It was nearly 18 years ago that these two teams last met in a game 7 and here they are once again. Back then, the 76ers had The Answer for Vince Carter and his Raptors but now have they figured out The Process in defeating Kawhi and these Raptors?
Game 6 was everything Sixers’ fans hoped it would be. The team came out the gate charging at the Raptors defense as if it was the last game they’d ever play. Which technically it could’ve been. The once quiet Ben Simmons finally came into his own. He even went sleeveless for this game to find a way to get back to himself.
That’s exactly what he did. Simmons continuously attacked in the half court and in the open court. The 6’10” point guard moved with agility and speed as if he had no plan on slowing down. He made sure he found ways of aggravating Kawhi on the defensive side of the ball to even making sure he found the right shooters in the right spots on the offensive side.
Simmons ended the night with 21 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists. but he wasn’t the only man on a mission. With Joel Embid struggling to find his rhythm in the first half , Jimmy Butler became everything fans hoped he would be. He owned the Raptors in the first half finishing with a game high 19 points at the break.
One thing Butler has mentioned game in and game out is how valuable the Sixers’ defense is to their offense. Also how important it is for the team that Ben and Joel attack without hesitation. It may have taken some time but it looks like Ben heard him loud and clear. You could see the effort flowing out of them in every aspect of the game last night. From the shifts on defense to the aggressiveness on offense.
A big takeaway from this game is the fact that all the Sixers’ starters reached double figures. Embid had 17 points with 12 rebounds, Harris had 16 points alongside 9 rebounds, Redick put up 11 points and Butler finished with a team-high 25 points and 8 assists. The team is nearly unstoppable when all starters score in double digits and game 6 provided the proof.
Now it’s on to game 7 with more than just the Eastern Conference Finals on the line. Sure, they’re on the road in a whole other country but does that really matter at this point? Both teams have lost home games in this series.
The one X-factor to a series-clinching win for the Sixers is effort. It’ll be hard to play like they did tonight after a two-day rest but they have to put it all on the line in Toronto. A loss this Sunday can lead to several negative ripple effects this offseason.
One thing is for sure, win or lose, Elton Brand must keep the big four together no matter the cost. One can only imagine the damage they’ll do next year with a full year under their belt.
Now, if they lose, the only question Elton Brand and the team’s regime needs to ask is if Brett Brown is capable of bringing this team to the promised land. We can focus on that another day but for now, it’s complete tunnel vision for Game 7.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports