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For all the trust fans put into it, the process might be over.
The Philadelphia 76ers exited the playoffs in the second round, dropping Game 7 to the Atlanta Hawks. The loss was all the more hurtful because it wasn’t supposed to happen like this.
After a decade of rebuilding, 2021 was shaping up to be the year of vindication for the 76ers. They had a coach with experience, a set of shooters on the outside, and superstar center Joel Embiid in the best shape of his life.
Beyond that, they had a cohesive team spirit, something that’s been missing in years past. The camaraderie was obvious in dance routines during pregame shootarounds, and it was evident in the regular season record: 49-23 — best in the Eastern Conference.
It all fell apart in the playoffs, where the Sixers haven’t made the conference finals since Allen Iverson took them to the brink of a championship in 2001.
Instead of a run to the finals this year, Philly disintegrated versus Trae Young and the upstart Hawks.
The Sixers blew two double-digit leads to let Atlanta take the lead in the best of seven series, before coming back to even it up at 3-3 and force one last try at home. The team is notoriously good at the Wells Fargo Center, where the raucous fans boost confidence and tease opponents on the floor.
No amount of cheering or jeering helped Sunday night.
Was it Ben Simmons’ fault for his invisible offense, the most popular scapegoat? Did coach Doc Rivers lean too heavily on his bench? There are plenty of professional sports takes on what went wrong, and more will follow for the next year and beyond. But in the heat of the moment, fans also had plenty to say.
Here’s a roundup of some what Philadelphia is saying about a series that’ll go down as one of the worst in the city’s history. Maybe, just maybe, we should have known better than to expect otherwise.