When you start off a best-of-seven playoff series essentially conceding the first two games because you don't have Joel Embiid, you come in with some level of understanding that the Sixers were facing an uphill battle. Forced to win four out of five against a tough, locked in, disciplined opponent, the Sixers had very little margin for error to work with.
Part of the problem in coming back from an 0-2 deficit is that there's some element of luck, randomness, and variance at play in any individual game, which makes it tricky when you're only two more losses away from the season being over. One hot shooting night from the opponent, one game where you can't throw the ball in the ocean, or one bad call in a tight game can be the difference between an epic comeback or the end of your season. The Sixers, to advance to the Conference Finals, would have to be borderline perfect following Embiid's return.
Which makes it unfathomable for the team to come out in a pivotal Game 5 with all the urgency and focus of a December contest against the Magic, that they'd come out looking like they were in a trap game, or stuck in a schedule loss. There is no Orlando on the schedule in May. You can't win on sheer talent alone while bringing your D- game, and there sure as heck isn't a schedule loss in the playoffs.
I am not an immediate reaction kind of guy, and some of that is by design. I want to have an opportunity to re-watch the game before putting fingers to a keyboard. Even as a (now) long-time journalist it's still possible to get caught up in the moment while watching a game live. I re-watch the game specifically to avoid hyperbole, like what I'm about to say.
Given the stakes at play and the urgency they failed to play with, that was one of the worst playoff performances I've ever seen from this team. And I was there for Game 7 last year.
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