Welcome to Views from 116. In case you forgot, this column is a perspective from the stands for the fans. Let’s get to it.
Sixers vs. Raptors – Thursday, May 9, 2019
For Game 6, Round 2 of the Eastern Conference Playoffs, the 3rd seeded Sixers took on the 2nd seeded Raptors. The Sixers won 112-101, locking into a 3-3 tie in the best-of-seven-games series. The winner of the next game will play the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals.
After getting embarrassed by nearly 40 points in a Game 5 loss, the Sixers were down to their last bullet entering a Game 6 – lose and go home. In some ways, I was morbidly curious to find out what this team was made of heading into this game. Were they the kind of team that would respond? Or would they crumble, like the Boston Celtics did on the other side of the Eastern Conference playoff bracket?
Spoiler alert: the Sixers are the real deal. They emphatically punched back into this series, forced a Game 7, and defended their home court with force. This marked the 3rd time the Sixers have won after a no-show during this 2019 playoff run and, if recent history continues to repeat itself (and Embiid remains relatively healthy), they’ll continue on to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Anyway, I met RJ on a cloudy day in Philadelphia to head down to the stadium. As I was walking to his house, the sun just started to peek out from behind the clouds – always a good omen. If you’ve read this column at all this year, you’ll know I’ll take any superstition I can find and run with it. We parked in the Jetro lot and walked over to the Center, excited to see what this team would do with its back against the wall.
The Sixers came out strong and won the first quarter 29-21. The crowd was similar to the Game 3 crowd – LOUD and ready to win. The Sixers seemed to feed off that energy, which was not the case for the less-enthusiastic Sunday afternoon Game 4 crowd.
Fortunately, there should be more night games from here on out.
Other 1st quarter observations:
- There weren’t any gimmicks this quarter (or for most of the game). I credit The Center for refraining from nonsense during an extremely important moment for the franchise. They elected to take it a step further by playing a Jimmy Butler pump-up highlight montage when Toronto took its first timeout. Keep that energy!
- The early 13-5 lead was quickly squandered to a 13-15 deficit, largely due to the insertion of Boban Marjonovic into the rotation. Boban would end the night with a +/- of -18 in 7 minutes. While he gave Embiid short rests, he didn’t do much else. Any other backup center option, no matter how bad, would be better (and Brett Brown settled on a productive Mike Scott for the 2nd half).
- The Sixers responded with a 10-0 run of their own, going up 23-15 with about 2 minutes left in the quarter. This was punctuated by good minutes from James Ennis, who would end the night a healthy +13.
The Sixers won this quarter (29-22) and took a 15 point lead into halftime. This quarter was all Jimmy Butler, who has more than earned whatever money the Sixers will need to pay him this summer to remain with the team. I mean, look at this man.
- Similar to the first quarter, no gimmicks! As much as I like writing about them, I appreciated the focus this game. Just some general jumbotron dancing, nothing specific. [Editor’s Note: Eric was on the jumbotron this quarter but apparently chose not to mention it]
- Boban played again, coming in when the Sixers were up about 17 and leaving when they were up only 7. I love Boban, but this is not the series for him. Brett quickly pulled him and wouldn’t put him back in until garbage time. The Sixers biggest bench goal this summer should be finding Embiid a defensive backup.
- Ben Simmons wasn’t too aggressive this quarter (this would change later), so I really appreciated Jimmy’s ability to take over. Brett Brown has called Jimmy “the adult in the locker room,” and it’s really been showing during this playoff run. I’ve long said that this team operates best when Ben is “leader guy”…anything Butler can do to cultivate and inspire that is enormous for his development.
- The halftime show as called “Drums of Thunder,” which is exactly what it sounds like.
The Sixers won this quarter 29-24 to take a 20-point lead into the 4th (87-67). What can I say? They all played great! Mike Scott took over for Boban as the backup center and didn’t disappoint.
When you get this kind of bench production (Scott would end +29), it’s hard to lose!
Other 3rd quarter observations:
- We actually had a gimmick this quarter! It was the time-honored Chik-Fil-A Challenge, which requires a fan to make a layup, free-throw, three-pointer, and halfcourt shot for various prizes. The fan this time got all the way to the halfcourt shot, but couldn’t connect. He was applauded for his efforts.
- Ben Simmons really picked his spots on offense and would end the game an efficient 9-13 from the field. Lots of opportunistic points, such as these beauties:
- Hip-hop legend Biz Markie was in the crowd tonight, which caused the whole stadium to break out into “Just a Friend.” You would have never known we were down in the series. Really, one of the more memorable moments of the season:
The Sixers lost the mostly garbage-time 4th quarter 25-39. Unfortunately, Embiid suffered a meaningless flagrant, giving him 3 on the playoffs. One more and he’ll earn a 1 game suspension – because that’s a fun thing for the league to want! Oddly, the 4th quarter dragged due to ticky-tack fouls and Nick Nurse’s refusal to take his starters out even when down 15-20 points with a few minutes left. It was a little bittersweet…well, mostly sweet. We did win after all. Only 4 quarters of winning basketball stand between the Sixers and the Eastern Conference Finals.
Sixers WIN 112-101. Say it with me: “Fresh water. $1 pretzels.”
The Sixers are now tied with the Raptors in the Eastern Conference semifinals 3-3 and play again on Sunday in Toronto for the winner-take-all Game 7. Let’s get it.
Next time I’m in 116, I’ll share some more views. Until then: 1-2-3-4-5-Sixers!
Note: The Sixers are now 19-6 (including 4-2 in the playoffs) while Eric Marturano has attended games this season. Every thing every fan does matters – don’t let anyone ever tell you differently.