Going Out with a Whimper – Observations from Heat 99, Sixers 90 (Game 6)

Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

For the second consecutive year, a once-promising Sixers season comes to an end in the second round on their home floor. And for the second-straight year they got squashed by a Caucasian role player, with Max Strus doing his best Kevin Huerter impression while Jimmy Butler dropped another 30+ on his former team. You can’t write a more depressing Philadelphia sports story.

This isn’t exactly a profound statement, but Miami was just better in this series. Talk about the Joel Embiid injury all you want, but they shot the ball well, moved without it, and hit the offensive glass while the Sixers fucking stood around watching. Miami executed on both ends of the floor. They played a cleaner game and they are better coached and showed better attitude and body language throughout. For their lack of high-end star power, the Heat play effective team basketball and continually out-hustled and out-worked the Sixers for the entirety of the series.

Truth be told, the Sixers effort was actually fine to start this game. Embiid was willing to shoot. He finished with 24 shots and came out with the right mindset and right approach. The energy seemed be there, but Game 6 devolved largely into the same story as other losses in this series. The Sixers just didn’t make enough shots, finishing 41.4% from the floor. They turned the ball over 13 times and didn’t do enough to win in any meaningful auxiliary areas. When the Heat started to extend their lead, the home team just didn’t have enough firepower to really make any kind of legitimate push and they knew they were cooked. You could see it from 30 miles away and/or through your TV screen, because there are no killers and no dogs on this squad.

“I just felt like Game 5, this game, honestly the games that we lost, we just didn’t have any real flow to how we wanted to really play,” said Tobias Harris. “I’m specifically talking to the offensive end in that. That also led to on the defensive end the lack of effort there, which it shouldn’t, but it’s basketball. And human nature as well. But we really never grasped, in the games that we lost, the true flow of how we play basketball. We had spurts in this series where we’ve shown how good we are as a group and a team, but we barely got to it tonight and in Game 5.”

Losing Danny Green early really hurt, which forced Matisse Thybulle onto the floor and resulted in some headache possessions like this:

As is the case during most Sixers playoff experiences, the other team looks offensively adept and gets easy looks while everything on the Philly side seems uber-laborious.

“Forget just the second half,” the head coach said. “Never got any offensive rhythm throughout the game in my opinion. More than just the second half. But the second half, the turnovers, the sloppy play. Just killed us. It really did. But, I thought it was the whole game. I just didn’t like how we played. I didn’t like how we played last game. Didn’t like how we played tonight. I just, all game. I know what they have. I get that. You can visually see that. Athletically and they’re big. I just thought, I don’t know, I just thought we had more. I really did.”

If you want to blame Doc Rivers for anything, blame him for coming back to start the second half with Matisse in the game, playing with a starting unit that was already struggling to score. Miami immediately went on a big run to blow it open, and P.J. Tucker grabbing a pair of offensive rebounds for second-chance points was a real kick in the nuts. Doc had to beg his team “to fight for this” in the second half, and they responded with not much at all. You need guys who really want it, and this team simply did not have that.

Look at this list of results over the past five years:

  • 2017/2018 – Simmons, Embiid, Saric, Covington, Redick: 2nd round exit
  • 2018/2019 – Simmons, Embiid, Butler, Harris, Redick: 2nd round exit via quadruple doink
  • 2019/2020 – Simmons, Embiid, Horford, Harris, Richardson: swept out of bubble in first round (Ben injured)
  • 2020/2021 – Simmons, Embiid, Green, Curry, Harris: 2nd round exit as #1 seed
  • 2021/2022 – Embiid, Harden, Harris, Maxey, Green: 2nd round exit

It’s incredible to me that the entirety of the Process era that segued into a half-decade of exciting regular season basketball is going to max out at a second-round exit. Seriously? Is that the pinnacle of his era of Sixers basketball? Going out in the conference semifinals? If Doc Rivers has coached his last Sixers game, he’ll have failed to get any further than Brett Brown. Chew on that.

no show James Harden

You can’t give him an extension. This is what you received when the going got tough:

Nice effort from him. Way to step it up. Ben Simmons-esque.

He’s going to opt in and play here next season, according to him, which you means who have to see if you can find a trade partner for Harris and/or hope they can get Harden’s hamstring right over the summer. Something’s gotta give because there’s not a lot of wiggle room here.

Supporting cast

The Sixers got nothing from the bench in this series. Miami’s role players were so important and the Sixers got diddly poo on their end. Georges Niang finished 0-1 in Game 6 and had the worst series you will ever see. Thybulle was a shell of himself for the last three months, Furkan Korkmaz barely sniffed the rotation down the stretch, and Shake Milton did what he could. Throw in the Paul Reed/DeAndre Jordan mini-saga as well.

Daryl Morey has done a nice job of making this team competitive, but they have been incredibly top heavy. He missed on George Hill last year and losing Andre Drummond at the trade deadline hurt big time. In hindsight, it would have been better to move Thybulle in one of those proposed Simmons deals and keep either Seth Curry or Drummond instead. Morey is last on my list of people to blame, but now he’s gotta find a way to fine tune this thing and get them over the hump.

“I don’t lay defeat at anybody,” said Doc Rivers in a rare display of accountability. “We’re a team. We don’t do that. We really are. We lost together as a group. I lost, Joel lost, James lost. We all lost. The greatest thing about this is you keep trying to put your team back in these positions to win. That’s what so great about this. We don’t lose and then you go home. You get to come back. You can say that about James and all of our guys. That’s the greatest part. A lot of people don’t ever want to come back. Our guys, you put everything you have into it every year knowing there’s a chance, and probably a better chance that you’re not going to win it. But you want to believe every year that you can. And every year that you don’t, you get your heart broken, and it’s worth it. It’s absolutely worth it. And I’ll tell you that.”

A clear violation

This photo was sent to me by someone in the crowd. Normally we wouldn’t out somebody like this, but his face is totally obscured and we’ve got a clear violation here. Guy in front of photo sender was wearing a $224 Allen Iverson Mitchell and Ness jersey and matching shirt underneath. The tag is hanging out the back so you can clearly see how much money he paid for it:

 

Wait lemme zoom in:

Photo sender surmises that the jersey guy is either going to return his purchase today, which is a douche move, or he’s simply being a douche by letting everybody know how much he paid for this thing. $224.99. No matter how you slice it, we had douchebaggery going on at the Wells Fargo Center. At least when the kids leave the stickers on their flat brim hats there’s no price tag hanging out. Imagine if Ben Simmons wore that lame ass Louis Vuitton shirt and the $1,400 price tag was hanging out the back.

Anyway. It’s gonna be an interesting offseason. We say that every year in mid-May. We’ve been saying that for four straight seasons now. We will continue the Sixers postmortem on the site today.

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