Since Joel Embiid hit that unbelievable dagger 3 to beat Toronto in Game 3 and provides the 76ers a 3-0 benefit within the sequence, his staff has dropped back-to-back video games and held a lead for 5 minutes and 17 seconds out of a potential 96 minutes. Philadelphia has received precisely two of the previous eight quarters in opposition to the Raptors. Now, they face a Game 6 north of the border to keep away from turning into the fourth staff in NBA historical past to go to a Game 7 after main 3-0.
Those three earlier NBA groups had been capable of dislodge the obstruction from their collective windpipes to stave off elimination. It goes with out writing, however I’m going to kind it anyway as a result of the thought makes me glad: If Doc Rivers and James Harden mix forces to orchestrate a 3-0 collapse, Philly would be the first franchise within the historical past of the league to earn that dishonorable distinction.
The greatest cause this sequence is headed to a Game 6 is the torn ligament in Embiid’s proper thumb. He’ll must have it surgically repaired after the playoffs, so it’s greater than a tweaked ankle or a thigh bruise. Whether it’s the hand, a swarming Raptors protection, or some mixture of the 2, this yr’s scoring champion has managed solely 21 factors and 20 factors within the pair of video games because the damage.
Harden, the All-NBA guard GM Daryl Morey acquired for conditions like this, scored 22 factors and 15 factors on 17 and 11 makes an attempt in Games 4 and 5 respectively. After Monday’s loss, Embiid didn’t draw back from publicly encouraging his teammate to let the step-backs fly, per ESPN.
“I’ve been saying all season since he got here, he needs to be aggressive and he needs to be himself. That’s not really my job. That’s probably on Coach to talk to him and tell him to take more shots, especially if they’re going to guard me the way they’ve been guarding. But that’s really not my job.”
Obviously, that quote is the one which’s going to get aggregated, which it ought to as a result of he referred to as out Harden and his coach, however right here’s the remainder of it for full context:
“But we all need to be better offensively. We missed a bunch of wide-open shots. At times, I just felt like we just invited, when I was getting doubled, we were not aggressive attacking the ball. We just kept moving the ball around the perimeter, and that gave them time to recover, and that’s why we’re not able to get anything out of it.
“So if that’s what they want to keep doing, we’ve got to take advantage of it.”
Playing patty cake across the perimeter is precisely what shaky position gamers do when a staff with Toronto’s size rotates on a string. It’s on Doc to determine cease the hemorrhaging. It’s simply… that’s not precisely a forte for the coach who’s blown essentially the most 3-1 sequence leads (three) in NBA historical past. When I wrote that Harden and Rivers’ “unmoving object versus unstoppable farce” dynamic ought to terrify Philly followers, I might see a method for a playoff flameout, however I didn’t know they may conspire to go down in NBA infamy.
Additionally, it’s price noting that the cosmos are also aligning in opposition to the group by happenstance (or by karma relying on the place you stand on the Process). Rap rookie Scottie Barnes returned to the beginning lineup after lacking Games 2 and three with a turned ankle and coming off the bench in Game 4. He did a masterful job dealing with the ball in Fred VanFleet’s absence Monday night time, and when VanFleet is off the ground, Toronto doesn’t have a weak point in its protection for anybody not named Joel Embiid to take advantage of.
Nick Nurse is making up for not guarding the inbounds cross in Game 3 as a result of he’s not even permitting Embiid to get an excellent sear on Khem Birch earlier than bringing in a plethora of prolonged, athletic wings and forwards to double staff the large man from in all places. Precious Achiuwa, Thad Young, and Chris Boucher are all getting extra minutes than the token middle, and it’s making life hell for not solely Harden and Embiid but additionally Tyrese Maxey.
The second yr guard out of Kentucky placed on a present with 38 factors in Game 1. Since then, his outputs have been 23, 19, 11, and 12 on 45 % from the sector. (If you are taking away his 8-11 Game 2, he’s 17-44 in his previous three contests.) A VanFleet-less Toronto additionally means Maxey is shorter than each Raptor by at the very least 3 inches. Expecting him to grow to be the third participant in a giant three might occur with time — and if All-Star Harden ever reveals up — however that trajectory was untimely at the very least for this season.
That mentioned, all Philly wants is yet one more sooner-than-expected sport from Maxey, a throwback triple double from Harden, or an MVP-caliber takeover from Embiid within the subsequent two contests to get up from this nightmare and circumvent the mom of all existential crises within the offseason.
The natives had been past stressed Monday night time as the house staff predictably heard boos from its crowd on a number of events. If the Sixers don’t end off the Raptors on Thursday after which begin sluggish at house in a Game 7, the anger emitting from these followers will manifest a bodily type able to destroying mankind — or at the very least no matter is left of Process heads.