76ers score vs. Raptors takeaway: Philadelphia routs Toronto in Game 6, to face Heat in Eastern semifinals
There will be no history this year. The Philadelphia 76ers hit the road for Game 6 and crushed the Toronto Raptors, 132-97, to win their first-round series, 4-2, and avoid another playoff meltdown. They will now advance to face the No. 1 seed Miami Heat in the second round.
After an even and highly competitive first half, the Sixers opened things up midway through the third quarter with a 22-3 run that included a four-minute scoreless streak for the Raptors. The game was uncompetitive for the remainder of the run, with the Sixers picking up a 35-point victory. Joel Embiid led the way with 33 points and 10 rebounds, while James Harden recorded 22 points and 15 assists in the type of performance they had hoped for from the start. The Sixers shot 58% from the field and all five starters scored in double figures.
The Raptors put up a valiant fight in this series, but ultimately ran out of gas against a more talented Sixers team. Fred VanVleet’s absence was noticeable, especially in the second half when the Raptors struggled to score the ball. Chris Boucher was one of the few bright spots, scoring a career-high 25 points in the playoffs.
Here are some key points of the game:
1. The Sixers’ dominant run in the third quarter
The first half was very competitive and under seven points all the time. The second half, not so much. In fact, it was a rather boring 24 minutes of basketball as the Sixers quickly built a double-digit lead that they continued to build the rest of the way.
Everything changed for good midway through the third quarter when the Sixers went up 22-3. With 9:42 remaining, Pascal Siakam scored to make it 70-67 Sixers. The Raptors weren’t scored for more than four minutes and had only one field goal in the next seven. They couldn’t buy a bucket, nor could they stop the Sixers on the other end.
In particular, Tyrese Maxey caught fire from long range, hitting three to 3 on the run. One of them was way behind the line in transition – a shot that exemplified his supreme confidence. Maxey’s ability to deliver another punch to the Sixers has been crucial all season, and he showed up again at the perfect time.
2. Harden shows why the Sixers traded him
James Harden’s tenure in the Sixers got off to a terrific start, but was a bit disappointing overall. He seemed a slow step and oddly unaggressive at times on the attacking side. In the Game 5 loss, for example, he went 3 of 11 off the field and turned the ball over five times.
Even Joel Embiid was getting fed up with his co-star’s lack of production and called it out during the post-match press conference.
“I’ve been saying all season since he got here, he has to be aggressive and he has to be himself,” Embiid said. “It’s not really my job. It’s probably on Coach [Doc Rivers] to talk to him and tell him to take more hits, especially if they’re going to keep me like they did. But that’s really not my job.”
Harden, to his credit, responded in Game 6. He actually ended up taking just one more field goal, but he attacked on the first tip and showed exactly why the Sixers were so keen on the acquire at the trade deadline. He finished with 22 points, six rebounds and 15 assists for 7 of 12 from the field, and the Sixers were plus-38 when he was on the floor.
Perhaps the most encouraging aspect is that he took to painting again and again to create for himself and others. He slid the ball around the ground and even operated his patented 3-point recoil. All in all, a terrific game from Harden, and the kind of performance they’ll need more of against the Heat.
3. Doc avoids another meltdown
The Sixers losing Game 4 on the road to a Raptors team desperate not to get swept was understandable. But when they also felt embarrassed at home in Game 5, the vibes surrounding the series reversed. All of a sudden they had to go back to Toronto for Game 6 and all everyone wanted to talk about was their slump last season and the story of Doc Rivers in the playoffs.
Rivers, who is the only coach in NBA history to lose multiple 3-1 leads, was visibly frustrated earlier in the week and tried to defend himself with a lengthy monologue. While the Sixers still had the upper hand in the series, it was clear they were facing some serious pressure.
But in the end, they handled business convincingly. They entered a noisy environment in Toronto without one of their best defensemen, Matisse Thybulle, and put on one of their best performances of the series. There will still be plenty of questions about the Sixers’ potential ceiling this season, but it was a very impressive performance.