Pros and Cons: Sixers vs. Raptors Game 4
Instant takeaways after Game 4.
Adam Aaronson, whose legal name is Sixers Adam (@SixersAdam on Twitter), covers the Sixers for The Rights To Ricky Sanchez. He believes cantaloupe is the best food in existence, and is brought to you by the Official Realtor of The Process, Adam Ksebe.
Two days after Joel Embiid’s iconic game-winner in Toronto, the Sixers faced the Raptors in hopes of completing a first-round sweep. Here’s what’s on my mind today:
Con: Sixers fear ligament damage in Embiid’s right thumb
Embiid has been dealing with a hand injury for the last few months, though he never missed time because of it, likely because it was not particularly serious.
In the third game of this series, however, Embiid seemed to aggravate the injury. And now, the Sixers reportedly fear he has ligament damage in that thumb.
According to the same reports, it is mostly a matter of Embiid’s pain tolerance at this juncture. And in his pregame media availability, Doc Rivers expressed concern with the injury, but said that even as Embiid plays through it, it can’t get worse than it is right now.
It was abundantly clear early on in the game that Embiid’s shooting touch is compromised. He struggled mightily early on to score the ball, and was visibly in pain the entire time. In the second half, though, he was able to connect on some jumpers and found himself a few easy baskets that helped him stay afloat.
As the Sixers continue their postseason run, it will be fascinating to watch how Embiid’s shooting numbers will be impacted by this injury. But it’s become clear that this is going to be a significant issue for the Sixers moving forward.
Con: James Harden needs to find a happy medium
While Harden has always been known for his historically-great scoring ability, he is perhaps an equally-adept passer. He’s been among the league’s best facilitators for as long as I can remember, and it’s part of what has made his offensive game so hard to contain over the last many years.
We’ve seen Harden have excellent scoring nights since he was traded to the Sixers, and we’ve seen him have nights when he dishes out a bunch of assists.
What we have yet to see on a consistent basis, though, is him striking the right balance between creating for others and being aggressive himself. Tonight, he once again looked far too passive on the offensive end, consistently declining good looks in favor of lower-quality shots for his teammates.
Make no mistake, Harden is still an excellent player. But if the Sixers want to unlock the best version of this team, they need him to assert himself as a scorer more than he has for most of his Sixers tenure.
Con: Embiid uncharacteristically sloppy as a passer
As Embiid has transformed from a superstar to a full-blown MVP candidate over the last two seasons, perhaps his biggest area of improvement has been passing.
Despite seeing double- and triple-teams much more frequently, Embiid’s turnovers in recent years have gone down while his assists increase. In the past, he was often flummoxed by more complex defensive strategies. But over the last two years, he has become methodical and cerebral when it comes to manipulating defenses.
Unfortunately for the Sixers, tonight we saw the old version of Embiid, who constantly was rushing things and simply looked out of sorts. It’s impossible to tell how much of that stems from his aforementioned injury. But regardless, the Sixers need a better version of Embiid than the one they had today.