Got Ourselves a Game Seven – Observations from Sixers 112, Raptors 101

Joel Embiid in game 6
Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Credit where it’s due –

The Sixers were facing elimination on their home floor and put a double-digit beatdown on the Raptors. Take your pick of cliches to describe that performance. You can talk about “grit” or “guts” or “heart.” You can talk about “pride” and “hustle” and blah blah, but it’s all true. All of it is true. That was the type of response that makes you think, “huh.. maybe this team really does have what it takes to reach the Eastern Conference Finals.”

I honestly did not know what we were going to get from this squad in game six. They could have rolled over after a wretched and forgettable game five performance, but they didn’t. The Sixers’ front office trotted out mask-wearing Lane Johnson and Chris Long to ring the bell, the team absorbed the “underdog” mentality via cross-town osmosis, and now we’ve got a game seven in Toronto, where the pressure I think is on the Raptors after a number of disappointing playoff exits in recent years.

For real, though, how do you think Toronto fans are feeling about a game seven right now? You have to think there’s some doubt settling in up there, wafting over Lake Ontario and into the city proper. Should be a banger on Sunday night, and it runs right into Game of Thrones, so Delaware Valley DVRs and streaming pirates will be working overtime on Mother’s Day.

But this story is about game six, and the Sixers won in these categories:

  • fast break points: Philly 16 / Toronto 11
  • points in the paint: Philly 56 / Toronto 42
  • 2nd chance points: Philly 18 / Toronto 10
  • offensive boards: Philly 16 / Toronto 9
  • total field goals: Philly 89 / Toronto 81

The Sixers shot 46.1% from the floor and 35.7% from three. They ran the court, played stout defense, and got big time contributions from this man, after the jump:

Joel Embiid

What is there to say?

He was a +40 in 35 minutes and 33 seconds on the floor. That’s an insane number, just ludicrous, and he still wasn’t close to 100% health.

Joel shot 5-14 from the floor and 5-7 from the free throw line. He finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds, but it was his contribution on the defensive side of court that really made a difference in this one, plays like this:

Even if Jo isn’t scoring, his presence at the rim is like none other in the NBA. We’re talking Rudy Gobert-esque top-two, top-three type of interior defense.

Said Brett Brown on that:

It’s clear the impact he has on the game. We get what he does at the rim, it’s significant, when he goes out, lot’s of times, look what happens. So of course, he’s got an incredible defensive impact on a game if you’re looking at people behind you, pick em, Kawhi, Kyle Lowry, whatever, if you see him you’re probably going to think a little bit more about what you want to do, what’s your plan. His importance to our team is obvious. Tonight you saw a healthier Joel Embiid and for that example, situation, him and his health, he comes out and has a plus-40. It’s a huge number. it’s a huge plus-minus number in a playoff game. His significance is felt all over the place.

Embiid blocked a pair of shots, both on Kawhi Leonard. The Raptors made one contested field goal against him. His defensive rating was 80 flat (ridiculous) and his net rating was +57 (even more ridiculous).

By the way, the flagrant Joel picked up at the end of the game? I was okay with Brett having him in there because Toronto still had their starters in the game. Nothing is safe. It’s game six. Gotta just ride or die and close it out. You saw how much the Sixers struggled when Joel was off the floor, and Brett took him out, half of y’all would be bitching about that instead.

One more flagrant results in an auto-suspension for Embiid, but we’ll see if the NBA rescinds this:

That’s… not a flagrant in my book.’

“James” Butler

He was the “adult in the room,” as Brett Brown likes to say.

Team-high 25 points on 50% shooting, 7-7 from the foul line, 8 assists, great defense, etc. He’s looking very much like a max contract type of player, is he not?

Brown on “James” Butler:

He just stamped his authority and his skill package, his will, pick whatever words you want. He was all over that game. The mood in the locker room as we went through an early shootaround, our version of shootaround before the game, you could sense the serious side. They ‘got’ the moment. I think he got it as much as anybody and led us. He was a tremendous leader and his performance mirrored his attitude.

Jimmy McCormick shared a good stat so he gets an embedded tweet right here:

Ben’s aggression

Aggressive Ben Simmons showed up last night, and he was excellent, shooting 9-13 from the floor and getting to the foul line on three separate occasions.

Why was it working in game six?

Ben:

Just spacing, guys being in spots where they need to be allows me to do that. Just me having a mindset of getting downhill and making plays.

….

Before we came out on the floor I just kind of looked at the starting five and was like, ‘we got a lot of talent.’ With that comes responsibility. Everybody has to do their job. It goes back to defense and playing together, sharing the ball and movement. That’s special.

Early on, Ben was putting himself in great offensive rebounding positions and getting a variety of tip-ins and clean up buckets. In attacking the rim, this play stood out to me:

Sure, he can play Joel in the post, but you see that Pascal Siakam dig and double team coming from a mile away. So Ben recognizes the saggy defense and has the speed and athleticism to drive on Siakam at the three point line and get the bucket to fall.

We just weren’t seeing stuff like that from Ben in games one through five, and this was an uncommon scenario where he was able to drive to the rack in the half court from above the break.

Ben finished with 6 assists and 4 offensive rebounds, and I liked this post game quote from Brett regarding Ben’s play:

He’s 22 years old. His game, as he grows his shot and tries to get a better command of his position and deals with the stage of the NBA playoffs – shame on us for thinking he’s going to be all-day every day, here he is going to go knock it out the park, it’s just not fair. What he did today was lots of the reasons he is an NBA All-Star at age 22, as an NBA point guard with the ball. I thought that on missed shots and him pushing it he was really good. I thought him getting us organized out of our offense after they made a shot was really good. I really loved his no turnovers and I really loved his offensive rebounds. I thought those two things among all those comments I just made are what stood out the most. It’s the evolution of a 22-year-old, 6’10” point guard that used to be a college four man. I see it very clearly.

This is why we talk about Ben’s jump shot so frequently. Some talk about it from a negative perspective, but I see it as a positive, a “potential” type of thing.

Even without it, he’s a young and exciting player with a unique skill set. With a jump shot, he’s an All-Star for the next five years. Tell me I’m wrong. Am I wrong? The jump shot thing, in my mind, is less about ripping Ben for what he doesn’t possess, it’s looking forward to what he might become when he does add that to his arsenal.

Ben’s clothing

Hear me out –

I think this actually did matter, at least a little bit:

Simmons also did not wear the shooting sleeve that is typically over his left arm. I don’t know about you, but I hated wearing anything under my clothing when I played any sport. It just felt constricting. Maybe “unnatural” is a good word. I’d rather take a brush burn or a cut or a scrape instead of wearing three-quarter leggings or something under my shorts, because I don’t feel like I can move my legs in the same way.

Not sure why, maybe because I was hopped up on coffee and Mountain Dew and kind of loopy, but I asked him about it after the game:

Simmons: It was more of a physical thing for me, just go out there and play, don’t worry about sleeves or whatever you have on, just go out and hoop, get back to being me.

Crossing Broad: Did you notice any significant difference?

Simmons: Nah, it was just about going out there and leaving it on the floor.

You only get these kinds of hard-hitting questions with Crossing Broad.

Tobias Harris

Not a great shooting night, just 6-17 and 2-8 from three, but 9 rebounds and 5 assists and I saw a number of times where he attacked close-outs and backed down smaller guys on mismatches. The Lowry play in the paint comes to mind. Tobias I felt was just moving better last night and he helped the flow of the offense by doing some nice auxiliary things.

Mike Scott

I agree with this:

Boban minutes

Oof, okay, I thought for a moment last night that Brett Brown was coaching himself to unemployment. I’m 100% serious. You should have seen how restless the crowd became when Boban Marjanovic was in the game and the Raptors were going on their runs. I could see the social media nightmare looming in the distance, like that Bird Box movie with Sandra Bullock.

To be clear, I don’t think this was 100% Boban’s fault. The Sixers stopped moving when he was in the game. Tobias Harris missed a couple of wide open shots. Marjanovic got called for a foul that wasn’t a foul. But he finished -18 in 6:46 and the Sixers really struggled with him out there.

Said Brett:

It really hasn’t been consistent, we are searching to find an answer for the 8th man. We’ve tried Amir, we played Furkan earlier, we’ve played Greg Monroe, who I thought did okay, so you’re kind of searching a little bit. There wasn’t anybody that like put their hand up and grabbed that spot. It didn’t help us obviously, that was a hard four minutes for Boban. I felt like we pivoted out of it quickly, and it could have been a tough environment, but ultimately we, me, are in pursuit of who is the 8th man. It’s not clear. So we decided to try Boban, and the plus-minus says what it says. The game changed quite a bit and I have to think this through. Do you go with 7 players? Maybe. Or do you just go back to like who is the 8th man? And for that reason we tried to go with Boban and see and I’ll do the same thing as far as thinking who that is for Game 7.

I’d go with seven players and just tighten it up for game seven. That’s me.

For what it’s worth, Brett adjusted in the second half and played some small ball with Mike Scott at the five, which got Kawhi a couple of easy dunks and didn’t allow Embiid too much of a rest. Still, it was less of a liability with Scott out there instead of Bobi, and Philly survived with Joel only having to play about 36 minutes in an elimination game. That’s a victory all day, every day.

Also, somebody told me before the game that they thought they saw Greg Monroe limping in the locker room. He was not listed on the injury report but also did not enter the game in garbage time when the Sixers emptied the bench. Could be something to it, or maybe not. Let’s sniff around with that.

Other notes:

  • Ben Simmons’ second foul didn’t need to happen. Not sure why he was reaching on Kawhi coming across mid court. Luckily those two early fouls didn’t burn him or the Sixers.
  • The Sixers threw a couple of traps on Kawhi last night and I recall him wriggling free of each one.
  • It was a more “blue collar” crowd in the Center last night. Ticket prices dropped and that resulted in more raucous and rowdy supporters being in the house. Not trying to be an asshole, I promise, just being honest. Sometimes the people who can afford pricier tickets can be a little more passive as a crowd, as opposed to say, some middle/working class dude from Port Richmond sitting behind the Raps’ bench.
  • Toronto missed some open shots. They cut the lead to eight I think at one point, then missed their next two looks. They were 9-36 from three (25%).
  • The last four minutes of the game were wretched. Fouls all over the place, air balls, etc. Looked like a 2009 Big East tournament game.
  • Obviously I didn’t see the broadcast, but I was informed that Doris Burke was “off” last night.
  • The media food has been great in the playoffs. Last night we got vegetable orecchiette with alfredo sauce and steak. Damn that was good.
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10 Comments

  • 4 for 4 for life (wore my dog mask last night) May 10, 2019 at 9:06 am

    The cuz was so right about last nights game . Thanks cuz for making me believe yesterday

    Reply
    • Meat locker 4 life May 10, 2019 at 9:27 am

      How Cuz compared the game to when him and his friends played 3 on 3 best of 7 in the driveway…AWESOME!

      Reply
      • 4 for 4 is a way of life May 10, 2019 at 9:33 am

        Cuz is the man. He talked me off the cliff last night when I was listening to cuz’s corner .

        Reply
    • Cuz says the Sixers have already won game 7 May 10, 2019 at 5:33 pm

      They don’t even have to show up at the game. He said the Raptors should forfeit now to avoid the embarrassment of losing in a blowout.

      Reply
  • Mike Oxmall May 10, 2019 at 9:32 am

    After a two game absence they “ALL” showed up & played hard…hopefully they play with that same intensity in game 7.

    Reply
  • So Taguchi - Phillies Legend May 10, 2019 at 10:17 am

    Lets hope this team of Jekylls shows up on Sunday. If Embiid plays up to expectations and Ben repeats this performance (20+ pts with ZERO TO’s), we got a damn good shot at this.

    Reply
    • King of bling May 10, 2019 at 10:22 am

      Thanks for the great analysis, Genius!

      Reply
  • Speaking For The People May 10, 2019 at 10:30 am

    Is there any way to get comments that mention “cuz” to not post?

    Reply
    • The Dude May 10, 2019 at 11:58 am

      hear hear

      Reply
  • Timmay May 10, 2019 at 11:25 am

    Thankfully I had something to do last night and was only subjected to that gal’s voice for the first quarter. She is definitely not a prime timer……

    Reply
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