The Philadelphia 76ers finished up the regular season Sunday with a victory over Detroit. With the win, the Sixers secured the 4th seed in the East and will play Toronto Raptors in Round 1 of the 2022 NBA Playoffs. This series will mark the first time the division rivals will faceoff in the playoffs since 2019 when Toronto eliminated Philly on a Kawhi Leonard Game 7 buzzer beater.
76ers regular season in review: Top story lines from the 2021-22 season
The 76ers biggest story line throughout the season started with All-start "point guard" Ben Simmons demanding a trade and refusing to play for the franchise ever again. Simmons showed up to practice before the season started, got thrown out of practice, and never addressed the media. As toxic of a situation as you could have imagined.
This saga came to an end when the Sixers sent Simmons, Seth Curry, and Andre Drummond to Brooklyn in return for James Harden. Things seem to look very bright for the 76ers after the addition of Harden. However, once the honeymoon phase ended, the Harden experiment does not look like it will workout. The connection we expected from Harden and Joel Embiid was lost. The dominance we thought would happen with Embiid and Harden was just MIA. The one positive thing came from the increase confidence in second year guard Tyrese Maxey, who continued his surge into a top PG in this league. Now if Harden can erase early season struggles and previous post-season struggles I think fans will be quick to forget about it.
For the first time since 2005, a member of the 76ers won the NBA scoring title, and his name is Joel Hans Embiid. With 30.6 points per game, Embiid is the first international born player and the first center since Shaq to win the title. To make this accomplishment more impressive, his 33.8 minutes per game are the lowest for a scoring champ in the shot-clock era. He finished 5th in the NBA in rebounds and 12th in blocks. Without question a pure dominating season for Embiid. With all the off the court drama with Simmons and trading for Harden, Embiid played consistent all season. Last year he lost the MVP because he did not play enough. He played all season, stayed healthy, dominated the league each night, and he should win the MVP award.
The 76ers had so many off the court issues to overcome. Memories of last years pathetic end to a season against Atlanta still seemed to be on the minds of everyone. Doc Rivers never learned from his mistakes last season. Assistant Coach Dave Joerger was sidelined as he received treatment for cancer. On top of that Ben Simmons was a thing. After all of that Embiid played the best basketball by a 76er we may ever seen. He kept this team relevant and took us to the 4 seed. We saw the emergence of Tyrese Maxey as a legitimate future star in this league. Tobias Harris struggled in his new role and could not find his footing. However, the regular season is done, and it is now a 7 game series from here on out.
Looking ahead to the playoffs
On Saturday, the 76ers will open the NBA Playoffs at home against the Toronto Raptors. This will mark the first time these two teams faced off in the playoffs since 2019 when Toronto won the title. The Raptors lead the season series 3-1. In the 3 games Embiid has played against Toronto he has averaged 29 points.
The 76ers will have home court advantage in this series. They are currently 24-17 at home this season. We all know how playoff basketball is at the Wells Fargo Center. For games in Toronto, the 76ers will be without guard Matisse Thybulle who is ineligible to play due to not be fully vaccinated for COVID-19. This means the Sixers will be without top defender for all away games in round 1. Players like Danny Green and Tobias Harris need to step up defensively in the games in Toronto.
The 76ers will looking for a better outcome in this series than the last time they faced Toronto in the playoffs. The dreaded bounce that sent Toronto to the Eastern Conference Finals and the 76ers went home. The winner of this series will face either 1 seed Miami or whoever comes out of the play in between Brooklyn, Cleveland, Atlanta, or Charlotte.
Being the 4 seed may come to help Philly. It avoids Boston and Milwaukee until the conference finals, and with a victory over Cleveland could also avoid Brooklyn. Both Toronto and Philly have the same record against Miami this season at 2-2.
This marks the 5th straight year the 76ers made the playoffs. They have yet to make it past the conference semi-finals since 2001 (the year they went to the finals.) A match-up with Toronto is a tough first draw. Fortunately they avoided Brooklyn in round 1, but could not get that 3 seed and a nice match-up with the Chicago Bulls. This series is going to be tough.
Fred Van Leet had an all-star caliber season and will be a tough match-up for Maxey. Pascal Siakam and OG Annuoby are two players who always seem to play their best basketball when they face the Sixers. In some ways this will be a great test for the 76ers. If they get tested early, it will provide a great opportunity for them to not have to scrape the rust off against Miami.
Keys to the Series
There are a lot of different things the 76ers need to do in order to win this series. I know there are a lot of different points below, but this series is super important. Get the playoff jitters out now so when we get to Miami, Milwaukee, Boston, or Brooklyn the rust is already off.
James Harden needs to forget about previous playoff performances
The biggest flaw in the Simmons-Harden trade, was Harden's previous performances in the NBA playoffs where he basically disappears. In order to make a run in the playoffs, Harden needs to make his shots, get open looks to Embiid and Maxey.
Joel Embiid needs to continue playing his game
The energy is going to be crazy. All eyes on him. He has been playing some of the best basketball we have ever seen this season. Now is not the time to let the foot off the pedal.
Doc Rivers needs to get good rotations and forget about his past playoff performance
Doc is trying to save his job here. His rotations have been awful this season. We all know the 76ers bench is bad and will be the Achilles heal on this team. Doc needs to keep his rotations strong if we want any chance of a long playoff run.
Take advantage of players who are having good games and players who are struggling. If Harden is having trouble making shots, but Danny Green is acting like Steph Curry, don't force shots with Harden. Do whatever it takes to win the game. If Paul Reed is playing like he played against Detroit, then he should be getting the back-up center minutes over DeAndre Jordan.
Take advantage of mis-matches
Embiid needs at least 2 guys to maybe stop him. Toronto does not have that. Take advantage of the size difference between Embiid and Pascal Siakam. When the 76ers first traded for Harden, we all talked about the pick n' roll and the double teams. Get back to those plays. Get back to the basics. Get the pick n' roll between Embiid and Harden going. Get Maxey and Thybulle wide-open looks on the outside.
Danny Green and Tobias Harris step up in Toronto
This one could be for home games to. Both players have taken major step backs this season. Danny Green's defense and 3's are not as sharp as they were when he first showed up in Philly. Tobi has been hurting since the arrival of Harden and the surge in Maxey. The defense will need major attention with Thybulle out games 3, 4, and 6. Other than that, they need to have strong games from here on out to make a run in the playoffs.
Philly Faithful: Get up and Get Hyped It's Playoff Basketball
It is playoff basketball, we have an MVP, we have a former MVP, we have a championship contender. Let's make some noise and show why the Philadelphia 76ers fans should be the 6th man of the year.
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Trust the Process
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