Philadelphia 76ers: Victims of a cold-blooded killer

(Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
(Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia 76ers fell in seven games to the Toronto Raptors. Despite coming inches short of advancing to the next round, an assassin took over and led the Raptors to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Sports media is all about narratives. Many are cliche and exhausting. Perhaps the most overblown narrative is the scapegoat.

It means that whenever a team loses, someone needs to catch heat. A player, a coach, or an executive needs to face repercussions for a “failure.”

Look at the Philadelphia 76ers over these last few days. The pundits continue to push the idea of trading Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid, and if it were not for the organization immediately speaking out in defense of coach Brett Brown, the narrative of his raging inferno-like hot seat would have swarmed news cycles for weeks.

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To hell with all that. The Sixers were just victims of a cold-blooded assassin with hands large enough to wrap around a car tire. Yes, Kawhi Leonard is a killer.

The story of this series was not a “failure” on the Philadelphia side of things. It was that the 2014 Finals MVP played at an all-time level. It happens. No matter what defensive schemes a team presents to a player like Leonard, he will find ways to counter it. He will probably do the same exact thing to the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals.

So let’s not overreact, please.

This is what the all-time great players do. Since the beginning of the league, the NBA playoffs have been about superstars taking over. And instead of realizing that an other-worldly player laid daggers upon daggers, the blame gets tossed around like a wonder ball.

Philadelphia, relax. Mr. Colin Cowherd who has steered the “Trade Joel Embiid” ship, chill out.

The Sixers did not lose this series as much as Kawhi Leonard won it. The Klaw averaged 34.7 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 4.0 assists on 53 percent shooting.

Despite this Herculean effort, it took a ridiculously lucky and iconic shot to keep the Sixers out from overtime of a road Game 7.

Read his stats again.

Those are averages we have seen from Michael Jordan and LeBron James. His performance was much more rare and special than we are giving him credit for.

Had Leonard simply maintained his regular season averages of 26.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 3.3 assists on 49.6 percent shooting, you know what happens?

The Philadelphia 76ers begin game-planning to stop Giannis Antetokounmpo because they are the ones traveling to Milwaukee to compete for a trip to the Finals.

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And looking back on Leonard’s game winning shot as time expired, that is not a situation where blame needs to find a suitor. He was forced into the corner with momentum taking him out of bounds as he had to chuck a rainbow jumper over the 7 foot 2 inch Joel Embiid. That was not a defensive lapse from the Sixers.

It was great execution on Leonard to get the shot off with great fortune on the bounce.

It becomes exhausting when the media is always looking for the next scapegoat. It becomes infuriating when it always has to be the fault of someone on the unfortunate side of the event.

Kawhi Leonard was the best player on the court in all seven contests. He has been the best player in the entire playoffs as we are about halfway through. Masai Ujiri gambled on the whole future of the Toronto Raptors for what just happened.

It was felt whether you were in the arena or watching from a television screen. Whenever he had the ball, you worried about what he was going to do. Whenever the ball left his hands, you felt deflated because deep down you knew it was likely to fall through the hoop.

Add his tenacious defense to the equation and the result is what it is.

There are killers on every team that has made it this far. As long as Joel Embiid can stay healthy, that is what he can be for the Sixers moving forward.

Next. Embrace the pain. dark

This year’s Sixers just ran into the most cold-blooded of them all. Hats off the Kawhi Leonard for his historical performance.