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30 Apr 2024

On The Brink of Elimination:

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April 30, 2024 Category: Sports Posted by:

The Philadelphia 76ers are on the verge of yet another early playoff exit.

ABOVE PHOTO: New York Knicks’ Isaiah Hartenstein, right, goes up for a shot against Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid during the second half of Game 4 in an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Sunday, April 28, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

By Chris Murray  

For the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

If you have been watching the Philadelphia 76ers misadventures in the playoffs over the last few years, Sunday’s Game 4 loss in the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs to the New York Knicks was the same ol’ story and adds to the “our stars take the day off” narrative of folding in the clutch during the postseason.

The 76ers are down 3-1 in the series and on the brink of elimination after their 97-92 loss because their superstars didn’t show up when it mattered most. Reigning NBA MVP Joel Embiid, who had a playoff career-high 50 points in Game 3, scored 26 points for the first three quarters, but scored only one point in the fourth quarter, and that was a free throw. He was 0-for-5 from the floor. He finished the game with 27 points and 10 rebounds (zero offensive boards)

Meanwhile, the Sixers got outscored 44-32 in the paint. Former Villanova star Jalen Brunson scored a lot of his 41 points hoisting shots over Embiid. The Knicks had 15 offensive rebounds over the Sixers nine, enabling the Knicks to have a few more extra possessions.

The former Kansas star did not endear himself to Philly fans when he expressed his disappointment that the fans weren’t as loud as the Knicks fans who came down the New Jersey Turnpike to witness their squad beat up on the Sixers at the Wells Fargo Center.

Uhh, Joel, scoring one point without a field goal in the fourth quarter has a way of silencing Sixers fans. Trust me, the fans are way more disappointed in you than you are in them.

Embiid looked as tired as he played in the fourth quarter. Not only did he not have a field goal in that fateful fourth quarter, but he had also only one defensive rebound. That’s the most frustrating thing about all this to Sixers fans. It’s a familiar script for the last few years. For the last three years, Embiid is always coming off some injury that renders him to less than 100 %  effective. 

There are times in the playoffs when Embiid looks like a “Super Man” who can take his team through the fire and through the limit to paraphrase the great R&B singer Chaka Khan. You saw that in Game 3, but then you see the disappearing act that you saw Sunday afternoon, which was similar to the one you saw in Game 7 of last year’s Eastern Conference semifinals against the Boston Celtics.

And he has the unmitigated gall to bitch about the fans. Really?

Where Embiid really must prove his worth as an MVP player is by carrying his team in the playoffs consistently. Don’t get it twisted, he does need help from Tyrese Maxey, Kelly Oubre Jr., and Tobias Harris, but when you are the superstar, perennial MVP candidate that Embiid is, you have to put the team on your back when your team needs you to carry them to the finish.

And speaking of Maxey

As a team, the 76ers team that played well in the first three quarters and held the lead for most of the game couldn’t find a rhythm on the offensive end in the fourth quarter. They were 6-of-24 in the fourth quarter. Maxey was 2-for-8, and Harris was 0-for-2, Oubre Jr. was 2-for-4. Those guys are the Sixers’ best scorers, and they all came up empty.

You know there are going to be fans on social media that are going be saying that Embiid pulled a “James Harden,” defined as choking in the fourth quarter of a crucial game in a playoff series. You’re going really hear this kind of noise if the Sixers lose this series on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. 

After all these years of watching the 76ers come up with early playoff exits that included choke jobs by players like Harden and Ben Simmons along with lackluster coaching from Brett Brown and Glenn “Doc” Rivers, the fanbase is beyond the point of frustration with a talented team that can’t get past the second round of the playoffs. 

And as we are on the verge of seeing the Sixers not survive the month of April,  you’re going to be wondering how long the Sixers are going to ride with a superstar who has never been fully healthy during his time in Philadelphia.

On one hand, it’s hard to expect Embiid to be at 100% physically at this time of the year after missing 43 games during the regular season.  And you’re always hoping that the other guys would step up to help and they never seem to quite it done. How did that trade for Buddy Hield go, Daryl Morey?

And now, we’re on the verge of another Sixers exit.

 To quote the Talking Heads: “Same as it ever was.”

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