Philly Front Office

Sixers in 7? It all Depends on Embiid

It was a tagline, a war cry. Sixers in 6! 

After a drubbing in Game 5 for their second loss in a row, that hope was extinguished. As Joel Embiid’s mobility, spirit, and sheer ability to leave the bed was questionable at best, the Sixers’ hopes of advancing to the Conference Finals seemed to be a distant memory. But on Thursday night in Game 6, Embiid returned to form, at least on one end of the court, and the Raptors were left shaking their heads. 

Embiid’s Impact 

Joel Embiid did not have a monster stat game by the classic box score. 17 points and 12 rebounds on 5 for 14 shooting is nothing close to Embiid’s averages over the season. But when you look just a hair deeper, perhaps no game has showcased the outsized impact Embiid has on opposing teams more than tonight’s performance. The best evidence is Embiid’s +40 in 35 minutes of a 112-101 win. He also helped the team dominate on the boards 52-34. 

Nick Nurse on Embiid

“I think his presence was a lot more than his baskets tonight, right?” said Nick Nurse after the game. “And for whatever reason, I’m not sure, but it seems like again we weren’t into the paint as much as we would have liked to, and I imagine he had something to do with that, right?” 

And this is the central point when evaluating Embiid as an NBA player. As gaudy as his stat lines have been in his three seasons in the NBA, and as much as we like to add the “when healthy” tagline, it is still hard to articulate the impact Joel has on a game. 

How hard? Well I struggled even to ask the question to Brett Brown after the game, and he struggled to even politely answer.

When Ben Simmons was asked about Joel’s impact, he said, “Just his size, defensively, he’s able to alter shots… block shots.” And it really is the altering of shots more than the blocking that is so significant. Embiid finished the night with just 2 blocked shots, albeit in dramatic fashion, but it went far beyond that.

Kyle Lowry on Embiid 

“He’s an All-NBA player, All-Defensive Team type of player. Big body, he’s smart. We know where he’s at. You’re conscious of where he is on the floor. Pascal [Siakam] had some really good looks tonight, missed some open threes, but you know [Embiid] is going to help. But when he’s out there, you know, he’s a big body, he’s a force on both ends. So yes, we notice when he’s out there and when he’s not.”

Joel Embiid on Game 7 

“It’s the playoffs, I’ve got to play. If I’ve got to play 45 minutes and push myself out there, then that’s what I have to do. If that’s what it takes to win, if my presence on the court is needed, I’ve got to do that. Doesn’t matter if it takes the whole game, so I’m fine with it. I’ll keep on pushing myself; in Game 7 we’re going to need it. I’m going to need to be on the court, and I intend to be ready for everything if I have to play a whole game.” 

Downhill Ben Simmons

Simmons had perhaps his best game of the series Thursday. He was aggressive on both ends and deadly efficient in scoring 21 points on 9-13 shooting while playing stellar defense. 

Jimmy Butler: Adult

Butler had himself a game. While running the offense in halfcourt for most of the series, Butler had 25 points, 6 rebounds, and 8 assists to lead the team in scoring.

“It’s just the energy he brings, offensively and defensively. When you have a guy like that, it sets the tone. Everyone’s able to feed off that, so he really gets us going in the games,” said Ben Simmons about what Jimmy Butler brings the team. “Especially James Ennis [III], guys like that, Mike Scott, guys who come out and just play physical and have that passion for the game allows everybody to have that same mentality and mindset.” 

I just came out aggressive, as they tell me to be all the time. The game is simple, I shoot the ball when I’m open, sometimes I shoot it when I’m not open, and I try to get out in transition, get some steals, get some rebounds and take off. That’s just how the game went for us tonight. Home crowd, crowd was great, no boos, they booed us a little bit, we appreciate it, but all in all they were really into the game.
– Jimmy Butler

Sixers in Game 7

This will be the 16th Game 7 in Sixers franchise history and just the fourth since 1990. The last Game 7 was against Boston in 2012 in the second round. 

PFO will be in Toronto with game coverage for the biggest game in Process/ post Process era history. Stay tuned for all the lead up. 

Jason Blevins