Stop me if you have heard this story before. The Sixers play well all season. Make it to the second round of the playoffs. And then they fall apart. This year was supposed to be different. Many of the usual signs of the team falling apart weren’t there. But that was just a smokescreen. Because despite going into the final two games needing just one win, the Sixers fell apart again. That now makes 5 2nd round exits in “The Process Era.” And this time may have been the ugliest yet. The Celtics crushed them, 112-88.
The difference in game 7? The two superstars of the Celtics showed up. Jayson Tatum looked like an MVP, and Jaylen Brown did too. Embiid and Harden didn’t. There have been a lot of people to blame over the years for these 2nd round exits. Ben Simmons. The coaches. The Bench. You could usually make a case that Embiid didn’t deserve the blame. It would be hard to do that here. When he had a chance in game 7 to prove why he was the MVP, he didn’t. Embiid shot poorly and turned the ball over way too much.
As for James Harden, there is nothing to say. Another no-show by the former MVP. As good as he was in games 1 and 4, his performances in games 2,3,6, and 7, are a big reason why the Sixers lost.
It even started out looking well. The Sixers were playing good defense and scoring in the first quarter. But it was all a mirage. The 2nd quarter went poorly, and the 3rd was perhaps the worst quarter we have ever seen the Sixers play in the playoffs. The Sixers scored just 10 points in the 3rd. Letting the Celtics break out to a 26-point lead. And the Sixers never showed any shred of interest in trying to come back in the 4th quarter.
What’s next? Who knows. Harden may go back to Houston (good riddance). Doc Rivers will likely be fired. We will see if the Sixers move Tobias Harris. And it may start to be about the time Joel Embiid wants out of Philly. The Process has given us some great moments. But the story of it continues to be sad, tragic, heartwrenching endings.