The Philadelphia 76ers’ season ended in a familiar place, the second round, as they were blown out by the Celtics 112-88 in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference semifinals series on Sunday in Boston.
With the win, the Celtics move on to the Eastern Conference finals, and for the third straight season, the 76ers bow out in the second round.
Philly trailed 55-52 at halftime, but Boston outscored the Sixers 33-10 in the third quarter. Boston led by as many as 30 points.
For most of this series, the 76ers had an answer for Jayson Tatum, but in Game 7, he scored a Game 7 record 51 points, and Philly had no answer for him.
The 76ers’ two stars did not play like stars in Game 7. League MVP Joel Embiid had 15 on 5/18 shooting, and James Harden shot 3/11 and scored only nine points.
Now, Philly heads into the offseason with many more questions than answers.
Harden can opt out of his contract, which he probably will do, and become an unrestricted free agent. Many believe that he will go back to the Rockets. Harden was alright against Boston. He did have two 40-plus point games and won two games for the Sixers in this series(34.6 PPG in wins). However, in the four losses, Harden wasn’t very good(12.5 PPG); he’s no longer in his prime, but the 33-year-old is still a good player. However, the way the team is presently constructed, Harden may not be good enough for the 76ers to win a title.
The two players who are probably untouchable are Embiid and Tyrese Maxey. Outside of that, all the players are available. Tobias Harris has an expiring contract, which could make him desirable.
Doc Rivers could also be on the move after failing to get this team out of the second round in the last three seasons. If they bring Rivers back, it’s not a bad thing, and moving on from Rivers would not be a bad option as well. Sixers President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey inherited Rivers, so he may want to bring in his own coach.
Embiid is a great player, but he’s always injured in the playoffs and wasn’t the same player in the playoffs. According to ESPN, Embiid, who battled a knee injury, averaged 33.1 PPG in the regular season and 23.7 PPG in the playoffs, which is the largest drop-off(9.4 PPG) by an MVP in league history.
However, if you move the 29-year-old, that signals a rebuild. Maybe he will learn from the losing and continue to grow as a player both physically and mentally.
Philly had a great chance to get to the Finals this season if they could have beaten Boston, but after having a 3-2 series lead, they blew it in Game 6 at home. That Game 6 loss will haunt this team in the offseason and maybe beyond.