An Epic end to an epic series.— Game 7 Blevins (@JBlevinsPFO) May 13, 2019
End of an era? pic.twitter.com/1Kz3cmkc8G
The Raptors and Sixers played seven games, and Game 7 was a microcosm of the entire series. In the end, the Raptors’ Kawhi Leonard hit a pull up, baseline jumper that bounced off the rim four times before dropping in to end the Sixers’ season 92-90.
Through three quarters, Leonard was held to an inefficient night, just 10-30 from the field, but in the fourth, he was the hero, going 6-9 including the game winner. It was the first game winning buzzer beater in a Game 7 in NBA Playoff history.
Brett Brown’s Farewell?
Brett Brown said before the game that he intended to coach the same way he had all season. The looming rumors of Game 7 being determinative of Brett Brown’s future with the organization did not affect his approach. “We had a nice dinner, and I got a good night’s sleep,” Brown said before the game. “Did I wake up a few times thinking about it? Yes.”
After the game ended, Brown was asked about rumors of his job being in jeopardy.
“We’ve talked internally about that, I’ll let the team address it” Brett Brown when asked about his job security. pic.twitter.com/LeznaRwEsP— Game 7 Blevins (@JBlevinsPFO) May 13, 2019
“The large Majority of this room didn’t give us a chance”— Game 7 Blevins (@JBlevinsPFO) May 13, 2019
“I’m proud of what we’ve built” on the program he has stewarded over the past 6yrs
Even with the disappointment, I know all of the stuff in the background that’s gone on and I’m proud of it” Brett Brown on his program.
In a series of punches, counterpunches, and precious few tight games, the Raptors and Sixers played a first half of frustration and smothering defense. The teams essentially were mirror images of struggle and missed shots.
Both teams finished the first half with 7 turnovers, shooting 34% from the field and 23% from deep. There was no real sense of someone taking control of the game from either team.
The second half was much of the same, with small runs and back-and-forth lead changes but neither team taking control. The Sixers held the Raptors to 38% field goal shooting but gave up 16 offensive rebounds and lost the rebounding battle 49-41. Ultimately, the game came down to a tied score with 4.2 seconds left.
Joel Embiid’s Emotion
In what has been a series of sickness, soreness, and frustration for Embiid, he continued to struggle going 6-18 from the field with 4 turnovers. And yet, the team was a +10 with him on the floor. But the emotional toll of the game-winning shot that Leonard made over his outstretched hand was too much for Embiid who needed extra time after the game to collect himself and prepare for his postgame interview at the podium.
“It sucks. I don’t know how to explain it, it just sucks,” said Embiid when asked how he felt when the game-winner went in. Embiid did praise Marc Gasol, who said that Embiid would be back in this situation “and beyond” many times in the future.
Ben Simmons Defensive Emergence
As the series wore on, Simmons seemed to figure out Kawhi Leonard’s primary moves and counters. Leonard who began the series with historic levels of efficiency was held to just 10-30 shooting through three quarters, mainly due to the efforts of Ben Simmons.
“That’s my brother” Ben Simmons on Joel Embiid’s emotional reaction to the loss.— Game 7 Blevins (@JBlevinsPFO) May 13, 2019
“Kawhi is a tough player but I just tried to make plays, make the right play” Ben on his defensive evolution through the season.
Jimmy Butler Reverts
Butler played a mostly perplexing game. Similar to Game 1, his 14 points came from just 4-13 shooting from the field. More troubling, however, was his bouts of tunnel vision. Butler played mostly hero ball, was not looking for teammates in rhythm, and mostly passed only when trapped into bad situations. A late missed free throw in the game’s final minute was temporarily softened by a made bucket on a drive to tie the score with 4.2 seconds left.
Butler, who becomes a free agent on July first, refused to answer questions about his time in Philadelphia or his upcoming decision. “I’m only going to talk about basketball,” Butler said. He was effusive in his praise of Embiid and Simmons and said both guys are great young cornerstones to build a team around.
The future may bring continuity, like the Portland Trailblazers showed when they kept their team together after last year’s disappointment to now return and advance to the Western Conference Finals. But ultimately, the Sixers ownership and management may decide to move on from Brett Brown, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris, or any combination of them similar to how Toronto let Dwayne Casey go last year.
For a team who for six years seemed to be building towards this moment, it feels like a fork in the road. Continue on the path and trust that the upward trajectory will continue, or pivot and try something new?
Tonight was truly an epic end, but an end to a season or an end to an era?