The Sixers’ disappointing season ended Sunday afternoon with a 110-106 Game 4 loss to the Celtics.
It’s the first time they’ve been swept in the playoffs since 1999. Kemba Walker (32 points) and Jayson Tatum (28 points) again starred for Boston.
Now, the Sixers face plenty of uncomfortable offseason questions after a year that ended much earlier than they’d envisioned.
Below are observations on their final loss:
Scary injury for Harris
With 2:40 remaining in the third period, Tobias Harris leapt up to contest a Tatum layup and got his legs tangled with Tatum’s. He lost his balance and his face slammed to the floor.
It was concerning to see a bloody Harris lying down as the Sixers’ training staff and Brett Brown checked on him, but he did eventually rise and walk off the floor with a towel pressed against his face. As everyone waited to see whether Harris was OK, his injury was a reminder of the human side of the sport. Though his on-court performances in the postseason have been disappointing, that’s not a relevant factor when thinking about his well-being. Harris is a thoughtful, philanthropic person who his teammates enjoy being around and view as a leader.
Harris sustained a left eye laceration and also was evaluated for a concussion, according to a Sixers spokesperson. Remarkably, Harris showed no concussion symptoms and checked back in with 5:12 left.
As far as the game is concerned, the injury seemed to deflate the Sixers as Boston built a digit-double lead immediately after Harris’ exit. Harris posted 20 points and five rebounds.
Richardson plays with desperation, struggles with shot
Josh Richardson’s aggression stood out in the first quarter. He hit 8 of 9 free throws in the opening period, one below his season-high for free throws attempted in an entire game. Overall, the Sixers were seeking contact when Boston got into the bonus early, and the team took 19 first-quarter foul shots.
Richardson’s intensity was impossible to ignore, too, as he stalked Tatum around the floor and played like he was disgusted at the thought of getting swept. On one sequence near the end of the second period, it appeared that he was frustrated when Matisse Thybulle didn’t come over to trap Tatum near half court. Richardson talked earlier in the season about feeling the Sixers needed more “accountability,” and his personal effort and commitment can't be faulted. His individual defense was strong over the last two games.
Unfortunately for Richardson, his jumper simply wasn’t falling. He shot 2 for 10 from the floor.
It’ll be interesting to see how Richardson figures into the team’s offseason approach and whether he’s still part of this roster next year. He’s under contract for 2020-21 and has a player option the following season. If the organization is going to explore options to improve the roster around Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Richardson involved in trade discussions.
Walker vs. Shake Milton is clearly a matchup that favors the Celtics on paper. Boston looked to exploit it in Game 4 as Walker found a rhythm stroking pull-up jumpers out of the pick-and-roll. Walker started 5 for 6 from the floor and scored 18 points within the first 16 minutes, which prompted the Sixers to put Richardson on Walker during an early second-quarter stint when Tatum was on the bench.
Another difficult matchup for the Sixers was, again, Jaylen Brown vs. Al Horford. Brown made two three-pointers in the first couple of minutes as Horford respected his quickness advantage and consequently gave him comfortable jumpers. When Horford closed out on Brown early in the third quarter, Brown easily accelerated to the rim.
Simmons’ presence would’ve made avoiding bad defensive matchups less like a game of Whack-a-Mole, but doing so would’ve been challenging regardless given the Sixers’ roster construction.
Embiid couldn’t do it all
After averaging 30 points and 13 rebounds over the series’ first three games, Embiid went for 30 points and 10 rebounds in Game 4. Without Simmons, he would’ve needed to meet a very high standard for the Sixers to win this series. He couldn’t do it, but that’s low down the list of why the Sixers were swept.
The officials called three technical fouls on the Sixers, an indication of the team’s collective frustration.
With 4:10 left in the second quarter, Harris was called for a technical foul after he thought Tatum had fouled him in the process of poking free a steal. Harris pushed Tatum after the 22-year-old came away with the ball, then expressed his distaste with the lack of a call.
Later in the quarter, Richardson was whistled after fighting with Walker for a rebound, a call he seemed to indicate Walker got only because he was smaller and had fallen to the floor. Richardson picked up a technical, as well.
Brown earned a technical in the third quarter for complaining about a Walker push-off on Raul Neto. It seemed he was well within his rights to complain about that particular call.