After winning the first three games of their series vs. the Raptors, the Sixers have now dropped two consecutive close-out opportunities and will head back to Toronto clinging to a 3-2 lead. Star center Joel Embiid, who tore a ligament in his right thumb in Game 3, said after Monday’s loss that he wants to make an effort going forward not to favor that injury quite so much.
“I’m in a situation where I try to protect it,” Embiid said (Twitter link via Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer). “Before I even attack or if I get the ball, it’s almost like I’m not playing freely where I’m like, ‘Well, if I do this, I might get hit or I might get hurt.’”
Embiid also told reporters on Monday night that his All-Star teammate James Harden, who attempted just 11 shots from the field and had 15 points in Game 5, needs to be more aggressive on the offensive end, as Tim Bontemps of ESPN relays.
“I’ve been saying all season since he got here, he needs to be aggressive and he needs to be himself,” Embiid said. “That’s not really my job. That’s probably on Coach (Doc Rivers) to talk to him and tell him to take more shots, especially if they’re going to guard me the way they’ve been guarding. But that’s really not my job.”
No team in NBA history has blown a 3-0 series lead. If they can get a home victory on Thursday, the Raptors would be just the fourth team (of 145) to force a Game 7 after falling behind 3-0, which would put a ton of pressure on the 76ers to close out the series on Saturday at home.
Here’s more from around the Atlantic:
- Celtics wing Jaylen Brown earned another one of his contract bonuses on Monday due to the team’s first-round series victory. According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (via Twitter), advancing to the second round assured Brown of an extra $482,143 this season.
- The Raptors‘ decision to give up a first-round pick for Thaddeus Young at February’s trade deadline may look short-sighted if he leaves in free agency this summer, but he has provided intangible value to the team through his veteran leadership and understanding of the game, says Eric Koreen of The Athletic. Additionally, since the Raptors acquired a second-rounder from San Antonio in the Young deal, they only ended up moving down 13 spots in the draft, from No. 20 to No. 33.
- In his latest mailbag, Fred Katz of The Athletic addresses a series of offseason questions facing the Knicks, weighing in on Mitchell Robinson‘s upcoming free agency, whether Tyus Jones or Malcolm Brogdon make sense as offseason targets, and more.