Philly kind of lucked out with this Finals matchup. It was almost something even more reprehensible

The other option would've been the Celtics becoming the first NBA team to come down from 3-0 to win a series and then make the Finals yet again. That would've been even more of a nightmare! Even when the Sixers get a little win like the Celtics crumbling at home in Game 7, things are still kind of terrible. 

Philadelphia: where good things are bad and bad things are the worst. 

You can catch me watching "I Think You Should Leave" over any of these Finals games, too. I need a break after that second round loss, somehow the worst of them all, and this little rant. 

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