It’s just different. Whether you can pinpoint why or not is just how you view basketball, and it’s probably right. But for some, and perhaps many reasons, this Sixers team is just different.
In James Harden, they have a true playmaker. One that isn’t just a one-trick pony but is a true threat to score the basketball. Even when he’s shooting 4-for-18 from the floor like he did on Saturday. His ability to drain threes, get to the basket, draw and dish is something this team hasn’t seen before in the playoffs when Joel Embiid has been on this team.
The $30 million, three-year contract awarded to P.J. Tucker in the offseason looks less and less mind-numbing as the playoffs move forward. His toughness, rebounding, and leadership provide an invaluable piece to a team that hasn’t had a true playoff leader during the Embiid era. Jimmy Butler’s leadership ability was unable to shine here, because of surrounding circumstances.
Tobias Harris, probably and maybe rightfully, the most questioned player on this team is turning those questions into answers. He has been virtually unstoppable on offense. Not unstoppable to the tune of the 40-point songs that Embiid is used to singing, but think about it. When this team needed a big basket, and when the other team knows the Sixers need it and who they are going to, they still couldn’t stop Harris from his back to the basket, dribble to the middle of the lane, fadeaway jumper that has turned golden so far in these playoffs.
The bench of De’Anthony Melton, Jalen McDaniels, and Paul Reed (sans game four) has not only provided a disruptive defensive presence but also given an offensive spark when needed.
It’s all so different. And a difference that is sorely needed if the Sixers are to get through the second round. Something that has been quite hard to do as we all know oh so well.
And the one thing that is familiar, that isn’t different from playoff runs in the recent past, is that Joel Embiid is dealing with yet another injury, this time a sprained knee. While that could grow into devastating news, I don’t believe it will. The bigger news is all the productive pieces this team has surrounding Embiid. That’s just different