By Dylan MacKinnon
Death, Taxes, and the Sixers being eliminated in Round 2. The 3 things in life that are absolute. The Sixers have now lost in Round 2 for the 4th time in 5 years. The first year they lost in 5 to the Celtics. Then they took the eventual champion Raptors to 7 games but lost on a heartbreaking 3pt game-winner by Kawhi Leonard. And last year the Hawks beat them in 7 in a loss so bad it ended the Ben Simmons era after he refused to take a wide-open dunk. And now, they have once again been eliminated in round 2. This time by the Miami Heat in just 6 games. In the one gap year, they were swept out of Round 1.
This was their only loss in the series not by double digits. But that is only because the Sixers closed the gap a bit when both teams emptied the benches. They trailed by double digits for nearly the entire second half. They ended up losing 99-90, but it felt like a much worse loss than that.
No Help Behind Embiid
The Sixers simply ran out of firepower. Their lack of depth was exposed with Danny Green out, and Embiid banged up. Shake Milton was the only bench player who showed them anything tonight. They tried Thybulle, Korkmaz, and Niang in Green’s place. None were good enough to even stay on the floor very long. Milton was the only bench player to hit more than one shot. That should come as no surprise. It was the story all season.
Had Embiid been healthy and capable of dominating like he did all year, maybe it would have been different. But he wasn’t. The thumb, the eye, the back, it all added up and Embiid was not his usual self. It was not a lack of effort. Embiid played nearly every minute in this game. He scored 20pts, attempted 24 shots, and pulled down 12 rebounds. But he was feeling it, and there was not enough help behind him to make up for it. He soldiered through as much as he could, but there was not much left in his tank.
Harris was a no-show in the first half. Harden was a no-show in the second. Maxey was inconsistent for most of the playoffs too. One night he would look like a star. But then there were games like Tuesday night. When he wasn’t scoring this team was average. They needed someone to step up and be the go-to guy with Embiid banged up. No one ever took that role. It came down to The Heat being faster, more athletic, and more physical than them. Points in the paint and transition points were lopsided, in the Heat’s favor this whole series.
Where they go from here is unclear. There are a ton of questions. What do you do with Doc Rivers? Do you try to trade Tobias Harris? Should you resign Harden to a long-term contract? Is there anyone off this bench you hold onto? Is it time to move on from Matisse Thybulle? It will be a long offseason, with many difficult decisions. And if the Sixers want things to improve there may have to be some big changes. Another year where they were eliminated in the 2nd round was unacceptable. But it happened. The Sixers have again failed to take advantage of having a top 5 player in Embiid. They cannot continue to waste his prime.
But for now, this season is over. They have been eliminated in the second round, again. It’s the curse Philly fans have to live with. Having to get their hopes up, just to have the same thing happen over and over again. The Sixers have a long road ahead to fix the many issues we saw exposed in this series.