The 76ers collapsed quickly, and the fall may not have ended yet


BOSTON – Four years ago, it was a program Philadelphia Seventy Sixers He fell in the seventh inning of the second round of the playoffs on a buzzer-beating, four-way tiebreaker. Two years ago, the Sixers fell in game seven of the second round of the playoffs by seven on The Pass.

On Sunday, the Sixers fell again in Game 7 of the second round of the playoffs, only this time, their opponent, Boston Celtics, I didn’t need the help of a soft edge or a short circuit star. This time, the match ended well before the final horn. The Celtics, who have now eliminated the Sixers from the playoffs in three of the past six seasons, Played better, smarter and harderand carve philadelphia to The final score is 112-88, which doesn’t even do justice to the blows. To pull from one of the team’s old ad campaigns, Practical for Progress, this is not it.

Sixers coach Doc Rivers told reporters after the game, “We’ve played great all year and this loss just takes that away.” “I thought we took another mental step this season. And then tonight I thought we took that step back.”

How does this happen? How can a team that at various points in the season looked like championship contenders be so completely outclassed? How could a team that, less than 72 hours ago, had led with less than five minutes left in a game where a win would have decided the series, fall so quickly so far?

Certainly, there were tactical reasons why the Sixers fell apart. Celtics head coach Joe Mazzola’s decision before Game 6 to include Robert Williams III In his starting lineup, going back to his big double-double with which last season propelled the Celtics to the Finals, the Sixers didn’t have any answers.

Knowing that Williams was behind him, he was a Celtics big guy Alhorford He felt comfortable in Embiid’s jam and took his jump shot. Knowing that Williams was ahead of him, Embiid stopped attacking the edge. Embiid finished the game with a paltry 15 points on ugly 5-for-18 shooting.

Meanwhile, Harden, apparently worried about Williams slipping in from the weak side and crushing his shot, passed the ball almost every time he reached the painter. He finished with just nine points on 3-for-11 shooting. He turned the ball over five times.

“Defensively, they took our bread and butter, which is a pick-me-up between James and me,” Embiid said after the loss. “We didn’t get as many of those shots as we usually get. They made a great adjustment and forced…James to attack and make plays out of that and either finish on Rob or kick it into the corner and force other players to shoot the ball. So for the most part I thought they They did a good job as a team, every time I had the ball they pulled it over to make sure there was no [space] For me to drive.”

There’s more to it, though. The big double maneuver may have worked, but the Sixers’ latest collapse wasn’t just an example of a planning change that frustrated the team’s offense. To describe it as single is a withdrawal, and to overlook the true causes of defeat. Harden, after all, is a Hall of Famer. After all, Embiid was recently named the league’s Most Valuable Player. Stars of this caliber are supposed to be plot-resistant. However, in the most important match of the season, neither of them performed adequately.

There was Embiid sleeping while watching the ball and the tailgate finish. and Harden throwing middle-level garbage because he was more focused on making mistakes than attacking the hoop. Embiid grabbed just four rebounds in the first three quarters of the game. And Harden only attempted four shots from inside paint. Embiid took the ball under the rim and instead of hitting it home, kicked it to the perimeter. And Harden disallowed a pick from Embiid and then stopped an ugly step back 3. Embiid looks like he’s never seen a double team before. And Harden turned a wide-open layup into a flagrant foul for the Celitcs, which seems like the premise of an unsolvable puzzle. Embiid and Harden combined for more turnovers (nine) than field goals (eight), and with the game out of the Sixers’ grip amid a 24-3 run in the Celtics’ third quarter, they joined forces for a backcourt violation — which somehow, maybe. They were the most connected of the two who each seemed to be in the game.

“I have to be better,” Embiid said. We’ve seen this offering from Harden before, but Embiid not showing Game 7, especially one that marks a fork-in-the-road moment for the franchise, 10 years to the day Sam Hinkie was introduced as the Sixers’ GM, was the biggest disappointment. For years, we’ve watched others take the blame for the Sixers’ game failure. At first it was an error by Brian Colangelo. Then it was Brett Brown’s fault. Then it was the fault of Elton Brand and Al Horford. Then it was Ben Simmons‘ flaw. Then it was Harden’s fault. But ownership aside, the one constant over the previous six seasons — all of which ended with the Sixers heading home before the Conference Finals, a run they haven’t reached since 2001 — has been Embiid.

The Sixers star is beginning to develop a problematic resume. This year, once again, his number is down in the postseason. He finished the playoffs averaging 23.7 points per game on 43.1 percent shooting, after averaging 33.1 on 54.8 percent during the regular season. His pass passing decreased from 4.2 to 2.7 and his turnover jumped from 1.7 to 3.9. The Sixers may have the MVP, but Sunday was the star of the Celtics Jason Tatum – who finished with 51 points on 28 shots – who was the best player on the court.

The Sixers now find themselves at a crossroads. It is unclear how they are getting better. The first decision will be whether to bring Rivers back. Asked after the game if he planned to return, Rivers said: “Yes. I think I only have two years left.” [on my contract]. But he also admitted, “Nobody is safe in our work.” “

Getting fired for coaches seems to be in vogue these days. And the availability of a number of outstanding coaches – Mike Budenholzer, Monty Williams, Nick Nurse – could make for a seductive change. However, to blame this season at Rivers’ feet would be a mistake. Under his watch, the Embiid-Harden pairing shaped the league’s strongest picking and running back, Therese Maxi I got better as a player and the Sixers got a bunch of wins. A boss with creativity, for example, a nurse, may be in for a promotion. But that doesn’t solve all of the Sixers’ problems.

“I [think] Embiid said he did a great job. “He came here, I think we’ve gotten better over the year… We have a great relationship.”

When asked about Rivers, Harden was less enthusiastic. “Our relationship is fine,” he said. Being such a huge fan of his coach wouldn’t be a problem – if we’re sure Harden planned to come back to Philadelphia. He has a player option in his contract, which he is expected to turn down in order to become a free agent. There are also kinds of rumors and speculations that he would like to return to his former team, Houston Rockets.

“I haven’t thought about it,” Harden said when asked after the game about his contract plans. Making this even more complicated is all the leverage he has over the Sixers. Harden, no doubt, wants a bigger payday. But at 34 years old, and with his physique and game obviously deteriorating, it’s probably not such a great idea.

That said, what if the Rockets were willing to offer Harden so much money that they would require the Sixers to match her with a deal close to the cap? This is not a contract they have to deliver, but thanks Tobias HarrisHuge deal, if they lose Harden, they won’t have the ability to replace him. It appeared that their options were to either keep Harden by overpaying him or lose him for nothing, thus placing them as a contender for the championship. In other words: there are no good options.

All of which is why Sunday’s Game 7 performance is going to remain so big for a long time. This was really like the last stand of the team led by Embiid. Not only did they lose, but they hardly even put up a fight.

“I thought we had the right group,” said Rivers. “I really did.”

they did not. And for that current group, this was probably the last shot.

Yaron Weitzman is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. is an author Tanking to the Top: The Philadelphia 76ers and the Most Daring Operation in Professional Sports History. To follow him on Twitter @tweet.

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