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April 29, 2022

What they're saying: Can the Sixers finally break through past the second round?

Can the Sixers finally break through past the second round?

Some day, huh?

The Phillies completed a four-game sweep of the Rockies at Citizens Bank Park, the Eagles made a huge splash out in Vegas in Round 1 of the NFL Draft, and the Sixers blew out the Raptors, 132-97, up in Toronto to close out their first-round series in six games.

Joel Embiid, who will play through the rest of the Sixers' playoff run with a torn ligament in his thumb, dropped 33 points and 10 rebounds. Tyrese Maxey scored 25 on 8-16 shooting, and James Harden, who looked to be disappearing from the big moment once again, stormed back with 22 points and 15 assists.

The Sixers outscored the Raptors 70-38 in the second half, ending the series with authority after everything felt like it was on fire after Game 5.

So yeah, pretty good day for Philly.

Now it's on to Miami.

From Kyle Neubeck's observations Thursday night:

"The Sixers actually showed up with some interest in competing, which was a big upgrade relative to their last two games. Execution matched their energy, with a zone look out of a timeout flustering the Raptors enough to force Toronto into a shot-clock violation.

"Listen, there's a more talented and outright better opponent coming with another excellent coach leading the way. The Sixers need to play with the attention to detail they showed at the start and finish of this series if they want to upset the Heat. But at least they have proven capable of delivering some top-shelf performances already in these playoffs, lending hope to the idea that they may be a real threat. We'll see in due time."

This will be the fourth time in five years the Sixers have advanced to the second round, and they're hoping this is finally the one where they break through to the conference finals.

But Jimmy Butler and the Heat will be no easy task.

Here's what they're saying about the Sixers' first-round win and the road ahead.

Be up to the challenge

Keith Pompey | The Inquirer

For this Sixers team, a first-round series win means little.

Embiid, through injury, is playing at an MVP level, and the front office went and got James Harden to try and give the team that final push it needed to play in June.

If they're going to get there, they'll now have to get by the top-seeded Miami.

"They’d better be up for the challenge," The Inquirer's Keith Pompey writes.

"Winning an opening-round playoff series 4-2 is a solid accomplishment. But that’s not how this Sixers season will be defined. The expectation of many, after the acquisition of James Harden, is for the team to reach at least the conference finals.

"And they won’t get much turnaround time to prepare for the Heat. Game 1 of the best-of-seven series is Monday night at FTX Arena." [The Inquirer]

Here's the full best-of-seven schedule

 GameDate  SiteTime  Broadcast
Game 1 Mon., May 2 @Miami 7:30 p.m. TNT 
Game 2 Wed., May 4 @Miami 7:30 p.m. TNT 
Game 3 Fri., May 6 @Sixers 7:00 p.m. ESPN 
Game 4 Sun., May 8 @SixersTBD TBD 
Game 5*Tue., May 10 @Miami TBD TNT 
Game 6* Thu., May 12 @Sixers TBD ESPN 
Game 7* Sun., May 15 @Miami TBD TBD 

*If necessary

By the numbers

Reuben Frank | NBC Sports Philadelphia

Game 6 was a complete blowout, a historic one, in fact. And NBC Sports Philadelphia's Reuben Frank shows just how big of a game Thursday night was for the Sixers through 10 insane stats.

From Frank:

"The 35-point margin of victory was the 76ers’ largest ever in a road playoff game and their second-largest in any playoff game. The 76ers’ largest previous margin of victory in a road postseason game was their 29-point win over Washington (132-103) last year in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference first-round series at Capital One Arena. From Stathead, this was only the 13th time in NBA history a road team won a playoff game by 35 or more points. The only bigger postseason win in franchise history came in 1978 at the Spectrum when the 76ers beat the Knicks by 40 points (130-90) in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series (which the 76ers wound up sweeping). The 76ers also beat the Hawks by 35 (111-76) in Game 1 of their 1982 Eastern Conference first-round game at the Spectrum. The 35-point margin of victory is the sixth-largest in franchise history in any game. There have only been four bigger blowouts in elimination games in NBA history." [NBC Sports Philadelphia]

What did we learn?

Rich Hofmann | The Athletic

The Sixers won the series, but it didn't come easy, which seems odd considering they were up 3-0 on the Raptors.

The Athletic's Rich Hofmann details what was learned about the team after being pushed to six games.

"This series was always going to be more about the Sixers. It ultimately came down to a more talented, healthier, more experienced team showing up more times than not. Rivers said he cut Thursday’s shootaround short because he sensed he had an annoyed team ready to take care of business.

"But Rivers also finished his initial thought by congratulating the Raptors for the unique challenges they presented to his team. As he accurately summarized, the Raptors pushed the Sixers as the series moved along." [The Athletic]

Respect to Glenn?

Marcus Hayes | The Inquirer

Doc Rivers hasn't been a very popular figure among Sixers fans, definitely not of late.

But his team is moving on.

Maybe he isn't as bad as fans are making him out to be. Marcus Hayes seems to think that's the case.

Writes Hayes:

"There was no respect on his name. He’d effectively been fired and banished back to LA before the Sixers cleared customs Wednesday night; something that Doc would probably welcome, frankly. All of this hate, all of this criticism, despite ranking ninth on the all-time wins list and fourth in playoff wins. He’s won just one title, right? Well, he’s coached in the era of LeBron and Steph. And one title -- well, that’s as many titles as genius Larry Brown, and it’s one more than the patron saint of Utah, Jerry Sloan. Both of them are in the Hall of Fame. Doc one day will join them. The past two weeks showed why." [The Inquirer]

Stay locked in, Harden

The Inside Guys | TNT

After the embarrassing Game 5 loss, the Inside Guys over at TNT weren't too confident in the Sixers' ability to close out the Raptors.

Charles Barkley didn't think they had a chance in Game 6. Harden going quiet was a big reason why.

Now with the Sixers up against the Heat, there's still concern. How far they go, the crew believes, depends heavily on Harden's performance.

Said Shaquille O'Neal:

"James Harden is still the key, he's still the key. The better he plays, the farther they go. If they want to make it to the Finals and win a championship, he's gonna have to reach back into that old tank." [TNT]

Said Barkley:

"The problem the Sixers got, as I've said before, they play at so many different speeds. They're so inconsistent. Miami's gonna drive the same speed. They're gonna play hard, smart, defend...So the reason I like Miami, I know what I'm gonna get from Miami every single night. I do not know what I'm gonna get from James every night." [TNT]

What do the odds say?

The Heat are the favorite going into the series.

DraftKings has Miami at -170 to move on, BetMGM has the Heat at -185 to win the series, and FanDuel has them at -184.

Here's a quick breakdown:

Sportsbook Heat Sixers 
DraftKings-170 +140 
BetMGM-185 +155 
FanDuel-184 +154 

What does Drake say?

Drake told Embiid the Sixers are going to get swept by Miami. He's a little upset.

What do the memes say?

Because basketball is fun and the Sixers' subreddit is always on top of its game.

You know, I never mentioned the Flyers up top...Yeah, they'll finally be out of their misery later tonight.

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