The 2020 Sixers have lived a good life. They won 43 games, survived a pandemic, played in the only ever NBA bubble, and were given the 6th seed of the playoffs. It was a knee surgery to Ben Simmons and being exposed for having a poorly constructed roster that ultimately caused their demise. They will be survived by Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and hopefully few others.
In all seriousness, things do not look good for the Sixers right now. Last night they were beaten by the Celtics 102-94 and are now down 3-0 on the series. This is a hole that no team has ever been able to climb out of, and the Sixers have not shown much life to suggest they would be capable of being the first.
Shake flashed much of what he brings to the table in this game. He willingly shot the ball (which for some reason is uncommon on this team) and was the most consistent player on the night. He scored 17 points and put up a refreshing 9 three-point attempts. Coming on the heels of games 1 and 2 where they shot 27 and 21 attempts from deep, it was nice to see an uptick in outside shots as a whole for the team as they tallied 39 attempts on the night. Shake still needs to improve on defense, although there were moments where he looked respectable. The match-up against Kemba is a brutal task for the 23-year-old, but he did step up and had a solid overall performance.
Although it is a low bar, Richardson has played significantly better this series than he did in the seeding games. This was especially seen in this game and he led the team with 42 minutes played. J-Rich also was not afraid to pull the trigger and launched 11 three-point attempts. He ended with 17 points and also did a very good job defending Jayson Tatum. Other than the boneheaded clear-path foul, J-Rich looked solid and showed a much better overall defensive understanding than it seemed he was capable of.
There seemed to be the feeling that the Sixers were about to roll over and quit after the last game. This was the best effort that the Sixers have shown in all 3 games and arguably in the entire bubble. The talent gap between the Sixers and Celtics is too large to overcome but the Sixers left it all on the court. Defensively the team seemed more in tune and an adjustment was made on the pick-and-roll which helped greatly. Embiid no longer sat as far back in the paint when guarding the screener and Josh Richardson stood out for fighting over the screens more effectively. Brett Brown also showed some fire by using time-outs in a more effective way and was not afraid to show some emotion which was a pleasant change.
Tobias Harris and Al Horford
Not to beat a dead horse but there is not enough that can be said about how disappointing the performances from this pair has been. Horford and Tobias shot 0-7 from deep in game 3 and have yet to make a 3 pointer in the entire series. Al scored just 6 points and Tobias looked afraid to shoot the ball by the end of the game. While his stat-line of 15 points and 15 rebounds wasn’t awful, he looked uncomfortable and wanted no part of the ball in key moments which is a role that the Sixers need him to be able to step into. Harris did not register a single point after the 5:11 mark in the 3rd quarter. To be fair to Horford, he gave great effort on the defensive end. The dagger step-back by Kemba at the end hurt, but the aging Horford ran around following the younger, quicker Jaylen Brown to the best of his ability throughout the entire game.
While the Sixers had 6 fewer turnovers than they did in game 1, they were much more costly. The Embiid pass that was picked off by Marcus Smart with 1:38 left is the first one that comes to mind. At that point, the Sixers were up 94-92 with the ball, and the collapse happened shortly after. Despite the clear mismatch inside, the Sixers struggled to make proper passes to him into a post-up position which has been a problem throughout the series. Embiid led the team with 4 turnovers and the team ended with a total of 12. There were also several contested awkward jumpers that were forced up at the end of the shot-clock that have the same value as a TO but avoided a spot on the stat sheet.
It is rare that I don’t find myself counting down the hours for a Sixers game, but Game 3 certainly fell in that category. Time is ticking on the end of the Sixers season and maybe even an era in Sixers basketball. It hurts to watch how frustrated Embiid is and is even more painful to continue to watch the mismatched parts on the team try to coexist. This was just about the best effort that could’ve been asked for from the team, but it still was not enough. Tatum was held to 14 in the game and Jaylen Brown also struggled early totaling 21 on the game. The team will need to bring all the fight they brought in game 3 and more as they look to steal a game and avoid a sweep on Sunday.
Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire