June 7, 2023

76ers Pull Out Massive Win Over Bucks — Are You Becoming a Believer?


Philadelphia 76ers' James Harden (1) dribbles against Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, March 4, 2023, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result. Most Sixers fans have applied that definition to this season. “I won’t believe until they make it out of the second round of the playoffs” has been a phrase uttered countless times over the last few years by the Philadelphia faithful. It is more than fair, no matter what team the Sixers brass puts together it always ends in the same place. The second round.

However, after last night’s 133-130 comeback win against the Bucks, is it ok to start believing? The Sixers snapped the Bucks 16 game winning streak, and have multiple wins over top teams in both conferences. The win last night is not reason alone to put your faith in this team, but last night was another positive in a long list of them this season.

Vintage James Harden

One of the big questions that have lingered all season has been how will James Harden play in the playoffs. While his playoff failures can be overstated at times, it is hard to deny the fact that he has never been to the NBA Finals. It has become clear that last year he was battling through an injury, and this season’s version of Harden has been more of the player we thought we were getting last trade deadline. Harden showed last night why fans should be a little more optimistic about him this time around.

Harden was able to turn back the clock in last night’s win against the Bucks with 38 points, 10 assists, and 9 rebounds. The 38 points are his Sixers career high. Where Harden took over the game was in the 4th quarter. In the 4th Harden scored 19 points, including a clutch DEEP three to bring the Sixers within one point. A knock on Harden has been that he has lost his explosiveness going to the rim. While I can’t remember the last time he dunked, he was able to get by defenders and score at the rim last night. This is incredibly encouraging because the Bucks are known to be a great defensive team with Guard Jrue Holiday, and Harden dominated them last night.

Embiid’s All Around Game

Like Harden, Embiid has been questioned about his lack of playoff success. He and this current post-process edition of the Sixers have never gotten past the second round of the playoffs. But, there’s something different about Embiid this year. He has shown a willingness to do what the game needs him to do that he has not shown in the past. That was on display last night. Embiid finished the game with 31 points, 10 assists, and 6 rebounds. In years past Embiid would try and force scoring against a great Bucks defensive team. But last night he showed his maturity. He passed out of double, and triple teams. He found the open shooter if his shot was not there.

This is the type of player he has to be in the playoffs for the Sixers to get where they want to go. He will not be able to rack up double-digit assist every game in the postseason, but the team is at its best when he is dominating the paint, and finding open shooters off double teams.

Maxey Steps Up

Tyrese Maxey has had a pretty up-and-down season so far. He had an unfortunate injury to begin the season, then was brought off the bench, to now being back in the starting lineup. His play has been up and down as well as we have seen over the last week. But if the Sixers are going to do anything these upcoming playoffs, Maxey needs to be the player he was last night. Maxey finished the game with 26 points.

With Harris and Tucker both leaving the game with injuries Maxey had to pick up the scoring hole and he did. He showed why he is such a dangerous player with his transition baskets. He did a great job last night pushing the pace and getting easy layups. With the lack of scoring off the Sixers’ bench, it is up to Maxey to pick up some of that slack. Even though he is now starting, I still expect him to run the point on most of the non-Harden minutes. If the Sixers get the Maxey we saw last night in the playoffs, they could do some great things.

I’m starting to believe, are you?

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