Sixers Fan Reaction (SFR) Rd 2, Gm 7: PHI 90, TOR 92 - Brown Stain
The Philadelphia 76ers lose Game 7 of the 2019 NBA Eastern Conference Quaterfinals, 90-92, to the Toronto Raptors on an improbable, quadruple doink buzzer-beater from Kawhi Leonard.
I may not be the biggest NBA fan. I don't watch every single 76ers game the way I do for the Flyers, Eagles, and Phillies. I don't know a ton about basketball.
But I'm a Philadelphia sports fan. And a Notre Dame fan. So I know what pain feels like. Folks - this is pain.
I'm going to largely ignore the first three and a half quarters of this game (just like the sport of basketball does when it comes to deciding who wins) for this article. I'm going to ignore the 0-9 start from the field, the embarassing performance on the glass, the plethora of turnovers, and the 4-point first 36 minutes for Jimmy Butler. Let's just get right to the end - the heart of the pain.
This was an absolute battle of a game. An all-time classic. The kind of game you watch ten, twenty years after it happens and still remember every vivid detail. It was back and forth, up for grabs the whole time with neither side possessing a double-digit lead at any point. Both sides made big shots, and both had some ugly miscues (that last one goes for the referees as well).
But then came the final two minutes. Where the game was decided. And for all of the talent, the hard work, the big performances they've put together all year, the 76ers choked. Three straight possessions without a shot attempt including back-to-back shot clock violations nearly saw the game slip away right then and there.
That would have been the easy way to go out. Unfortuantely, the sports gods rarely let Philadelphia go down like that. Instead, the 76ers fought back with a few big shots to stay in the game down the stretch. They caught a huge break when Kawhi Leonard missed a late free-throw, and Jimmy Butler scored in transition on the ensuing fast-break. Tie game. 90-90. Four point two seconds to play.
To their credit, the 76ers defended the inbounds extremely well. Letting Leonard get the ball wasn't optimal but was basically unpreventable. Still, the defense forced him into the corner for an extremely contested off-balance fadeaway that only an all-time great could hit.
And it hit. The rim. Again. Again. And again. And...
No hope. All heartbreak.
One of the brutalist losses in franchise history. No question about it. And now it is followed up with an offseason that sees Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler approach free agency with aspirations of a max contract. There were rumors before the game that a Sixers loss could cost head coach Brett Brown his job. And after all of the improvements and big moves, the Sixers find themselves in the same boat they were one year ago - eliminated in the second round.
Last year was viewed as the Process finally taking shape. This year was supposed to be it truly coming into form. The team is better on paper this year than last, yes, but who knows what they look like come October? And if they are back together, what's to think next year will be any different.
It all comes back to pain. A staple of sports in the City of Brotherly Love. Sure, we've had our moments of joy - heck, fifteen months ago the Eagles won the Super Bowl. Since then?
- The Phillies suffered a horrific collapse down the stretch, losing ten straight series and an NL East they lead as late as mid-August. They made great strides in the offseason, but as we just found out with the 76ers, a better team doesn't always garner a better result.
- The Flyers blew a 4-2 lead in Game 6 on home-ice to their most hated rivals in the first round. Then they set an NHL record for most goalies used in a single season, wasted another year of Claude Giroux's prime, and now have not won a playoff series in a franchise-high seven years.
- The 76ers suffered a humbling second round loss last year to the Celtics, and then did [see above] against the Raptors.
- And the Eagles themselves nearly missed the playoffs, then got everyone hyped up that they were going back to the Super Bowl only to be shutout for the final three quarters of their season by the Saints.
Hopefully I am wrong and the 76ers can come back strong next year, go deeper into the playoffs and maybe bring home their first championship since 1983. For the record, I think Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris absolutely should be resigned. I also think that keeping Brett Brown is the right decision. But until then, there is no Process.