The Philadelphia 76ers took to their home court Thursday night, hoping to wrap up their series against the Boston Celtics. Long a thorn in the side of the Sixers, the Celtics had won the previous five playoff series with a record of 19-7 in that time. After a crucial Game 6 performance, the Celtics have forced a Game 7 to be played in Boston.
A catastrophic start
From the jump, life was made miserable for the Sixers on both ends of the court as they failed at both finding an offensive grove and forcing stops at the other end. Defensively, it’s not even that the Sixers were bad per se; it’s that the Celtics seemed unable to miss a shot, particularly from deep.
Down as much as 18, it just didn’t seem like the Sixers’ night. Game 7 in Boston seemed inevitable. However, unlike in past seasons, this Sixers team absorbed every blow Boston gave them and inched closer and closer back as the end of the first half approached. While they would finish the half down, they certainly were not out.
A resounding response
Despite their first-half inefficiencies, the Sixers battled hard throughout, bringing themselves within seven entering the third quarter. That push continued as Joel Embiid, James Harden, and Tyrese Maxey led the way. With some strong defensive help from Tobias Harris and surprising Georges Niang, Philadelphia not only closed the gap but secured the lead heading into the fourth.
As crucial as the performance and resistance by the home team were, and it certainly was impressive, the role the home crowd played cannot be understated either. An entirely jam-packed crowd in Philadelphia made their presence known to both teams, screaming and roaring throughout.
Despite their best efforts, it was simply not meant to be tonight.
Sixers come up just short
As the fourth quarter progressed, the Sixers slowly slipped more and more. Joel Embiid went away from what made him dominant just minutes earlier. James Harden struggled to make a positive impact and fell into old, bad habits looking far too often to draw contact. And the entire team struggled to make shots scoring just 13 points in the quarter.
The Sixers must respond in Game 7, or they will once again find themselves on the outside looking in for the Eastern Conference Semifinals.