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June 19, 2021

What they're saying about the Sixers: Should Tyrese Maxey start Game 7? Are Ben Simmons' days in Philly numbered?

Also, Seth Curry has been really, really good...

The Sixers continue to tug on this city's heartstrings as the team finally closed out a game, thanks to heroics from Tyrese Maxey, Seth Curry and Joel Embiid in Game 6, forcing a decisive Game 7 at home Sunday night.

And of course, it's all anyone will be talking about this weekend.

According to the analytics website, the Sixers have a 71% chance of winning their next game, and a 40% chance of advancing to the NBA Finals after that the Nets are at 31%, the Bucks at 23% and Hawks at 7%. The site gives them an 18% chance of winning it all, behind the Suns and Clippers.

It's a hot summer, Sixers weekend in the Delaware Valley, and so without further ado, we'll be diving into the reactions across the Sixers-covering world following their 104-99 victory. Here's what they're saying about the Sixers:

To the Max

David Murphy | Philadelphia Inquirer

We won't waste your time with a long introduction to our first piece here. Tyrese Maxey was just what the Sixers desperately needed in Game 6, and according to the Inquirer's David Murphy, he doesn't only deserve more crunch time minutes in Game 7 (and beyond), but he should be the starter Sunday.

This was not a new conundrum. Not for Rivers. Not for anybody who watched the Sixers in the postseason during his first three years in the league. Ever since Bryan Colangelo traded up for Markelle Fultz, the Sixers have known they need to pair Simmons with another guard who can get to the rim. The new factors were threefold. One, Simmons has looked as lost on the offensive end has he ever has. Two, he has looked terrified of the foul line. Three, none of the Sixers’ more ideal remedies has looked anything close to being capable of thriving in a road elimination game. Rivers didn’t say anything of these things – he remains in the midst of a salvage operation – but they are self-evident to anybody with two functional eyes.

Maxey wasn’t just the best choice. He was the only one.

“The first two games [of the series], I thought he struggled,” Rivers said. “They game-planned him. He’s young. You could tell he didn’t know what to do. I thought they were taking him away from the basket.”

Didn’t matter. And it shouldn’t moving forward. Frankly, Maxey should probably be starting Game 7, not in place of Simmons but by his side. As the Sixers gathered for their pregame shootaround at State Farm Arena, Rivers pulled Maxey aside and told him to be ready. []

Easy transition

Kevin Arnovitz | ESPN

There were several keys to victory on Friday, many of which were covered by our own Kyle Neubeck following the final buzzer. One of the more interesting ones is how transition offense, and more specifically finding and draining wide open shots, was something Philadelphia did exceptionally well in Game 6. And if repeatable, it could put them in the Eastern Conference Finals:

There's no good reason why Curry should beat the entire Hawks unit to his spot on the wing off an Atlanta miss after he's just hit two consecutive 3-pointers. This is one of the most elementary principles in high-level basketball, but the Hawks couldn't be bothered on Friday night to abide by it. Curry scored 11 of his 24 points in Game 6 in transition, and got four uncontested looks from 3-point distance, hitting three of them, according to ESPN Stats & Information. After Curry burned them to build a lead in the third quarter, Furkan Korkmaz got into the act, darting ahead of Atlanta's ineffectual transition D off a live-ball turnover for his own clean look from distance. Overall, the Sixers got eight uncontested field goal attempts on Friday, and converted seven of them. A couple of youthful indiscretions are one thing, but a team with little experience deep in the postseason can't afford to get beat at the margins if they aspire to win a Game 7 on the road. [ESPN]

The other brother

Reuben Frank | NBC Sports Philadelphia

Let's stick with Seth Curry for a second, who is resembling his more famous and accomplished brother Stephen more and more this postseason, much to the joy and adulation of Sixers' fans. The guard — who was acquired this offseason in a trade for Josh Richardson — shrugged off a up and down regular season (due to his recovery from COVID-19) and has been absolutely magnificent in the playoffs. Here are some numbers that underline his incredible shooting prowess:

I LOVE SETH CURRY PART III: With his 7-for-12 from 3 on Wednesday and 6-for-9 Friday, Curry became the second player in NBA history with consecutive games making at least six 3's and shooting at least 58 percent. Thompson did it for Golden State against the Rockets in 2016. There's only been one other game in 76ers history where a player made six 3's and shot 58 percent and that was Tobias Harris vs. the Nets in 2019. Now Curry's done it twice in three days.


I LOVE SETH CURRY PART V: Curry is now a ridiculous 28-for-47 from 3 in the Hawks series for 59.6 percent. That’s the highest 3-point percentage through six games of a series in history (minimum 30 attempts). The previous high was Murray’s 57.4 percent in the Nuggets’ first-round series against Utah last year. And the 28 3's is 4th-most ever by a player through six games of a series, trailing only Damian Lillard (35), Donovan Mitchell (31) and Murray (31). [NBCSP]

Hawkeye view

Chris Kirschner | The Athletic

It's always interesting to see what the other side is saying. And it sounds like the Hawks felt not only like Game 6 was their biggest missed opportunity of the season, but they also are a bit intimidated with the task ahead — winning a Game 7 on the road against the No. 1 team in the East (which happens to be very good in their one building). Here's more from Atlanta as they look ahead to Sunday:

The Hawks are going to need a big moment Sunday. Winning three times in one series against one of the best home-court teams in the NBA seems daunting, but the Hawks have the confidence of already winning twice, including one of the greatest comebacks in the history of the game. What we don’t know is whether Bogdanovic, who hasn’t played particularly well but is always a threat to go off, will be good to go. Huerter intimated after the game that Bogdanovic has been dealing with some sort of limitation in this series but also said it would take a lot for him to miss Game 7.

The Hawks have talked all postseason about how it has felt like no one outside of Atlanta has believed in their chances to win. That’s going to be the case Sunday in a do-or-die game. Huerter said it’s easier to play when there’s no pressure from anyone and that he feels like they’re playing with house money because of the inexperience on the roster.

If the Hawks are going to shock even more people than they already have, they’re going to have to get Young some help. He can’t do it all himself. Not against this team. Not in their house in an elimination game. [The Athletic]

Ben nice knowing ya...

Ben Rohrbach | Yahoo

And now a little big picture talk. Ben Simmons is an elite defender, but his weaknesses (weaknesses that have been known for years to Sixers fans) have been badly exploited this postseason and many are wondering whether he's worth the max contract he's attached to in Philadelphia. Is it really possible that Sunday could be Simmons' last game as a Sixer? 

A loss will almost certainly spell the end of Simmons' tenure in Philadelphia, so long as they can extract anything approaching equal value. The Sixers offered Simmons for James Harden earlier this season, only to be rejected. We can debate whether the Houston Rockets should have taken Simmons over Brooklyn's draft stash, or whether Harden would've helped Philadelphia advance any deeper this season, but we can say with certainty now that Simmons no longer gets you in the conversation for a player of Harden's caliber.

That is the harsh reality for a star who sets his team's sights no higher than a second-round exit.

Teams will not be clamoring to acquire a player who cannot be counted on down the stretch of a close-out game. We're talking return packages centered on fringe All-Stars like Brandon Ingram, Gordon Hayward, CJ McCollum or (maybe best-case scenario) Zach LaVine, possibly with another rotation player attached. []

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