The Philadelphia 76ers are going to have to wait another day to punch their ticket to the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Sixers lost to the Toronto Raptors 110-102 on Saturday afternoon in Game 4. The sweep promised by Joel Embiid wasn’t meant to be.
Hopefully, it’s not a harbinger of things to come as Embiid needs time to heal. The Sixers’ big man is dealing with what is believed to be a torn ligament in his right thumb and it showed against the Raptors. He had 21 points on 7-of-16 shooting in Game 4, along with 8 rebounds in 39 minutes. It was a struggle for him at times to catch the ball.
James Harden finished with 22 points and 9 assists in the loss, while Tobias Harris added 15 points and 11 boards. Game 5 is scheduled for Monday night back in the friendly confines of the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia. Tip-off is slated for 8 p.m. One game at a time. The Sixers remain committed to their stated goal of bringing home a world championship.
“Let me repeat this to you and everybody else, one more time,” Rivers said back in February. “You and no one else can put more pressure on myself than I do. It will never happen. I’m in this to win.”
“The goal is ultimately to win a championship,” Embiid said. “I’m competitive. I like a challenge. That’s something I think about a lot. And I like proving people wrong.”
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Sixers Looking for 1st Series Sweep Since 1991
It’s been a long time since the Sixers got a playoff sweep of any kind. The last time it happened was 1991, with Charles Barkley leading the way. The Sixers took care of the Milwaukee Bucks in three straight games that year in a best-of-five playoff series. Barkley scored a game-high 30 points in the clincher, then predictably went into party mode.
“I’m gonna get drunk as a skunk tonight,” Barkley said, via The Morning Call. “Bleep Chicago. I want to celebrate this one. The Bulls will be partying tonight in New York. I’m gonna enjoy Philadelphia tonight and worry about the Bulls tomorrow.”
The Sixers would go on to lose to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in five games in the next round. Ho-hum. Philadelphia hadn’t swept a best-of-seven playoff series since the 1984-85 season. And that bad-luck streak will continue following Saturday’s loss to Toronto.
The franchise is 18-20 all-time in the Eastern Conference semifinals dating back to the 1949-50 season when they were known as the Syracuse Nationals. And the Sixers haven’t advanced to the Eastern Conference finals since the miracle 2000-01 campaign with Allen Iverson. It might be time to buck the trend.
Looking Ahead: Miami Heat or Atlanta Hawks?
If the Sixers can beat the Raptors, they will take on the winner of the Hawks-Heat series. Miami leads that series 2-1 following Atlanta’s surprising 111-110 win on Friday night. Trae Young scored 24 points in Game 3, including 10 points in the final four minutes as the Hawks overcame a 16-point deficit.
Which team presents the bigger test for Philly? It’s too early to say.
The Sixers are all too familiar with Atlanta after losing to them in last year’s Eastern Conference semifinals. They went 2-1 against the Hawks in the regular season; the Sixers own a 9-5 advantage all-time in the postseason. Obviously, Young is the straw that stirs the drink in Atlanta. Matisse Thybulle and Danny Green would be called upon to lock him up.
Meanwhile, Miami is the No. 1 seed in the East and stormed into the postseason by winning six of their final seven games. The Sixers split the season series with the Heat 1-1; the two teams have gone 5-5 versus each other all-time in the playoffs.
There would be tons of fun storylines in a potential Sixers-Heat series, including the return of former fan-favorite Sixer Jimmy Butler. The Heat also has two Philly natives on the roster in Markieff Morris and Kyle Lowry. Morris has been dealing with a lingering neck and back injury — thanks to a dirty play from Nikola Jokic — while Lowry left Friday’s game due to a hamstring issue.