Sixers Are Getting Their Swagger Back Ahead of Game 7
From Game 4 to Game 5, the Philadelphia 76ers were playing some uninspiring basketball. Despite their best player being sick and unable to perform at a high level, nobody really seemed to care to take control of the team. Sure, Jimmy Butler has been a dominant leader and producing consistently on both sides of the ball, but history will tell you that Butler cannot do everything on his own - especially in the playoffs.
When the Sixers took the floor in Toronto for a critical Game 5, many expected them to come out firing, ready to take the series back home with the lead and an opportunity to close it out in six. Instead, the Sixers got an awful effort from pretty much everybody not named Jimmy Butler, and they took an embarrassing loss that had everybody claiming the series was surely over. Fast forward to a do-or-die Game 6, and suddenly the Sixers are having fun playing basketball again.
You know what Joel Embiid says, he has to have fun and smile when playing ball. Game 4 and 5, the Sixers' big man looked like he wanted to be everywhere but in the arena shooting hoops. But for Game 6, he entered the Wells Fargo Center sporting a big smile showing he was visibly ready to take on the Raptors. As we know, the Sixers won convincingly, but the scoreboard wasn't the only indicator that showed the Sixers are back and ready for a Game 7. Instead, it was the words and actions of their players.
When the Sixers move the ball the way they did on Thursday night, "Ain't nobody [expletive] with them," says veteran forward, Mike Scott. And you know what? He might be right. It's clear the Sixers produce better when they are moving at a faster pace. Everybody was able to get a piece of the action. Butler, who has been phenomenal throughout this entire series, finished with a team-high of 25 points.
The kid who has been ultimately absent on offense for a majority of the series, Ben Simmons, finally made his doubters switch sides as he dropped 21 points. And despite only having 17 points from a much healthier Joel Embiid, the big man was on the floor for 36 minutes where he was a remarkable plus-40. He might not have been putting on a show for the crowd, as Embiid wanted to remain humble, but 'The Process' was definitely feeling the energy from the audience on Thursday night.
Unfortunately, the Sixers will have to go back up to Toronto on Sunday to play the final game of the series, but they have proven early on that winning in Toronto isn't exactly impossible. Although Game 2 was a dogfight until the last seconds, the Sixers proved they can come out on top and win up North. If they come out firing like they did on Thursday, Philadelphia should have no problem getting a ticket to the Eastern Conference Finals. At this point, it's become clear the Sixers are in fact, the most talented team in this series - they just need everybody to be out there having fun and playing at their own pace.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for South Jersey's 97.3 ESPN. You can follow Justin on Twitter: @JGrasso_