After losing the first two games of the Eastern Conference semifinals to the Miami Heat, the Philadelphia 76ers looked doomed.
But with Embiid back for Game 3, the 76ers got on the board, then they took Game 4 to tie the series and give themselves a real shot of winning.
However, with control of the series at stake in Game 5, Philly came out meek and uninspired, losing by 35 points.
That lack of championship stuff continued in Game 6, as the Sixers fell behind by as many as 20 points and ended up losing by nine.
The 76ers may have the talent on paper to contend for the NBA title, but they haven’t shown any of the other qualities a team needs to do so.
Where Was The Fight?
The city of Philadelphia is a place that prides itself on being fighters.
Even though Iverson, in some ways, didn’t have the qualities of a champion, he was beloved in Eastern PA because of his immense heart and fight.
His 2001 Sixers team was short on talent, but against a far-superior Los Angeles Lakers team in the NBA Finals, they fought to the death until they had nothing left.
This Sixers team is more like France in World War II than that Sixers team, let alone the 1983 Sixers who won it all after losing just one game in the playoffs.
In the post-mortems, one has to look first in the direction of Philly’s best player and MVP candidate.
Embiid had a remarkable regular season, leading the league in scoring and providing strong rim protection, and much credit should be given to him for taking better care of his body and going from a merely great player to a dominant one.
But when his team needed him most, he was essentially M.I.A.
Is it possible that he was distracted or even pouting because he wasn’t named league MVP, as one prominent NBA analyst and former Sixers superstar has claimed?
"When you're mad about something, it can work both ways. It's working the wrong way for Joel Embiid tonight."
Chuck sounds off on Embiid's first half performance in Game 5. pic.twitter.com/0vg0cspWaG
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) May 11, 2022
If Embiid was, he should’ve channeled his negative energy about not winning the award into playing aggressive, inspired basketball instead of letting the snub get the best of him.
Philly Has A Lot Of Work To Do
The Sixers have plenty of good things to build on, but sometimes going from a playoff team to a championship team is much harder than going from a lottery team to a playoff team.
Harden is not even close to the player he was just a year ago, and he continued his bad track record in elimination games by taking just nine shots and scoring 11 points in 43 minutes.
Sixers: Can we count on you in an elimination game?
James Harden: pic.twitter.com/wA12IdqgVE
— NBA Memes (@NBAMemes) May 13, 2022
He has a player option for next season, and the Sixers have to look at themselves in the mirror and ask whether it would be worth it to keep him around.
Head coach Doc Rivers has also been rumored to be on the hot seat, but even if he is fired, he probably isn’t the real problem, nor was their previous coach, Brett Brown.
No, the real problem is that “The Process” is still very much ongoing.