The Sixers' season is on the line Thursday night at Wells Fargo Center after an historically bad loss in Game 5. Paul Hudrick and Noah Levick give their predictions for Game 6.
The Sixers let a golden opportunity slip away in Game 4 and now find themselves on the brink of elimination.
As far as Game 5 goes, these things do happen in the playoffs. The last time the Sixers lost that badly in the postseason was Game 1 of the 1982 Eastern Conference Finals. Julius Erving and company wound up winning a Game 7 in Boston to advance to the NBA Finals. That’s not to say history will repeat itself, but just that playoff series are like that sometimes.
Who knows which Joel Embiid we’ll get in Game 6. He appeared to be moving OK on Tuesday night, but he committed eight turnovers and seemed to make a bunch of mental mistakes. Jimmy Butler cooled off a little but should bounce back Thursday night. Any contributions offensively from Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris and/or JJ Redick would be a nice boon.
Beyond Embiid, the biggest fear has to be that the Sixers didn’t capitalize on Kawhi Leonard’s only off night of the series. Leonard was just 7 of 16 as Simmons did about as good a job as you can do. Leonard’s supporting cast finally seemed to wake up with Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol and Danny Green all finally contributing offensively.
It all comes back to Embiid. When he’s right, like he was in Game 3, the Sixers are incredibly difficult to beat. If that Embiid shows up, like he said he would postgame on Tuesday, they can force a Game 7.
The problem is you just can’t trust Embiid at this point. The Sixers put up a fight, but their season ends Thursday.
Brett Brown said on a conference call Wednesday that there wouldn't be a "witch hunt" after Game 5, but the Sixers would "completely delve into the tape." He hinted at some marginal changes for Game 6, though it didn't sound like he had anything dramatic planned.
While Brown could get desperate by doing things like giving Jonah Bolden major minutes over Greg Monroe, only showing Leonard single coverage, or shifting Simmons to more of a traditional point guard role, the Sixers are trusting their fundamental principles for this series. Realistically, they don't have the time to do anything else.
I was very, very wrong in picking the Sixers in Game 5. The notion that they're the "better team" looks silly after what happened Tuesday night. While I don't think they're nearly as bad as they were Monday, and while I'd be surprised if Embiid's perpetual health issues lead to a third straight subpar game, it's difficult to believe the Sixers can turn things around enough to force a Game 7, whether or not they're a "prideful team." I'll pick Toronto to close it out.
All that said, we all know by now how volatile this Sixers team is. Who knows ... maybe they'll win by 36.
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