The Philadelphia 76ers are on the brink of elimination and it appears that their 2017-18 season will be coming to an end sooner rather than later. However, the optimism that has pushed the team all season still is not going anywhere.
Joel Embiid said that the Sixers are okay for now and they know what they need to do. And yeah, this team has won four consecutive games several times this season but this is the playoffs. The team’s performances so far in this series has suggested that they think the games are being played in December.
It is seemingly easy to find the faults in the first three games but Philadelphia could be up 2-1 in this series if a handful of plays went its way. Cold shooting nights, blown leads and unforced turnovers are something that have haunted the 76ers all season and those things are coming back up at the worst time.
Embiid has been leading the way for the Sixers on offense during the series but there has still been questions about his conditioning and even efficiency. He has played 37.7 minutes per game during the Conference Semifinals, which is second on the team behind Ben Simmons. Embiid leads the team with 24.3 points per game on 43 percent shooting. He is just 25 percent on 3-pointers and 66.7 percent on free throws. All of those percentages are well below his regular season average.
There is no doubt that Embiid should still be the go-to-guy for the offense and that still seems to be the case. He has cut down on turnovers, although it may not seem like it, and he has been a force on the glass. The big man has grabbed 22.4 percent of all rebounds while he was on the floor.
Outside of Embiid, the Sixers will be trying to find some consistency from their other players. J.J. Redick has probably been the second best starter for the team during the series. The veteran shooting guard is averaging 20.3 points per game on 49 percent shooting. His 18 points in Game 3 was his lowest scoring output since Game 3 against Miami.
While there have been some (very few) good things to look back on from the first three games, Ben Simmons is not one of them. Over the course of the series, the team has been outscored by 55 points with Simmons on the court. Do the simple math and you figure out that that means the Sixers have outscored the Celtics by 31 in the 33 minutes with Simmons on the bench.
Some credit has to go to Simmons though as he made a large improvement in Game 3. He finished with a series-high in field goal percentage, rebounds, assists and blocks to go with a series-low in turnovers and fouls. However, it still was not good enough and barely showed a glimpse of the Simmons that everyone saw at the end of the regular season. This is the first time since March 2nd that the rookie has gone at least three games without a double-double.
Meanwhile, T.J. McConnell has been doing his best to push the Sixers back into the series with his play off the bench. The backup point guard has not missed a shot over the last two games and most of his numbers are well above Simmons’. It’s not even that he has just been better than Simmons but McConnell has been better than most players on the court. He leads the Sixers in offensive rating (114.1), net rating (+27.8), true shooting percentage (85.7) and plus/minus per game (+6.7).
Boston boasts six different players that are averaging at least 10 points per game in this series, led by Jayson Tatum’s 24.3 points. Four of those six players are shooting at least 45 percent from the field with Al Horford’s 60.7 percent shooting leading the way.
The Celtics are looking to leave Philadelphia with their first playoff series sweep since 2011. They are also looking to make back-to-back conference finals for the first time since 1988. Boston has not closed out a playoff series in Philadelphia since 1969.
No matter what happens tonight at Wells Fargo Center, the season that the Sixers have had is certainly a success. However, I think we can all agree on one thing: Not like this.
When: 6 p.m. ET
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
Watch: TNT with Brian Anderson, Kevin McHale (cool) & Ros Gold-Onwude
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic