On May 2nd, 2019, the 76ers put on a show for the whole world to see. They shot for 51% from the field and aggressively rebounded on both sides of the floor. At the center of this 116-95 win was the ring leader, the team’s leader and the city’s MVP, Joel Embid.
Embid has been battling different health issues throughout the playoffs that even carried over from the regular season but that didn’t stop him from putting up 33 points with 10 rebounds and 5 blocks to follow. He looked unstoppable that night, shooting 75% from three point range with a smile followed by his expressive personality. It was a sight for the ages!
The following day, all sports networks had one consistent debate going on, how great is Embid? During the telecast, Mark Jackson mentioned that if Embid can stay healthy throughout the duration of his career then he would most likely go down as one of the greatest big men of all time.
Wow! What a compliment! Of course, Jeff Van Gundy didn’t feel as optimistic as his colleague but that’s not why we’re here right now.
Right now, as the series stands, the Sixers have found themselves down 3-2 on the brink of elimination. If they lose Thursday night then that will make it two years in a row that this team has been bounced out of the second round.
This isn’t how this season is supposed to end.
The team didn’t trade for Jimmy Butler or Tobias Harris just so it could end like this. I doubt Elton brand sacrificed team assets just to see his ball club lose to a team that isn’t much better than they are. Sure, they have Kawhi Leonard but we have Joel Embid. If Joel can’t handle the load then at least they have Ben Simmons, right? Or so we thought.
Where is Ben? I’ve grown to love his game even without a lethal jump shot because you can see the great potential within him but something’s not making sense.
Last year, we raved to the world about Ben and his rightful claim to Rookie of the Year. He was putting up triple-doubles like it was a walk in the park. I mean, how could we ignore the potential after averaging 15 PPG, 8 APG and 8 RPG for the 2017-18 season?
This series has revealed a different Sixers club, one that could scare fans because of the crucial decisions coming this offseason.
See, right now, Ben Simmons is averaging 9 PPG, 4.6 APG and 7 RPG. Not terrible numbers for an ordinary NBA player, but that’s not what Ben is. When will the breakout game come? When do we meet playoff Ben? Yes, We saw a glimpse of his dominance in game 3 against Brooklyn but is that all we get?
Now let’s look at all the pieces outside of our franchise duo, Jimmy is bearing more than he can right now and is averaging 22 PPG, as for Tobias? He’s averaging a decent 13.4 PPG but his inconsistency is on full display right now, something fans dread seeing.
This is the core that we bragged about all season long. Everybody felt like this is the team that the league would underestimate! Well, the league did just that. They did underestimate the Sixers, but it seems like the Sixers have overestimated themselves.
What’s holding Ben back? Who’s going to help carry the weight that’s been placed on Embid? How much blame does Brett Brown deserve for what’s being displayed on the court?
One thing to really consider is if this team collapses in Philly for game 6, does that give Jimmy the green light to leave? Do the Sixers then end up overpaying for Tobias?
It looks like Thursday night holds a lot more weight than the average Sixers fan can bear.
Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports