‘We weren’t going back to Philly’ – Defiant 76ers blow out Toronto Raptors in Game 6 to clinch series

TORONTO – Someday, a team will come back from down 3-0 to win an NBA playoff series.

But it won’t be the 2022 Toronto Raptors.

After becoming the 14th team to extend a best-of-seven series to Game 6 after falling 3-0, the Raptors haven’t had enough to prolong this series for another game. The Philadelphia 76ers – thanks to a dominant third quarter that saw them outscore Toronto 37-17 and at one point scored 17 straight points – came away with a 132-97 victory Thursday night in Game 6 of their first-round series here. Scotiabank Arena.

“We weren’t going back to Philly for a Game 7,” James Harden said.

The win moves Philadelphia into the Eastern Conference semifinals for the fourth time in five years. This time, they will hopefully finally break through and reach the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since Allen Iverson led them there in 2001. Philadelphia begins its series against Miami in the top-seeded Heat on Monday night.

The 76ers were led by a balanced attack across the board. Joel Embiid, playing through a torn ligament in his right thumb, finished with 33 points and 10 rebounds in 36 minutes, going 12-for-18 from the field. Harden had 22 points, 6 rebounds and 15 assists, playing with the Aggression the 76ers desperately needed from him. And second-year guard Tyrese Maxey had a huge bounce-back game as well, finishing with 25 points and scoring 23 points after eight assists in Games 4 and 5.

“It’s funny: Our shootaround was terrible today,” 76ers coach Doc Rivers said. “I called it … They didn’t want to hear us anymore. They were done with coaching. They had heard it already. They were ready to play. They were locked in.”

It was exactly the kind of performance the 76ers needed – but one that was far from certain to take place when this game tipped off shortly after 7 pm Thursday. After Game 3 of this series, when Embiid’s last-second 3-pointer in overtime gave Philadelphia a 104-101 victory over the Raptors last week, a 3-0 lead, it would appear as if the 76ers had put their demons to rest. from their heartbreaking loss to Toronto in the 2019 Eastern Conference semifinals.

But things didn’t work out that way. A sluggish performance from the 76ers allowed Toronto to get back into the series with a home victory in Game 4, followed by the Raptors dictating play from start to finish in Game 5, leading to all but opening minutes as the crowd inside Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo. Center got tighter and tighter by the second.

That mentality was enough for Toronto to get itself back into the series and bring it back here for Thursday night’s Game 6. But it wasn’t enough to carry Toronto to the precipice of history.

Instead, it was Philadelphia – who spent the past three days listening to endless chatter about the team, and especially Embiid, Harden and Rivers, would be able to close this series out and reverse past playoff heartbreaks – that ensured it didn’t. Find yourself on the wrong end of yet another disappointing postseason result.

The 76ers did so thanks to an offensive onslaught that left the sellout crowd here stunned as the game slipped away so quickly.

“Listen, congratulations to them, first of all,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “I thought they were definitely great in three of these games in this series. They were really great.

“They shot it, and they passed it really well in three of the games, and tonight was one of them.”

After Philadelphia held a 62-61 halftime lead, the 76ers came out to start the third quarter and almost immediately put any thought into this series going back home for a do-or-die seventh game Saturday night. Scoring their first eight trips down the court, the Sixers opened up a 13-point lead before the Raptors fans could even get back into their seats after the halftime break.

Eventually, the run ballooned to a 30-9 stretch over the first 8:08 of the third, capped off by a Harden step-back 3-pointer that made it 92-70 in favor of the 76ers, forcing Toronto to call its second. Timeout of the quarter and Harden to roar in celebration.

“He’s just such a tough guy to guard,” said Tobias Harris of Harden. “So when he’s doing all those different moves and getting us involved and also, you know, just pushing the pace, that’s huge for our group and our team.”

For several 76ers, Game 6 served as a redemption arc – for none more than Harden, who came under fire for his play taking just 11 shots in Game 5, with Embiid saying himself Harden needed to be more aggressive, and that was on Rivers to get him.

Harden appeared to take that message to the heart of Game 6, throwing a dunk – his second in two games, after not getting a single in his first two months as a 76er – as part of his best quarter this series. , scoring 10 points and making 5 assists to help the 76ers to a 34-29 lead after one.

“We’ve had opportunities the last few games to put them away and we just didn’t,” Harden said. “So I wanted to come out and be aggressive. Not just scoring basketball, but making the right plays, and getting into the paint. I knew good things would happen.”

The hot pace offensively for both teams to start the game throughout the first half, with both teams executing what they wanted offensively and getting unexpected contributions across the roster. For Toronto, it was backup big man Chris Boucher pouring in 19 points – a playoff career high – and eight rebounds before the break; For Philadelphia, it was Danny Green hitting four 3-pointers and scoring 12 points in the first half.

Philadelphia hits about 58% of its shots in the first half; Toronto was just under 50% and once again struggled from the 3-point line (3-for-15), but had 10 offensive rebounds and a 12-3 edge in second-chance points.

Most importantly, however, the 76ers held a 62-61 lead – setting up what looked like both teams would be a thrilling second half with everything to play for.

Instead, the 76ers came out and made sure any talk of history being made in this series would be put to rest.

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