Updated: Jul 4
Written by Andrew Leeds
Originally Published February 27, 2023
If you watched Sunday's episode of "The Locker Room with Billy Schweim", chances are you probably have heard the statistic that haunts Sixers fans everywhere following Saturday night's devastating loss to the Boston Celtics: The Sixers are 11-20 vs. Boston over their last 31 matchups dating back to January 2017.
This gut-wrenching fact does not even include their record against Boston in the playoffs thus far in the Embiid era, which is an abysmal 1-8 in their two times meeting in the postseason.
For those who watched this primetime game on Saturday night, things truly felt different in the beginning. Embiid, who has historically had difficulties against Boston, came out with the same type of energy and aggressiveness that he displays during all of his very best performances. Harden was was also aggressive, and seemed to be on his game playmaking wise just as he has been all season. Even Tobias Harris knocked down a trifecta of three-pointers and had 14 points going into half-time, where the Sixers held onto a six point lead.
This display of confidence seemed to only grow when it came time to open second-half, as the Sixers expanded their lead to 15 within four minutes of the third quarter starting. However, an all too-familiar sequence of events for Sixers fans over the past five or-so seasons began to happen. Celtics' big Al Horford drained three consecutive three-pointers all within a minute to cut the deficit to only four, the spark that swayed all momentum into Boston's direction.
The Celtics would boast a ten point lead of their own with little over seven minutes left to play. The stench of yet another second-half choke job crawled into the nostrils of Sixers fans everywhere. The scent would be particularly revolting this time around considering that it seemed as if this team had finally cemented their status as a legitimate contender with their impressive come-from-behind victory over the number two seed Memphis Grizzlies this past Thursday night.
Where was the team that showed so much grit and fight when they went down by 17 points to Ja Morant and company just 48 hours ago?
To the shock of many who have watched this team consistently give up and hang their shoulders low once facing some adversity over the years, that team was about to show up after all.
The trio of Maxey, Harden, and especially Embiid began to take over the game offensively, somehow leaving things all tied up at 107 a piece with just over three seconds of regulation remaining. Boston drew up a play out of the time out to get the ball to league-leading scorer Jayson Tatum. Despite struggling all-night up to this point, only having a pedestrian 15 points for his standards, Tatum found a favorable matchup against the much shorter De'Anthony Melton and drained a step-back three pointer with just one point three seconds remaining.
Without any timeouts left, the Sixers inbounded the ball to Embiid. He quickly got around a defender and launched the ball from three-quarters the length of the court near his own three-point line, and sunk it. South Philly exploded with rejoice upon the sound of the swoosh.
It was too late.
The clock had already expired before the ball left Embiid's hand, a replay would instantly confirm that. The Philadelphia crowd and everybody watching at home could not believe it. The Sixers almost did it. That shot by Embiid was so impressive and deserves to be respected. However, it was just not quite good enough.
Ironically enough, that is exactly how this franchise as a whole could be described over the last few seasons.
They almost do it every year.
They are very impressive and unquestionably deserve respect.
They are just not quite good enough.