Sixers 2021-22 postseason preview

James Harden, Sixers Raptors Mandatory Credit: Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports
James Harden, Sixers Raptors Mandatory Credit: Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports /

The Philadelphia 76ers will face Nick Nurse and his Toronto Raptors in round one of the 2022 NBA Playoffs. Not a matchup the Sixers were hoping for as their only defender Matisse Thybulle is ineligible to play in every road game in the series, per ESPN. The unvaccinated wing will be missed and makes the Sixers first two home games that much more important.

The Raptors have a great mix of length and defensive versatility with a couple of knock down 3-point shooters. Gary Trent Jr. and Fred VanVleet are never afraid to let it fly from beyond the arc. Pascal Siakam, Scottie Barnes, OG and others provide length and rebounding.

The Sixers and Raptors will wage battle in the first round. Who has to step up for Philadelphia?

Following the team’s victory in their final game over the Pistons, Paul Reed aka “Bball Paul” shined. Tallying 25 points is a career-high for the former G League MVP. Doc Rivers, rather than celebrating this achievement, not only downplayed it but talked down to the fans and media, per Austin Krell of The Painted Lines.

"”I have been here a long time, I think I know better.”"

Proving once again Ben Simmons may not have been the most arrogant guy we had in the locker room. Doc said the following:

"“When teams go small, we will go with Paul, when teams go big, we will go with DJ. Does everybody understand that? Is it a hard concept? We’re not going on a Paul Reed victory tour, we’re trying to win a world championship.”"

Well maybe Doc Rivers should take a tour to the Film Room because he will see that DJ provides little to nothing. It’s not to knock him as a person or locker room guy or to his career for that matter. But DJ’s career is ending as Paul Reed’s is just getting started. BBall Paul will be a huge factor in this Toronto series if he’s even given the opportunity. That is where the concern lies with the fans right now.

Listed at 6-foot-9, Paul Reed is only two inches shorter than “big” Deandre Jordan, listed at 6-foot-11. Paul is much more athletic, can do more things off the dribble, and you can’t teach his heart, hustle, and tenacity, which Deandre just doesn’t have anymore.

Just looking at the Raptors lineup and the way Reed has played, 90 percent of the fanbase is against DJ getting the backup minutes. If Doc stays arrogant and the three minutes Embiid sits and DJ subs come back to bite him, Rivers is fired, effective immediately. If you are going to say you know better so be it, but you better prove it Doc.

James Harden has not had one 40-point performance this season. Which for a regular player is no big deal, but for one of the best offensive players we’ve ever seen it is definitely concerning. In his last five games Harden has scored 12, 21, 11, 13, 22 versus the Hornets, Cavs, Pacers, Raptors, and Pacers.

The most concerning part is in a loss to Toronto, Harden only had one made field goal in the second half. Finishing the game with 13 points. No, not Ben Simmons, James Harden. You are reading that correctly.

Joel Embiid is having an MVP Season but even an MVP needs a second scorer. James is supposed to be that guy. While averaging 22 points per game on the season, he has been very inconsistent with hitting that number. Especially against good teams.

Whether he’s hiding an injury because he knows he’s due for a new contract, or dogging it so Joel can win MVP and waiting for the playoffs to turn it up is yet to be seen. But what I do know is if he scores 20 a night the Sixers are going to be the team to beat.

James gets knocked for his defense but his defense is his offense. What I mean by that is he can stop a run and stop the bleeding by taking over offensively and going and getting you a bucket when needed. It will be much needed without the team’s best defender Matisse Thybulle for at least games three and four.

Joel has been dominant all year but every other night scoring 40 is no walk in the park, especially against his Cameroon native Pascal Siakam. The two always go toe to toe. The question is who will be the guy that steps up?

We know Danny Green loves lighting up his old team. Will Harden go back to his old self, Will Tyrese Maxey be the man in the room even though he’s still a kid? Will Doc Rivers free BBall Paul? We shall see.

I have the Sixers in six, but let’s be honest, this is a series they can definitely drop, as I haven’t even mentioned Tobias Harris’ name because that’s how quiet he gets in the playoffs. He will be undersized against this team as well — not a good matchup for the Sixers power forward.

Let’s see if Joel can continue this historic season. I have no doubt he can, it’s just going to come down to the others. Sixers in six.

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