Philadelphia 76ers Playoff Aspirations Fall Apart

Philadelphia 76ers Playoff Aspirations Fall Apart

Julia Henry, Editor

For the fourth time in five years, the Philadelphia 76ers were eliminated in Round 2 of the NBA Playoffs. And, once again, the hopeful expectations of their fans fell short. Fans were disappointed but not shocked at the Sixers’ much too early playoff exit, as it has become a pretty common experience over the last few seasons. 

The No. 4 Philadelphia 76ers began their 2022 playoff run facing off against the No.5 seed Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. That series was plagued with the absence of Matisse Thybulle in Toronto because of his vaccination status ( having only received 1 out of 2 required doses) and the possibility of a 3-0 series lead by the Sixers being blown. Doc Rivers, the 76ers head coach, is infamous for blowing 3-1 series leads and many believed that the 2021-22 76ers would become the first team in NBA history to blow a 3-0 series lead.  

The first-round series started off very strong with the Sixers off to a 3-0 lead looking to sweep the Raptors. Joel Embiid played like the league’s Most Valuable Player and the other superstar players like Tobias Harris and James Harden stepped up. Their young guard Tyrese Maxey played as if he had been in the league for more than just two years averaging about 21 points a game throughout the series. Unfortunately, the Sixers could not sweep the Raptors as they lost 110-102 in Game 4. This shifted the momentum of the series and allowed the Raptors to win Game 5 103-88. Sloppy half court defense, as well as subpar shooting, allowed the Raptors to come back into the series. The Sixers emphatically closed out the series 4-2 with a decisive 132-97 victory on the road. This placed them against the Eastern Conference No. 1 Miami Heat for the second round of the playoffs. 

Embiid being triple teamed by the Raptors

  Joel Embiid did not play in Games 1 and 2 of Round 2 due to a concussion and an orbital fracture he suffered from an elbow by Raptors player Pascal Siakam in Game 6 of the series. Coach Rivers received criticism as Embiid was on the court while the Sixers were up 30 points with under 4 minutes remaining in the game. Why risk having your team’s MVP on the court when Embiid was already suffering from a thumb injury in such a blowout victory? The Sixers lost Games 1 & 2 of this series because they missed Embiid’s dominant presence in the paint and because they shot 43% from the field and 17% from 3-PT in Game 1 and 45% from the field and 27% from 3-PT in Game 2. 

Luckily, Embiid returned in Game 3 after clearing concussion protocol and the Sixers were able to even the series to 2-2  due to his MVP caliber play as well as improved shooting as a whole team. In the first four games of the series, the home team played with momentum and shot significantly better than their opponent. The home court advantage most definitely contributed. 

The Sixers dropped Game 5 of the series in Miami in a blowout loss 120-85. Nikola Jokic, a center on the Denver Nuggets, had won MVP of the NBA in back to back seasons (2020-21 and 2021-22) earlier in the day. Analysts from the NBA of TNT blamed such an announcement for Embiid’s lackluster performance finishing with just 17 points. Unfortunately, the Sixers closed out their 2022 playoff run in the second round with an embarrassing 99-90 loss to the Heat in Game 6. Danny Green exited early in the first quarter with a knee injury, so Georges Niang and Furkan Korkmaz had to play more minutes than anyone would have liked. Niang, oddly enough, was a +11 even though he recorded 0 points. Embiid tried to do everything he could to win this game by playing 44 minutes, but unfortunately, his shot just wasn’t there as he finished the game 2-8 from the 3-point line and 7-24 from the field. At least he shot 100% on his free throws going 4-4. 

James Harden shooting over Heat forward Jimmy Butler

The Philadelphia 76ers organization must quickly pivot this offseason to prepare for the 2022-23 season. Daryl Morey, the team’s President, is faced with quite a few decisions to make such as what to do with both Doc Rivers and James Harden as well as the NBA Draft and free agency acquisitions. Morey has announced that he plans to retain Rivers as head coach. Harden stated that he would like to opt in this summer and receive a max contract from the 76ers organization. As of now, no NBA insider believes that he will be offered a max contract with the 76ers as that would cost the organization approximately $270 million over a span of five years. He appears to be close to being washed up, especially after his poor second half performance in a must-win Game 6 (0 points on 2 shots).  Hopefully, the 76ers organization does its very best to find a championship caliber team in the offseason to maximize the last few years of JoelEmbiid’s career and bring back the first NBA Title since 1983.