Philadelphia 76ers: Embrace the pain of Game 7 loss vs. Toronto Raptors

Joel Embiid | Philadelphia 76ers (Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Joel Embiid | Philadelphia 76ers (Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia 76ers lost Game 7 in heartbreaking fashion. Now it’s time to move on, but not forget.

The darkest point of my Sixers fandom was March 23, 2016. The Philadelphia 76ers were in the depths of the tanking seasons. The starting five was Carl Landry, Hollis Thompson, Ish Smith, Jerami Grant and Isaiah Canaan. It was a weeknight road-game against the Denver Nuggets. The Sixers had nine wins, and earning the tenth was going to require a misfit team scratching and clawing, while holding on for dear life.

The sports media mouth-pieces were circling the Sixers like vultures. They were waiting for the Sixers to clinch the worst 82 game record of all time. Sports radio and TV hosts were drooling at the thought of continuing their verbal tirades about the immorality and stupidity of the Sixers’ immense rebuild.

The Sixers held a lead with a few seconds left. Denver chucked a baseball pass for Emmanuel Mudiay, which he lost after a few dribbles, thanks to T.J. McConnell‘s defense. He scooped up the ball off the ground and flung the ball from nearly 40 feet with less than a second left. And of course, as with any desperation heave opposite the Sixers, it found the bottom of the net. 

Trending. TSS Podcast Ep. 6: A Game 7 heartbreaker. light

The Sixers’ 10th win seemed like an embarrassingly daunting task. I laid in my bed in disbelief. Mudiay could shoot that same shot 100 times and miss at least 95 of them. That shot only goes down against the Sixers. I was wondering when the anguish would stop, and the light at the end of the tunnel would peer through. I was staring at my dorm room ceiling with a million questions racing through my scrambled thoughts.

Fast forward three more years, and there’s a new most heartbreaking Sixers moment concretely trapped in my memory.

Kawhi Leonard took my worst Sixers moment, clamped jumper cables on it, doused it in water, and curb stomped the gas pedal.

I won’t show you the shot I’m referencing, because you’ve probably seen it 75 times by now …

Okay, I lied.

Watch it until your sick of it. Let every bounce on rim feel like its another twist of the knife in your chest at the mercy of Kawhi’s outlandishly sized hands. Be jealous of the pure joy in Scotiabank Arena. Every person with a smile and their arms raised in elation could have been you.

From now until the end of time seeing that shot should feel like salt in the wound. If a few unfortunate Sixers personnel changes happen, it’ll be the shot that set an entire organization back.

It’s over and it’s done with. The Sixers suffered the only buzzer-beating Game 7 defeat in NBA history. There’s only one thing left to do.

Embrace the pain.

Last year’s playoff loss to the Boston Celtics was a severe disappointment. The team was young, and lacking postseason experience, but the Sixers got sandbagged by the franchise’s greatest rival. They won a singular game. It was an embarrassment, but it was necessary. The Sixers weren’t ready for the moment. They shrank. It was a reality check that would pay dividends in the future.

The series loss to the Raptors wasn’t immaturity or collapsing under the gravity of the situation. It was a stone-cold soul crushing.

There are plenty of moments during the series to look back at and wonder; what if. There is with almost any series that goes the distance, but the Sixers never stopped swinging. The fact that they took the Raptors to the final possession of Game 7 speaks volumes about the resilience the Sixers possessed. Everyone wearing red, white, and blue grew up this spring, for better or worse. Saying the Sixers needed to yet again get bounced in the second round is foolish, but the anguish that ensued may very well be a blessing in disguise.

More from Sixers News

We saw the tears roll down Joel Embiid‘s face. The expression on his face was poignant and his emotion was palpable. Embiid overcame injury and illness to even be able to function on a basketball court. Critiques about Embiid’s will to win and work ethic are shoddy at best. He embraces Philadelphia and has all of the personal qualities you want in a franchise star. Embiid has put the team on his back time and time again. Don’t ever take him for granted.

Ben Simmons‘ defense on Kawhi Leonard will be overlooked because the emotionless assassin had one of the greatest playoff series ever and hit one of the most incredible buzzer beaters in the history of the sport. Simmons’ flaws were on full display, but the task of guarding Kawhi took as much mental resolve as physical ability. He’s 22 years old, the best version of Ben Simmons has yet to be seen.

Brett Brown coached exceptionally well during the playoffs and dealt with a near overhaul of his roster. Ownership did the right thing by bringing back Brown. He’s never had an offseason with team continuity and organizational stability starts with the top. Can’t run it back without the coach who started it all.

The Sixers team that walked off the floor with their heads hung on Sunday night will almost certainly never forget that moment. The knee to the gut watching the ball impossibly dance around the rim will serve as a bench mark moving forward. Avoid that feeling at all costs. The last-second defeat was a nightmare, but it will serve as a cringing reminder to the Sixers. Want to make your heart never gets ripped out again ? Work harder than you ever have. Leave nothing to chance.

Sunday night was one of the worst losses in the history of Philadelphia sports. Kawhi Leonard hit the shot Vince Carter missed 18 years ago. The Sixers and their fans may never get over it. A clean swish would have been less painful, but instead the ball touch almost every part of the rim on its way down. Fuel has been dumped on the fire, and maybe only the Sixers are capable of letting it burn. Fans need to do their part and fan the flames. Never underappreciate anything, and have as much fun as possible with a team that has the chance to be truly special.

The Sixers got a glimpse of how close they were to establishing themselves as a truly elite basketball team. There’s still plenty of room for growth, but to get to the top of the mountain, they need to never forget what happened on May 12.

Next. Areas of improvement for Simmons. dark

“Behind every beautiful thing, there’s been some kind of pain.”- Bob Dylan