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Tuesday, April 26, 2022

James Harden's "Concert Tour" Heads to Toronto for Game Six

No NBA team has ever blown a 3-0 lead, but if any team is built to make such history that team is the Philadelphia 76ers, whose 103-88 loss to Toronto at home on Monday night turned what had only recently been a 3-0 lead into a 3-2 lead as the series shifts to Toronto for game six. 

Philadelphia Coach Doc Rivers led the Boston Celtics to the 2008 championship and he has accomplished a lot during his career, but he is also the only coach in pro basketball history whose teams have squandered three 3-1 leads. 

Joel Embiid's brief and undistinguished playoff career has featured him being out of shape and/or injured, and he has never advanced past the second round. He has not been the same in this series since he tore a ligament in his right thumb.

James Harden is perhaps the worst playoff choker ever and--as Jalen Rose so aptly put it--he has been on a "concert tour" since joining the 76ers: tour dates so far in the Toronto series include 3/9, 4/11, 5/17, 6/17, 7/13. One more March, April, May, or June concert tour date--those are Harden's game by game field goal percentages (placed in "calendar" order, not game to game order), in case you did not get Rose's joke--will go a long way to pushing this series to a seventh game, which could be the grand finale for Harden and the 76ers. 

The Raptors enjoy matchup advantages versus the 76ers; that--plus the playoff history noted above--is why I picked the Raptors to win the series. The 76ers are at full strength other than Embiid, while the Raptors played game five without All-Star guard Fred VanVleet, and at times they have also been without the services of 2022 Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes and potent scorer/scrappy defender Gary Trent Jr., but in the past two games the Raptors have begun exploiting their matchup advantages (they actually began doing so in game three, but Embiid bailed out the 76ers with a game-winning three pointer at the end of overtime). 

The percentages may still suggest that Toronto will win game six at home before the 76ers right the ship to win the seventh game in Philadelphia--but if this series goes back to Philadelphia tied 3-3 there will be much more pressure on the 76ers than on the Raptors, because the 76ers are supposedly a title contender while no one outside of the Raptors' locker room thinks that the Raptors are a title contender this season. One of my biggest wishes since Harden sulked his way out of Brooklyn was for him to play in a seventh game as a 76er, so that we can all see once again what Daryl Morey's greatest scorer of all-time does when everything is on the line.

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posted by David Friedman @ 2:00 AM



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