After a complete garbage first round that was as chalk as the White Cliffs of Dover, we’ve got ourselves the thrills and chills of Game 7 imminent in Toronto and Denver.
The Philadelphia 76ers got an insane MVP-level performance from Joel Embiid on their way to a 112-101 win, and the matched set of 11-point victories got completed by the Portland Trail Blazers in a 119-108 win over Denver in the nightcap.
We begin in Philadelphia.
Drawing an Embiid on the Enemy
Here’s your insane stat of the night.
Embiid had 17 points on 5-of-14 shooting, pulled down 12 rebounds, turned the ball over five times…and posted a plus-40 in 36 minutes.
In the 12 minutes he was off the floor, the Sixers were minus-29. That’s a per-48-minute swing of 169 points of margin, the most utterly loony stat line I think we’ve seen all decade, certainly all season.
Boban Marjanovic was minus-18 in seven minutes. Amir Johnson was minus-8 in four minutes. If the Raptors had figured a better way to force Embiid (who had four fouls) into foul trouble, they might’ve won this game.
Kawhi Leonard had 29 points for the Raptors to lead all scorers on 9-of-20 shooting, so there’s that bright spot to take back up north.
On the Sixers side of the ball, Ben Simmons had 21 points on 0-of-0 from three-point land while committing zero turnovers, Jimmy Butler posted 25 points on 9-of-18, and Philadelphia had an industrial-sized rebounding advantage, winning that battle 52-34.
Combine that with (a) Toronto’s three-point struggles (9-of-36) and (b) Embiid dominating defensively, and you’ve got yourself some winning basketball.
The series goes back to Canada for the third conference semifinal Game 7 (2001 and 2016) in Raptors franchise history. One of those games—the 2001 edition—was against Philadelphia, a game the Allen Iverson-led Sixers won on their way to Iverson stepping over Tyronn Lue in the Finals.
How about a nice bucket of highlights from the Sixers starters?
Game 7: Sunday (5/12), 7:00pm/et, TNT pic.twitter.com/czdZHVu3sP
— NBA (@NBA) May 10, 2019
Go Home Refs, You’re Drunk
I don’t want to say the referees were acting on orders to force a Game 7, but Nikola Jokic and Torrey Craig both fouling out of the Nuggets’ loss to Portland while nobody on the Blazers roster was in meaningful foul trouble seems an awful lot like “when all you have is a whistle, everything starts to look like a foul.”
Jokic had 29 points on 10-of-15 shooting with 12 rebounds and eight assists, but nerfing his ability to be effective defensively with use of the whistle can do a lot in an 11-point game.
Meanwhile, as Portland’s backcourt goes, so go their fortunes and we got the Good version of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, who shot a combined 23-of-47 to post 62 points, 32 points from Lillard and 30 from McCollum.
Throw in 25 points from Rodney Hood and two things leap to mind.
One, holy bananas Rodney Hood is fantastic off the bench.
And two, that’s 87 points, so where were the rest of the Blazers?
Well, Zach Collins had 14 on 4-of-8, so let’s exempt him from the following critique.
The rest of the team had 18 points on 6-of-22 from the field, and Evan Turner put up a downright mind-blowing stat line of zero shot attempts (and thus zero points), seven rebounds, and seven assists.
And oh by the way, the Blazer bench managed a game-high plus-21 from Hood, plus-19 from Seth Curry (who had three points on 1-of-3 shooting), plus-15 from Collins, and plus-6 from Turner.
Refs, reserves, and some efficient shooting from the stars? That’s a Blazer win, all right. We’ll see how it flies a mile high on Sunday.
Let’s give the highlight reel to Hood, because he put up an absolutely fantastic season-saving performance off the bench and deserves all the recognition.
Playoff career-high 25 points for Hoodie 🎥 pic.twitter.com/TMgZDlp8ki
— Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) May 10, 2019
Game 6 of the Real NBA Finals is tonight, and we’ll have a breakdown of the Kevin Durant-less Warriors trying to do the highly unlikely in Houston. Will the Rockets choke at home? Or will there be one wild Game 7 without Durant in Oakland?
Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!