Joel Embiid and the Sixers Are Figuring It Out

May 03, 2019 - 9:43 am

(94WIP) The Philadelphia 76ers made a statement Thursday night at Wells Fargo Center. If you don't think they're legitimate Eastern Conference contenders, you need your eyes checked.

They dominated the Toronto Raptors in Game 3, 116-95, to take a 2-1 series lead.

Raptors star Kawhi Leonard (33 points) might have been unstoppable for most of the game, despite a valiant effort from Ben Simmons and company. But the best teams usually win in postseason basketball, and the Sixers have been the best team through three games.

Here are some observations from Game 3:

Welcome back, JoJo

Joel Embiid returned to MVP form, getting the looks he desired against Marc Gasol and anyone who dared to guard him. Embiid also was sharp defensively, blocking shots and getting rebounds. He finished with a game highs of 33 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks. He was 12-for-13 from the foul line and 9-for-18 from the floor.

The highlight of Embiid's night was an absolutely unreal windmill dunk in the fourth quarter.

One of the more fascinating adjustments 76ers coach Brett Brown made heading to Thursday night was deciding to put Embiid back on Gasol defensively instead of keeping the big guy on Pascal Siakam. Though Siakam found his groove, the 34-year-old Gasol was ineffective.

Sixers' starting five

At his pre-game press conference, Brown talked about the growing chemistry among his starters, something that was called into question prior to the postseason because of their lack of time together.

Game 3 showed what Brown was talking about. The ball movement has improved drastically from Game 1 against Brooklyn in the first round. Their assist-to-field-goal ratio was phenomenal. The ability for them to produce in either transition or the half court is spectacular. They're outplaying Toronto's starting five, which is really only getting production from Leonard and Siakam.

Jimmy Butler finished with 22 points and nine assists. JJ Redick scored 15. Tobias Harris dropped 13, and Simmons scored 10 points with seven assists.

Toronto's depth?

Toronto's depth was considered a strength coming into this series. Other than Leonard, Siakam and, at times, Kyle Lowry and Danny Green, the Raptors are getting contributions from no one else, especially their bench.

Meanwhile, James Ennis III, Greg Monroe and Mike Scott are providing solid minutes off the bench for Philadelphia.

Punishment for Simmons?

In the second half, Siakam got called for a flagrant-1 foul for tripping Embiid.

But Simmons might've gotten away with something equally as dirty in the first half, when he appeared to elbow Lowry in the groin.

It will be interesting to see if the NBA retroactively assesses a flagrant to Simmons or imposes some discipline.

By Dave Uram