Philadelphia (WPHL)- The Philadelphia 76ers were an embarrassed Thursday night in Philadelphia. In a game where the team knew it could be their last game, they came out in the 2nd half and played terrible basketball. The Sixers lost to the Miami Heat 99-90, but the final score does not tell the true story of how bad this game was.
The Sixers, who knew the Heat would come out in a zone defense, never adjusted their offensive game plan. The team struggled against the zone and had lineups that didn’t mesh while at all once Danny Green suffered an injury. This loss is the Sixer’s 3rd time losing in the 2nd round of the NBA Playoffs in the Joel Embiid era. The team has yet to get past the 2nd round in the post-season.
Every year the Sixers blame someone for the team’s inability to take the step in the post-season. First, it was the guy who built the core in Philadelphia, former General Manager Sam Hinkie. Then it was Brett Brown’s fault after the team lost in the playoffs in 2018, 2019, and 2020. Finally, in 2021, Ben Simmons was put on blast by his star teammate and head coach after a Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks. So who will the blame be put on today? Many are already putting the entire series on James Harden, who deserves some part of the blame. But who should the Philadelphia fan base, media, and organization blame?
Joel Embiid’s nice guy act and failure to take responsibility
Embiid is the best actor in the NBA. He is excellent at manipulating the media to think he is a good guy who would do whatever it takes to win a title. When he bashes his teammates, everyone receives it as he is just calling out players who need to get better, which is incorrect. Embiid calls out his teammates to put the eyes of the public on them even though he is not playing well.
In the 2nd round of the playoffs last season against the Hawks, not one analyst pointed out Embiid struggles that series in the 4th qtrs and some games overall. The Sixers were up 2-1, heading into Game 4 in Atlanta. Embiid performance in a close Game 4 in which the Sixers were up 18 points in the first half was dreadful. Embiid shot 4 for 20 from the field and 0/12 in the 4th qtr. Simmons was an assist shy of a triple-double. With 10.9 secs left in Game 5 at Philadelphia, Embiid misses two free throws with the score being 107-104. In Game 6, Embiid shot 9/24 from the field, and to his credit, he admitted he played bad. In the infamous Game 7, where Simmons had 13 assists with eight rebounds and held Hawks star Trae Young to 5/23 shooting from the field, Embiid scored two meaningful points in the last five minutes. Embiid, who was Runner-up in MVP voting in 2021, didn’t live up to it in the Playoffs.
In almost all Embiid post-game interviews, he finds a way to blame his injuries or his teammates. In 2021, he tells the media he gave it his all and that it’s unfortunate that a Simmons play with 3:29 left cost the Sixers the game. Embiid will always mention that he gave it his all and always played through an injury. By doing this, the media will say Embiid is a tough guy who cares about winning. But in reality, he cares more about his image and likeness than anyone else. He comes off as selfish; he wanted the MVP trophy so bad that he finally got in shape to stay healthy this season; as soon as he lost, he went back to the old Embiid, shooting jumpers and not being aggressive in Games 5 and 6 against the Heat.
On Thursday, Embiid told reporters, ” Since we got him, everyone expected he would be the Houston James Harden, but that is not who he is no more. He’s more of a playmaker.” Ironically, Harden, who the Sixers traded Simmons for, only shot twice in the 2nd half of Game 6 against the Heat. Ironically, Embiid said Harden is more of a playmaker than a scorer. So did the Sixers trade Simmons for an older and non-defensive version of himself?
James Harden and Doc Rivers Playoffs woes
Harden will always be a scapegoat for any NBA team he joins because he played for multiple teams and found no success. Also, his struggles in the Playoffs make him an easy target for analysts to go after him. Harden, like Simmons, is who he is. He was never the closer the Sixers needed. He was never the guy to carry the team if Embiid goes out. He’s a guy who can give you spurts of greatness, put pressure on team defenses, and get guys going.
After Game 6, Harden said, ” I will do whatever it takes to allow this team to compete at the highest level moving forward.” A reporter asked him about his contract option. Harden can opt-in this offseason and receive $47,366,760 for the 2022-2023 NBA season.
Doc Rivers is a good coach despite how much he gets talked about. The problem with Rivers is that he is not good at in-game adjustments. He can get you to the Playoffs, but he won’t be the reason why you win the title. He needs stars that already know the game of basketball at a high level. Embiid is not that! Rivers would be perfect with Lebron James and the Los Angeles Lakers because he would fix their defense and won’t have to overcome his player’s mistakes as much. For example, Embiid did not know how to beat Bam Adebayo when he was fronting him in the post.
As simple as this was, Rivers deals with so much on the court that he probably didn’t see it. Maybe the coaching staff needs better assistants to help Rivers if he is here next season. According to Rivers, anyone who thinks he doesn’t deserve to be still employed with the Sixers should “write it.”
“I don’t worry about my job. I do a terrific job, and if you don’t, then you should write it,” Rivers said. “I worked my butt off to get this team here. When I first got here, no one picked us to be anywhere. Again, this year the same thing.”