Legacies on the Line as 76ers Look To Close Out the Raptors

Doc Rivers
March 23, 2022, Los Angeles, California, USA: Head coach, Doc Rivers of the Philadelphia 76ers questions a no-call during their NBA game against the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday March 23, 2022 at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by PI/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire) ****NO AGENTS—NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA SALES ONLY****

When the Philadelphia 76ers went up 3-0 in the best of seven series against the Toronto Raptors, many thought the series was over. Instead of focusing up and closing out the series in a sweep, the Sixers took their foot off the gas and lost both game 4 in Toronto and game 5 in Philadelphia. With the series shifting to Toronto for game 6 and all the pressure is on the team to close the Raptors with many 76ers’ legacies on the line.

Doc Rivers

Out of everyone who could be affected by a Philadelphia 76ers collapse from leading 3-0 is Head Coach Doc Rivers. Rivers has the most series losses as a coach when leading 3-1 in the playoffs. His series losses came once with the Orlando Magic and twice with the Los Angeles Clippers. His most recent was when he was leading 3-1 against the Denver Nuggets in the 2020 NBA Bubble, with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George leading the way for the Clippers. 

Rivers also was a part of the disastrous loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the second round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs. The 76ers blew multiple double-digit leads and lost game 7 at home. It wasn’t all Ben Simmons’ fault the Sixers underachieved in last season’s playoffs.

James Harden

James Harden’s playoff struggles have been well documented. He has gained the reputation for not playing his best when his team’s playoff hopes are on the line. Most notably, his Game 7 performance against the Golden State Warriors in 2018, where he went 2-13 from three-point range. 

Since Harden’s first three games as a Sixer, his play has been inconsistent, and his burst has almost been non-existent. His lack of burst can be accredited to his nagging hamstring injury, but the 76ers need more from him. When they traded for him in February, the 76ers expected much more and acquired him for moments like this. If he doesn’t play well the remainder of this series, he will be one of the first players to be in the media’s crosshairs.

Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid has been the clear MVP this season, although he more than likely won’t win it. He came into this series as “healthy” as he has been but suffered a torn UCL in his right thumb. Since the injury occurred, he hasn’t looked the same. In game 5, he looked timid due to trying to protect the painful injury. He didn’t look good on defense as well, with all players who switched on to Embiid attacking him driving to the rim. It is understood that Embiid is playing with an injury, but if he is going to be on the court, he has to play with more energy. 

Embiid has put this team on his back this year, even with the arrival of James Harden, but another disappointing playoff loss could definitely put a negative mark on Embiid legacy. Ben Simmons isn’t here to blame anymore.

Tobias Harris

Tobias Harris’ play has been up and down this season, but he has been magnificent in the playoffs. He has been the most consistent all-around player in the series, taking on Pascal Siakam every night and playing him well. He has been a quick trigger on offense, making the right play more times than not.

If the Sixers’ don’t make it out of the first round against the Raptors, Tobias’ legacy will be cemented as an overpaid middle-of-the-pack player that can’t truly affect a playoff series. He has also been a part of the last three disappointing Sixers’ playoff runs (Kawhi Shot in 2019, Boston Sweep in the Bubble, Upset against the Hawks).

With legacies on the line, the Sixers need to come out and take care of business in Toronto against the Raptors. If this series goes 7, all of the pressure will be on the 76ers at home, and right now, there isn’t much optimism from the media on their ability to win this series. If the Sixers were to lose this series, they would be on the wrong side of history as the first team to lose after leading 3-0. The Philadelphia 76ers are flat out the better team, and if they don’t win, this failure will stick to all involved.