How the Sixers' Big 3 Stepped up and Saved Their Season

May 10, 2019 - 9:41 am

(94WIP) Looking for a Mother's Day present? How about Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals?

The Philadelphia 76ers annihilated the Toronto Raptors in Game 6, 112-101, at an electric Wells Fargo Center. Decisive Game 7 is Sunday night in Toronto at 7 p.m. ET, with a trip to the Conference finals on the line.

"I've been fortunate to be in a few Game 7s and they're very unique," Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. "They're special. They are a life lesson, a life opportunity."

Lessons were clearly learned from Game 5's embarrassment, and they need to be carried over into Game 7. The Sixers won Game 6 because of their "Big 3" of Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler and Ben Simmons.

Embiid

He was anything but a juggernaut offensively. His final numbers indicate that. However, he had the greatest impact on the game: He was an unheard of plus-40. Whenever he was on the bench, the Raptors made their runs. Whenever he returned, the Sixers built a comfortable lead.

Brown attempted to try Boban Marjanovic as Embiid's sub in Game 6, and it turned into a disastrous minus-18. He even tried Mike Scott as Embiid's sub in one rotation, but then lost rim protection as a result.

Simply put, Embiid needs to play huge minutes Sunday night.

"It's the playoffs," Embiid said. "I got to play. If I got to play 45 minutes and push myself out there, that's what I got to do. If that's what it takes to win and my presence on the court is needed, I got to be better. It doesn't matter if it takes the whole game. And I'm fine with it."

Butler

"I've said this before--there is an adult in the room when he's on the court," Brown said of Butler's continued playoff imprint on the Sixers. "The athletic plays that he makes, the physical plays that he makes, he's a tank. And he's just so strong. And when he has that sort of laser focus and you got that body to back it up, incredible things happen offensively and defensively."

Butler continues to be the "adult" in the room and make the case for a long-term contract extension.

His 25-point performance was another dose of "Playoff Jimmy." He scored 19 of those points in the first half, including 11 in the second quarter -- walking off the floor with his hands above his head as the crowd chanted "Jim-my But-ler!"

"Playoff Jimmy" will need to keep in going in Game 7. While Embiid's health and Simmons' aggression have been questionable throughout the postseason, he has been the guy the Sixers have counted on to deliver almost every night.

He scores. He finds his teammates. He plays defense. And he makes big-time plays--whether it's an and-1 off his own miss fading away or a steal with time winding down in the second quarter leading to a fast-break bucket.

"I think right now this is what I have to do in order to give us a great chance of winning," Butler said. "I think from game to game, from series to series, the role could change. I'm cool with it. Like I always say, I just want to win."

He is the leader on this team and should be considered a key part of the core going forward.

Simmons

Simmons had more points and assists in the first quarter than he did in the entire Game 5. He was more aggressive and engaged offensively. The tempo and flow the team played with from the jump was much better than earlier this week, and that improvement was in large part thanks to Simmons.

He needs to play downhill, create and shoot. Even if he's not making them -- which he did Thursday night -- Simmons taking shots is critical to the 76ers' success.

Before the game, he was spied having a chat with Sixers legend Julius Erving. He wouldn't say what Dr. J told him, only that it "could've" helped him. Whatever pregame routine Simmons went through to get ready for Game 6, he needs to find a way to duplicate that Sunday night.

"Going out there and doing everything I can to win," Simmons said, "and the end result is going to be the end result. Everyone had that same mentality. I think it was just going out there, playing hard and not regretting anything."

By Dave Uram