Immediately Joel Embiid hit a Game 3 winning three-pointer against the Toronto Raptors, the Philadelphia 76ers appeared to be heading for a sweep in the series.
But that did not happen, as the Doc Rivers led team inadvertently took their foot off the gas over their last two games, failing to play with intensity in either of the games.
Having found themselves down big to the Raptors late in Q4 of Game 5 and with a win looking out of reach, Philadelphia fans in attendance headed for the exits.
4 minutes left in this game and Philly fans are headed for the exits 🤣🤣 pic.twitter.com/qN5bVF4nRb— Kayla Grey (@Kayla_Grey) April 26, 2022
The Vanishing Act in Blowout Loss
The Sixers were ruined by dreadful three-point shooting on the night, 27.3 percent to be precise, but the play of James Harden was under serious scrutiny as he put forth another disappointing performance in the playoffs.
Harden finished with fifteen points on 4-of-11 shooting with seven assists and five turnovers. The former MVP award winner has managed 19.3 points per game on just 37.3% shooting from the floor in this series so far.
He obviously is struggling to recover his mojo and critics online are not holding back in their disapproval of his play.
Tonight had to be a James Harden Game. But he's never there when you really need him.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) April 26, 2022
They have seen a 3-0 series lead turn to just 3-2 and, really, it feels like they should be the ones down 3-2 as they got a bit lucky in Game 3 on Joel Embiid’s game-winning shot.
Rivers to His Defense
After the game, Sixers head coach Doc Rivers admitted that his team has had a problem getting Harden involved in the offense. According to Rivers, Philly needs to give Harden more opportunities to be aggressive moving forward:
“We have to get James going downhill in some more actions that he likes and more comfortable,” said Sixers the Sixers coach, vi. “You know, I just keep saying with Tyrese, we just have to get the ball in his hands more. We just do. I said it all game. … He’s just not getting the ball in transition enough. And that’s on us.
“We have to do it.”
Rivers and the rest of the Sixers are hoping that Harden gets going sooner rather than later. Game 6 on Thursday is now a must-win for the Sixers as another loss will force a do-or-die Game 7 contest with the momentum firmly on Toronto’s side.
James Harden has struggled against the Raptors this postseason.— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) April 26, 2022
His current 19.3 points per game average is his lowest since his 2011-12 postseason with the OKC Thunder. pic.twitter.com/APzwACVfDn
What to do to Avoid the Embarrassment of Losing the Series
Philadelphia has a strong roster led by MVP finalist Joel Embiid along with Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey. They do not need Harden to play at an MVP level to be successful, but they expect him to play aggressively and efficiently.
Harden already has a reputation of disappearing in the postseason, and his play against the Raptors has done nothing to change that narrative.
Joel Embiid had thoughts on James Harden after the Sixers gave up Game 5 👀 pic.twitter.com/J8bH2tDeaC— The Athletic NBA (@TheAthleticNBA) April 26, 2022
With Embiid struggling to play through his injury, the Sixers, now more than before, need Harden to increase his scoring output and help them prevail.