Sixers on the brink -- again

The Sixers had no answer for Orlando star Dwight Howard's 24 points and 24 rebounds. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)

The other day Peter Luukko, who oversees both arena sports, said it would be folly to panic over the Flyers first-round exit. Despite a season of almost seeking a level of mediocrity, Luukko proclaimed the team to be close to the elite, proclaimed to still be excited about their core group.

Well, how ‘bout them Sixers? Should we or should we dismiss their feistiness against the third seed with a superstar center as simply a bad matchup for the favorite, the equivalent of a southpaw in boxing?

After last night’s 91-78 loss to Orlando the Sixers head back home for Game 6 – the same spot they were eliminated by the Pistons last year. Thus far the formula has been the same, the Sixers stunning the higher seed by taking a 2-1 lead, dooming themselves via mistakes and perhaps, makeup.

Are they any closer this year or last? Or on standby? Will Lou Williams, still just 22, rise past his inconsistencies? Or is this it, or close to it? Andre Iguodala is a star. Do we know if this will all work much better next year at this time with Elton Brand in the mix? And will we have to wait out an uneven regular season to find out?

The Sixers are not done. But last night’s game reflected what you thought you were going to see this whole series – Dwight Howard doing pretty much anything he wanted to, dropping 24 and grabbing 24 rebounds.

And yet…

There the Sixers were, down by six with plenty of time left on the clock last night.

Closer than last year? On standby?

If nothing else, maybe Game 6 will tell us that.