76ers vs. Raptors

What will happen in Game 7? Damned if I know.

Jim Rome
May 10, 2019 - 11:02 am
Jimmy Butler

USA Today

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Now would be a pretty good time for everyone to stop saying that the NBA playoffs are predictable. Maybe they have been in the past, but they haven’t been this year. Boston blows out Milwaukee in Game 1 and then gets smacked in four straight. Denver beats Portland by 26 in Game 5 and Portland beats them by double-digits in Game 6.

And then there’s Toronto and Philadelphia.

The Raptors win the first game by 13 and everyone is rolling in with their “Philly can’t win in Toronto” takes. Then Philly wins Game 2 in Toronto and then blows out Toronto in Game 3. Now it’s all about how Kawhi has one foot out the door, guys like Kyle Lowry and Marc Gasol are washed up, and Philadelphia is going to give Milwaukee hell in the conference finals.

Then Toronto wins the next two and it’s time to break up the Sixers. Everyone’s saying how Philly’s chemistry is bad, Joel Embiid is overrated and Ben Simmons might be better off as a center. Or on another team. 

And then came last night.

Philadelphia 112
Toronto 101

And it’s time for everyone to take a seat. If the playoffs have taught anyone anything, and it’s pretty clear they haven’t, it’s that you can’t jump to any conclusion after just one game. Or even after a couple of games. Hell, if the Blazers listened to everyone outside their building after last season, this team wouldn’t even be here right now.

But back to Philly, because that’s where the Sixers were last night and that’s where they went off last night.

Earlier in the series, Sixers coach Brett Brown tried to give Jimmy Butler a new handle: James Butler. But really, the old one is better: Jimmy Buckets. And Jimmy Buckets was in the building in Philly last night.

You knew he had something special working when he showed up to work in a minivan and stirrup pants. I mean, is that for real? When I first saw that, I thought it had to be a Photoshop. Who has the audacity and the stones to pull that off?

That is some serious heat. You do that and you are telling the world: I’m here, let’s do this. 

He only had 25 points last night, but I say only because it felt like 40. He had a huge impact, especially in the first half, when he had 19. And did it with moments like this.  

And set up Ben Simmons for this.

And speaking of Ben Simmons – how about that stat line? 21 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists. Was he perfect? No. He’d be the first to say that.

But is he garbage? No, he’s not that either. And he stepped up when his team needed him. Philly got out, they were running, he was setting guys up, Philly was scoring. That’s how they have success, by pushing the pace and staying out of slow-it-down halfcourt situations. That’s nothing new. That’s where he is right now as a player and where they are right now as a team. Everyone knew that coming into this series and they know it coming out.

Joel Embiid, who was taking a ton of heat, despite playing with about fifteen different illnesses and injuries, went for 17 and 12, and had a plus-minus of 40. That’s not bad at all.

And he gave you moments like this.

That was Philly back to being Philly. Joel was laughing and hitting dudes in the face. TJ McConnell was breaking out the airplane. And Jimmy and Jo were back to their postgame comedy routine.

Philadelphia was humiliated in Game 5. And they responded. Season on the line, the guys who had to step up, stepped up. That was a macho performance. Would’ve been a lot easier for everyone to lay down and for guys like Butler and Tobias Harris to start thinking about free agency. But they didn’t.

What will happen in Game 7? Damned if I know. Seriously.

I mean I know the numbers that favor the home team in a Game 7. And that Toronto pantsed Philly in Toronto in Game 5. And I know that Philly has beaten Toronto in Toronto already in this series. 

But I also know this – there have been multiples times in this series when each team looks like a title contender and when each team doesn’t look like they belong on an NBA court.

And I know this: a lot of people who think they know, don't know. That's for damn sure. So if you hear anyone telling you they know exactly what will happen in Game 7 of this series, keep on moving. Because they don't.