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The city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has adopted a mantra that has kept the appetites of victory-hungry fans satisfied during seasons of transition. "Trust the process," has been the slogan of the revamping era of one of the cities most beloved teams. The Philadelphia 76ers have made moves within the last five seasons that have prepared them for playoff contention. After a couple of years of waiting, and persistence, Philadelphia has a chance to play in the Eastern Conference finals. Their only obstacle has been Kawhi Leonard, and the Toronto Raptors.
After eliminating DeAngelo Russel, and the Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia has experienced turbulence. Following their four-game winning streak to close the series, the 76ers lost their semifinals opener by thirteen points on the road against Kawhhi Leonard, and the number one seeded Toronto Raptors. When faced with adversity, the 76ers responded back, stealing a victory in Toronto in game two. As they defended their home court in game three, the Sixers were placed in an advantageous situation. Holding a 2-1 hold on the series, Philadelphia was in a position to put the series in dangerous waters. A win on their home floor in game four would give them a 3-1 lead over the best team in the eastern conference. With the series' future on the line, it was time for the stars of each team to step up to the plate. For both ball clubs, it was not a matter of who, it was just a matter of when.
The 101-96 score of game four has told the story of the Raptors vs 76ers series. Kawhi Leonard has continued to contribute to the scoreboard when his team needs a star player performance. His 39 points in game four spoke volumes compared to Philadelphia's star center, Joel Embiid. Embiid finished the game with only eleven points, after making two of his seven shots from the floor. Despite the performance of Jimmy Butler, it was clear that in order to win this series, the Sixers will need a new Joel Embiid.
When you look at the statistics of the 76ers as a team, you can soon identify the role of Joel Embiid. Joel finished the 2018-2019 regular season averaging 27.5 points per game, placing him fourth on the league-leading scorer's list. His 20.4 points per game during the 2019 playoffs has him listed as the top scorer for the Philadelphia 76ers. His poor performances in this series have been tied to an illness the star center has been dealing with recently. With the number one seeded Raptors looking to finish their prey, many are wondering if Embiid can shake the bug that has had him in a three-game playoff slump.
Game five of the Eastern Conference Semifinals was a disappointment to all Sixers supporters. The team fell short again to a scorching hot Pascal Siakam. His twenty- five points out-shined Kawhi's and Embiid's performance, and the Raptors were able to reap the benefits. Embiid finished the night with 13 points, which were not enough for the Sixers to end the night victorious. The 125-89 victory gave Toronto a 3-2 hold on the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The absence of Joel Embiid has been one of the biggest problems for the Philadelphia 76ers, but it is not their only problem. In order to advance, the Raptors, the Sixers must find a way to get Tobias Harris involved. During the previous against the Brooklyn Nets, Harris was able to have two twenty point performances, which enabled other players on offense to work more freely on the floor. Currently, Tobias Harris has yet to have a twenty point night, which in turn takes away scoring options for Philadelphia.
The Sixers will be put to the test when they have to play for their post-season lives in game six. Players such as Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris will have to prove why they have been important to this roster. It is apparent that when Simmons, Embiid, Reddick, Harris, and Butler are all playing on one accord that the team experiences tremendous success. With their backs against the wall, Philadelphia must rely on their stars to lead them home.