TORONTO — It was just a couple days ago that the Sixers had the opportunity to take a commanding 3-1 series lead over the Raptors.
They now sit on the brink of elimination after an embarrassing 125-89 loss at Scotiabank Arena Tuesday night (see observations).
It was the Sixers' worst postseason loss since Julius Erving and company dropped Game 1 of the 1982 Eastern Conference Finals to the Celtics by 40.
These Sixers return to the Wells Fargo Center with their season and plenty of pride on the line. So how do you bounce back from one of the worst playoff defeats in franchise history?
“Forget about it,” Jimmy Butler said. “Hell, if I was the coach I wouldn’t even show the film. Move on. We got our a-- kicked. Simple as that. No other way to put it. We know what we have to do and so we got to go do it at home.”
Burning the film is one way to move on, but not something Brett Brown will likely do.
Before this series started, Brown harped on his team limiting turnovers and not allowing Toronto to get out on the break. Well, on Tuesday, they turned it over a bunch and the Raptors made them pay. Toronto scored 31 points on 19 Sixers’ turnovers. The Raptors also scored 33 fast-break points to the Sixers’ eight.
Another key Brown discussed at length was three-point shooting. Since the acquisition of Marc Gasol, Toronto was the best three-point shooting team in the NBA. Through four games, the Raptors sure didn’t look like it, but Game 5 was much different. They hit 16 of 40 from distance while Kawhi Leonard’s back got a night of rest.
“I mean, they are difficult to guard under any circumstance,” Brown said. “When you combine [the three-point shooting] and they get it rolling here at home, it’s a difficult place to play, as it is in Philadelphia. That number of threes, and I think if you go back and dissect the game you are going to see a lot of those came in transition. That number of points in transition, 33, and 31 points off turnovers, that is haunting. You cannot win with those types of numbers.”
Just as difficult is winning without your star players rising to the occasion.
Joel Embiid is still battling an illness and committed eight turnovers. Ben Simmons played exceptional defense on Leonard, who had his worst shooting night of the series, but turned the ball over five times and scored just seven points. Even Butler, who has been phenomenal over the last three games, went just 6 of 16 from the field.
Still, Brown was fairly animated postgame when asked about the mood of his team.
“We’re excited to go back to Philadelphia,” Brown said. “Nobody’s walking out of here, ‘woe is me.’ I promise you that. We have a prideful team. We have a team that had a poor performance. We let one slip in Philadelphia. We wish Joel were healthy. We felt like we could’ve won [Game 4]. But nobody’s walking out of here thinking anything else but we’re excited to go back to Philadelphia and find a way to win. “
To the Sixers’ credit, there wasn’t much head hanging to be seen postgame. Luckily for them, there are no style points. Tuesday’s loss was as ugly as they come, but it’s one loss. They’ll have another opportunity Thursday in a win-or-go-home game.
“We’ve just got to go in and do what we’re supposed to do on the home floor, that’s it,” Butler said. “Keep competing, keep going hard, stick together, have each other’s backs, and know that not one player on our team is going to be able to do it by themselves. We win together, we lose together, and we’re going to play together again come [Thursday].”
A reporter brought up a conversation that Embiid had with rapper Drake as he was exiting the court. Supposedly, Embiid told the Raptors super fan and global ambassador that he’d be back for Game 7 on Sunday in Toronto.
“We’re definitely going to do everything [to be back Sunday for Game 7],” Embiid said.
So, did he tell Drake he’d be back?
“Yes, I did.”
For the record, the 1982 Eastern Conference Finals went seven games.
The Sixers won Game 7 on the road.
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