PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia 76ers let a golden opportunity slip by them in Game 6 against the Boston Celtics. The Sixers came out flat and paid the price for it, losing the game at home and setting up a road Game 7. Solid scoring efforts from Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey weren’t enough for Philly to clinch the series on its home floor.
Embiid and Maxey each had 26 points in the Sixers’ 95-86 defeat. The Celtics’ decision to swap Robert Williams into the starting lineup for Derrick White paid off. Marcus Smart contributed 22 points, seven rebounds and seven assists while preventing Philly from getting into any offensive rhythm. The Sixers had 11 non-garbage time points in the fourth quarter as Philly fans sat dejectedly and watched their team stink it up.
Even after such a dreadful defeat, the Sixers are not moping. “They were disappointed they lost the game,” Doc Rivers said, “but you didn’t have a locker room of anybody feeling defeated or anything like that. I can guarantee you that.” When Embiid made his way to the podium, he was honest about the Sixers’ struggles. But he also didn’t sound anything like someone who felt like it was over.
“I feel pretty good about it,” Embiid said. “We just got to make sure we’re ready for Sunday. Big game for us. Game 7 — who doesn’t love Game 7? So, it’s gonna be exciting.”
Embiid has been in this situation before but has yet to prevail. At the peak of his (and his team’s) powers, there are reasons to be confident. The Sixers will have to collect themselves on offense, something Embiid knows. Still, he took a detour during one of his answers about the team’s defense — he said they like how they scrambled to contain the ball – and blasted an officiating crew that looked just as (if not more) out of sorts than Philly did.
“We didn’t start the game like we wanted to. We didn’t send a message. They were too comfortable,” Embiid said. “Between the momentum changing, between that stupid-a** goaltend. Those type of calls, that just can’t happen. This is the playoffs. If you’re gonna make those type of calls, you got to be sure about it. That’s just not okay.”
At the podium after the game, Maxey looked more dejected than he has at any point this season. He took his face out of his hands to answer questions with a feeling of frustration apparent in his voice. But through a downtrodden tone, he reassured his confidence in his squad.
“It’s gonna be a war and one thing I will say is: if I had to go to war on the road, Game 7 in Boston, I would want to go with this group,” Maxey said. “I know we got some fighters. I know we got some resilient guys. I’m ready to get it on.”
The battle for a berth in the Eastern Conference Finals will be a tough one on Sunday at TD Garden. It’s the type of fight that will show once and for all what these Sixers are made of.
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