The Philadelphia 76ers closed out their first round series with the Toronto Raptors in an emphatic fashion, beating Toronto 132-97 on their home court in Game 6 on Thursday night.
The Sixers received major efforts from their star duo, and it could not have come at a better time. Joel Embiid finished with 33 points on 12-of-18 shooting to go with 10 rebounds. James Harden finished with 22 points, six rebounds and 15 assists while being a team-high plus-38.
The team also received strong performances from throughout the roster. Tyrese Maxey added in 25 points and eight assists while leading the decisive run of the game in the third quarter. Tobias Harris chipped in a quiet 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Toronto was led by 25 points and 10 rebounds off the bench from Chris Boucher. Pascal Siakam finished with 24 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and three steals.
The Sixers' second-round series with the Miami Heat begins on Monday night. Here are three observations from the Sixers' series-clinching win over the Raptors:
Harden's efficient night running the offense
The Raptors got off to a fast start offensively, connecting on 7 of their first 8 attempts of the game. However, unlike earlier in the series the Sixers offense mostly matched them score for score. Harden set the tone early with a powerful slam dunk on a drive down the lane.
JAMES. HARDEN. WITH. AUTHORITY. pic.twitter.com/63OxtJPCCU
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) April 28, 2022
After taking just 11 shots and having his worst game of the series in Game 5, he came out and played with much more aggression early on. He got into an early rhythm, finding the right balance of when to drive and finish versus when to kick it out to an open player on the wing. He finished the first quarter, one in which the Sixers scored 34 points and shot 12-of-19 from the field, with 10 points and five assists while effectively leading the Sixers in one of their best offensive quarters of the series.
The Sixers did a good job getting him the ball in situations where he had his momentum going downhill. He shot 5 of 6 on shots from around the rim. He dissected the Toronto defense with precision, resulting in both an efficient night as a scorer and an extremely effective night running the offense.
This was easily Harden's best game of the series. He found the right balance of attacking and dishing it out, and it could not have come at a better time for the Sixers. The one concern came on a three with 9:36 left in the fourth quarter where OG Anunoby got away with a clear foul by not giving Harden any space to land. He was down on the court for a minute or two before eventually walking under his own power and, after a timeout, he wound up not missing any time.
Embiid silences Toronto crowd with his best game of the series
The Sixers needed a big performance from Embiid, and he delivered in a big way. He made his presence inside felt early and often, scoring his first bucket of the game on a layup of a dish from Harden just over a minute into the game. He would go on to score eight of his points in the opening quarter.
Head coach Doc Rivers changed some things up, taking Embiid out of the game for a quick breather with 4:53 remaining in the first quarter. Paul Reed came in off the bench and immediately made a positive impact on the game by making a contested finish at the basket on his first possession on the court. The Sixers utilized a ton of pick-and-roll with Harden, whether it was Embiid or Reed, and had a ton of success out of that action. Reed would go on to finish with nine points and four rebounds while being a plus-5 in 12 minutes off the bench.
Embiid went into halftime with 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting. He had a quiet third quarter offensively before exploding for 12 points and four rebounds in the fourth quarter. He was clicking on all cylinders, knocking down shots from around the rim while also playing with his usual touch from the mid-range.
The thumb injury did not seem to bother him much in Game 6 as Embiid rolled over the Toronto defense. He also made a big impact defensively, finishing with two steals and three blocks.
There was a ton of banter between Embiid and the rowdy Toronto crowd, but Embiid would go on to get the last laugh. He was smiling on his way back down the court after knocking down a mid-range jumper early in the fourth quarter. Later on in the quarter, he dunked to give the Sixers a 26-point lead before breaking out his airplane celebration, prompting a ton of boos from the Toronto crowd.
it's a bird, it's a plane, it's JOEL EMBIID. ✈️😏 pic.twitter.com/QwnDLTtVAY
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) April 29, 2022
On the next possession after Embiid's dunk, he was elbowed to the face on a drive to the basket by Siakam. He would go on to not play the remainder of the game, but that was likely due to the team's 29-point lead with 3:58 left in the fourth quarter.
Embiid had his best game of the series, and it was much needed to help the Sixers close out Toronto in Game 6.
Maxey helps Sixers pull away with huge third quarter
The Sixers scored 62 points in the first half but managed to only take a one-point lead into halftime. It was a close game due in large part to huge first-half performances from Chris Boucher (19 points, nine rebounds) and Siakam (18 points, five rebounds and three assists) in addition to a 10-1 advantage on the offensive glass.
However, the Sixers came out of halftime and switched things up defensively. They utilized a ton of zone defense to slow down Toronto, and that combined with some hot shooting from throughout the roster would help propel the Sixers to a huge third quarter.
The Sixers pulled away from the Raptors by going on a 22-3 run in the middle of the third quarter. Danny Green was one of the team's only hot shooters from beyond the arc in the first half, scoring 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting from deep at halftime, but the rest of the team got it going in a big way.
The run began with a Harris three 9:18 remaining in the third quarter. Maxey then got it going with a magical stretch of hot shooting, pulling up from way downtown on multiple occasions throughout the 22-3 run.
TYRESE MAXEY IS IN THE ZONE pic.twitter.com/ehaICFOGyQ
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) April 29, 2022
After getting off to a hot start to the series, the 21-year old guard struggled over the past three games. He got back to playing with a swagger and energy that is just joyful to watch. He scored 15 of his points in the third quarter en route to helping the Sixers go on the decisive run of the game. When he gets into a rhythm, especially from three-point range, he is impossible to stop and the Raptors learned that first hand in Game 6.