Published May 8, 2019
By William Whisler
Last night’s display was more than enough.
The Toronto Raptors were firing on all cylinders, forcing the Sixers into countless miscues, as the Raptors dominated every facet of the game in a 125-89 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
The Sixers struggled from the tip, were outscored by 20 in the second frame and failed to reach 100 points for the fourth time in five games. The Sixers allowed 31 points off turnovers and Joel Embiid failed to show for the second-straight game.
In his last two games, Embiid, despite battling illnesses, has been nonexistent since his heroic Game 3 efforts. Embiid scored 11 points and had eight rebounds in Game 4, before scoring just 13 points and grabbing six boards in Game 5. Embiid also had eight turnovers himself in last night’s blowout.
At the beginning of the playoffs, I felt rather confident in this Sixers team. For the first time since the addition of Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, Butler and Embiid were playing effectively off of the pick and roll and Ben Simmons was seemingly in rhythm.
In the past few games, Simmons has allowed the Raptors to play 5-on-4 basketball.
With his lack of perimeter shooting and with Butler and Embiid running the pick and roll offense, Simmons can do nothing except stand in the corner, which does nothing to make the Raptors even consider covering him. With that development in the series, Simmons has scored no more than 14 points in a game.
Butler has been at his best, putting up point totals of 30, 22, 29 and 22 in his last four games. But his success has come at the detriment of Simmons, and Harris hasn’t found his stride to make a difference either. Harris averaged 20 points per game in the regular season and hasn’t scored more than 16 points in a game in the series.
JJ Redick scored three points in 37 minutes of action in Game 5.
The effort by Philadelphia is simply unacceptable. The team has declared itself as elite, but at this point, the Sixers are the worst team still alive in the playoffs.
The Sixers must right the ship and quickly, or else some major changes will be coming to the roster in July.
Butler and Harris will be free agents this summer. Who will the Sixers bring back? Will Butler get the max contract he has been seeking? While it’s hard to say that Butler is worth a max deal, that fact that he has been the only player to show in the Raptors’ series leaves Philly with little chance but to overpay.
Harris has moved his whole career. He’s been traded numerous times and at this point, he’s used to moving. Will he settle for less than the max for stability in one city?
What will happen to Brett Brown? I feel like he is coaching for his job this season and that is completely unfair of management. Brown has done a great job this year and has led the team out of the despair of the team’s pit just a few seasons ago.
The Sixers are contending, but Kawhi Leonard has made a mark in Toronto. Leonard has averaged 30.3 points per game and has shot 50 percent from beyond the arc in the series. He has been all but unstoppable in the playoffs.
The emergence of Pascal Siakam has been legendary as well. Marc Gasol and Kyle Lowry finally showed up for the Raptors. The Sixers may force a Game 7 if they finally show up in Game 6, but they can’t win in Jurassic Park.
The Sixers’ season is over.
William Whisler is a columnist for PennSports.LIVE, as well as a 2018 graduate of Shippensburg University. Whisler served for three years as the sports editor of Shippensburg University’s student-run newspaper, The Slate, where he specialized as the beat writer for SU football and the SU men’s basketball team. Whisler has written for multiple publications including the Lewistown Sentinel, the Shippensburg News-Chronicle and The Gettysburg Times. Whisler is currently pursuing a master’s degree in communication studies at Shippensburg.