Sixers center Joel Embiid watches from the bench as his team falls behind the Boston Celtics during the second half of Game 7 in the NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series, Sunday, May 14, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

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Nothing hurts more than getting blown out by longtime rivals in the playoffs. Except maybe being forced into a Game 7 when the series could and should have ended with a Game 6 win at home in Philly. 

That’s what Sixers fans were treated to on Sunday with the blowout loss to Boston.

Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla had framed the end of the Eastern Conference semifinals as a “war.” It was worse than the 112-88 bloodbath score looked, though. It was embarrassing.

Who’s to blame? Fans are split.

There was a LOT of piling on James Harden. 

Once hailed as a potential savior for Sixers — and after proving he still has what it takes by turning in stellar performances in some of this year’s playoff games — the Beard just didn’t show up for Game 7. He scored just 6 in the first half, and concluded with a whopping 9 points. 

A whole cohort of fans laid the loss at the feet of head coach Doc Rivers. 

Hall of Fame-caliber coach or not, he has a poor track record in the NBA Playoffs. Unfortunately Doc is known for blowing playoff series. His teams have lost seven times after starting with 3-1 or 3-2 leads. The Sixers are now part of that sad trend.

Faulting Rivers is not a new sentiment. A diss track by Prezz Carter from October 2022 was making the rounds. “A real coach wouldn’t have Harden baiting for calls,” he raps.

Others gave Rivers more grace, calling out the players.

So what about Joel Embiid?

Fresh off finally winning league MVP, Embiid took hits from massively disappointed fans, who’ve watched him mature since the Process era started — only to miss the mark once more.

He only scored 13 points in the first half of this pivotal Game 7, followed by just 2 more later.

It’s uncharacteristic. During the regular season, Embiid averaged 33.1 points a game; this series it was only 23.7 — a drop-off that’s the largest by that year’s MVP in NBA history. 

Not only were fans upset about Joel’s offensive performance, they were also enraged by his lack of defense. 

No one really had a good explanation, including Embiid himself. Some fans kept in mind that he was battling back from injury. 

Some demanded the MVPIID be traded. 

He still has defenders among the fan base, though — people who throw the fault back to Sixers management, saying they never built the right team to give Embiid a good shot.

Oh the sorrow of being a sixers fan.

Then there’s Tobais Harris. The not-so-frequent All-Star shot 14.4% from the 3 — something that was branded as his speciality. A “speciality” Philly pays him $180 million for. 

A paycheck we prioritized over keeping a healthy Jimmy Butler, after a similarly crushing playoff loss in 2019’s conference semifinals Game 7.

Second-year rising star Tyrese Maxey ended the night with 17 points, more than both Embiid or Harden. And he mostly got a reprieve for the loss. Fans want more from Maxey, but understand his youth and lack of experience.

Veteran mid-season addition PJ Tucker seemed to be the glue holding the fanbase together. Not only did Tucker outscore Harden overall in Game 7, he shot 50% from the 3-point line, better than Harris in this entire series.  

If fans can take anything away from this game, it’s that PJ Tucker got that dog in ‘em. 

Maybe he’s the key to Philly’s future after all.

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Abigail Chang (she/her) is a Southwest Philly freelance writer and reporter. She is currently enrolled at NYU studying Activism in Medicine, and hopes to minor in journalism. She often writes about Philly's...