Another long offseason for the Sixers

by Marc Narducci | May 15, 2023
Another long offseason for the Sixers
Once again, the 76ers have a long offseason after another disappointing second round playoff exit. The 112-88 loss in Game 7 at Boston, which the Sixers were outscored 33-10 in the third quarter, sealed their fate.

Yet if anybody wants to know the true exit point, it came in the fourth quarter of Game 6, when the Sixers had a chance to deliver the knockout punch at home against Boston.

The Sixers led 83-81 in Game 6 at after Tyrese Maxey made two free throws with 5:57 left. Then Boston, led by Jason Tatum, outscored the Sixers down the stretch, 14-3 to win 95-86.

Tatum shot 1 for 13 from the field and 0 for 6 from three-point range in the first three quarters. In the fourth, he went 4 for 8 and 4 for 5 from three in saving the Celtics season.

Then he dropped a Game 7 record 51 points, sending the Sixers to the offseason.

In the final two games the Sixers averaged 87 points.

This is six straight years the Sixers have not gotten out of the second round in the postseason. They have had five second round exits and one in the first round.

The first shoe of this offseason has dropped as the Sixers fired Doc Rivers, with two years and approximately $16 million left on his contract.

Now the spotlight is clearly on Joel Embiid and James Harden, who both suffered yet another disappointing postseason.

Embiid hurt his knee and it forced him to miss Game 1 against Boston (which the Sixers won), but whether the knee was bothering him, he still didn’t come close to looking like the MVP, especially in the last two games.

In Game 6 he had 26 points (9 for 19 from the field), 10 rebounds, three blocks, four turnovers and was a minus-4. He didn’t attempt a shot in the final 3:56 of the fourth quarter.

Then in Game 7 he looked gassed and scored 15 points on 5 for 18 shooting. He had eight rebounds, two blocked shots, four turnovers and was minus-28.

Former Sixer Al Horford led a masterful Celtics defensive effort against Embiid.

Then there was Harden, who just about single-handily won Game 1 with 45 points, while adding 42 points in the Sixers’ Game 4 win.

In Game 6 he had 13 points, nine assists, seven rebounds but five turnovers. Harden shot 4 of 16 from the field and missed all six three-pointers. He was minus 10.

In Game 7 he had nine points, seven assists, six rebounds and five turnovers, while shooting 3 of 11 from  the field, including 1 of 5 from three-point range and was a minus-30.

Harden has long had a reputation of not living up to the moment in the biggest games and his Game 6 and 7 performances will give his detractors even more fodder.

With Rivers out, it appears as if the odds of Harden returning are greater. Apparently, Harden, by the tone of his post-game interviews following Game 7, didn’t exactly hold Rivers in high esteem.

Harden has a player option for $35.6 million. He has until June 29 to make the decision. The question is would anybody offer him more than that? His old team Houston has been a rumored suitor.

Harden will be 34 in August. He looked old in Games 6 and 7 and any team would be rolling the dice by giving him more than a two-year deal. And that might even be generous.

The Sixers don’t know if they will get the Game 1 and 4 Harden or the Game 6 and 7 Harden.

There are other moves to consider.

Tobias Harris will be in the final year of his massive contract, earning $39 million. Would the Sixers consider trading him (they would likely consider it, but would another team be willing to take on that salary for one year?).

So there will be plenty of decisions, but losing to the Celtics was a true gut-punch since the Sixers appeared to be in control after winning Game 5 in Boston to take a 3-2 lead.

And now they will have much longer than they expected to plot their offseason strategy after another difficult playoff exit. The first move has been made with the coach.

The more important decisions are to come.

 

Photo Courtesty: Sixers Twitter 

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Author: Marc Narducci

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