While the regular season started off slowly, Philadelphia made headlines multiple times with big moves, fun off-the-court antics and impressive victories on their way to another 50+ win season. In the playoffs, the Sixers also made some noise, advancing to the second round only to lose in heartbreaking fashion to the eventual NBA champion Toronto Raptors after a miraculous buzzer-beater from Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard.
The 2018-2019 season was far from conventional for the 76ers. Here are some of the most memorable moments from the regular season and playoffs:
In an October game against the Orlando Magic, JJ Redick shot a blistering 8/13 from downtown, including the one that sealed the game in a 116-115 victory over his former team. But perhaps most impressive of all, the veteran shooting guard apparently called his shot(s):
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It’s no secret that Joel Embiid loves to talk trash. When the All-Star big man feels like he has your number, he’s not afraid to let you know it.
Undoubtedly, Andre Drummond was Embiid’s favorite target this season and it was every bit as entertaining as you would expect.
From repeatedly informing the Pistons center he can’t guard him during games:
To this staredown after a powerful move, a game in which he finished with 39 points and 17 rebounds:
To this expert-level trolling on Twitter that delighted other NBA stars:
With both big men still in their primes at 25 years old, the odds are this will be an entertaining rivalry for years to come.
Sitting at 8-5 and off to a slower start than expected, GM Elton Brand made the first in a series of big moves that steered Philadelphia to a second 50+ win season in a row:
The move added a four-time All-Star and, perhaps more importantly, a lockdown defender in Jimmy Butler. To that point, the 76ers were struggling mightily against slashing guards, which was most evident in a November 4th loss at Barclays Center.
Since his arrival, Butler has added much needed perimeter defending while also becoming the go-to guy for big shots in crunch time.
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As just mentioned, Jimmy Buckets wasted no time letting Philadelphia fans know why he was sought after.
In only his third game with the Sixers, the veteran shooting guard hit a dagger stepback 3-pointer to defeat the Charlotte Hornets in overtime. Eight days later, Butler provided an encore in Brooklyn, hitting virtually the same shot to lift Philadelphia over the Nets:
Jimmy Butler ended up leading the team this season in fourth quarter points per game at 6.4, just ahead of Joel Embiid at 6.3.
In the midst of a brutal January stretch, two of the most impressive wins this season came within 10 days of each other against Houston and Golden State.
Philadelphia had their most complete performance of the season dominating the Houston Rockets 121-93 at Wells Fargo Center.
Regular season MVP James Harden continued his run of 30-point games but could not avoid his worst loss of the season, as the Sixers had eight players finish with nine or more points. Joel Embiid led the team with 32 points and 14 rebounds on the night.
On a Thursday night TNT showdown in Oracle Arena, the 76ers showed the two-time defending champions they could hang with the best of the best, using a 42-point third quarter to propel them to a 113-104 victory over the Warriors.
Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid each pitched in 26 points, with Joel Embiid also ending the night with a staggering 20 rebounds.
No GM worked harder this season than Elton Brand, who managed to pull off two blockbuster trades in four months:
The Sixers were widely considered to be the winners in the trade, as they acquired another All-Star caliber player in Harris, a serviceable backup center in Boban, and a surprising role player in Mike Scott.
Perhaps more importantly, Philadelphia also introduced the world to Bobi and Tobi:
The March 20th game versus the Boston Celtics had a little bit of everything: a double-digit comeback, flagrant fouls, dominant performances, and even an ejection.
Boston came out hot in the first quarter, silencing the Wells Fargo Center as they built a 15-point lead in the first half. In the second quarter, chippy play between Joel Embiid and Marcus Smart led to the ejection of Smart and seemed to light a fire under the Sixers big man. Embiid went on to score the next eight points for Philadelphia as they chipped away at the lead in the second half.
The Sixers went on to defeat Boston 118-115, highlighted by another monster night from Joel Embiid with 37 points and 22 rebounds.
Much like the regular season, Philadelphia got off to a slow start in the playoffs as well. Behind brilliant performances from D’Angelo Russell and Caris LeVert, the Brooklyn Nets stole homecourt advantage right away, defeating the Sixers 111-102 in Game 1. In addition to immediately casting doubt on whether or not Philadelphia was a true contender, Game 1 was also the setting for Amir Johnson’s ‘phonegate’ incident.
Game 2 at Wells Fargo Center put those doubts to rest however, as the 76ers bounced back in a big way to tie the series at 1-1, making history along the way.
With the Nets being down just one point at the half, it was beginning to look like the Sixers were in for another dogfight, until the third quarter happened. Behind a huge bounce-back game from Ben Simmons, Philadelphia opened the third quarter on a 14-0 run on their way to 51 points, tying an NBA playoff record for points in a quarter. The offensive explosion couldn’t have come at a better time, as it propelled the team to a 145-123 victory, and ultimately a 4-1 series win.
One thing Jimmy Butler has repeatedly shown in his debut season for Philadelphia: he shows up when it counts the most. The four-time NBA All-Star proved himself to be clutch once again in the second round against the Raptors, pouring in 25 points, eight rebounds, and six assists in a 112-101 win over the Toronto Raptors to force Game 7.
Any fan of the Sixers, or of the NBA for that matter, knows exactly how the series ended between Toronto and Philadelphia.
With 1:14 remaining at Scotiabank Arena, the 76ers found themselves down four after a turnover that ended in a Siakam layup. The ensuing possessions led to Butler and Embiid going 3/4 from the free-throw line, resulting in Toronto leading 89-88 with 12 seconds left.
After Kawhi Leonard split a pair of free throws with 10.8 seconds remaining, Jimmy Butler streaked down the court and laid it in, tying the game at 90. What happened next will likely be burned in Philadelphia’s collective memory for years to come.
Toronto would go on to win its first NBA Championship in franchise history, defeating the Golden State Warriors in six games.
While the season ended in a brutal way, the Toronto series showed the world that the Philadelphia 76ers are right up there with the league’s best. Being one bounce from potentially advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals, the team as constructed can definitely make another playoff run next season.
If there’s anything Toronto proved this season, it’s that a team with a newly revamped roster can go all the way. With some offseason improvements, a serious case can be made that Philadelphia may just further prove this next season.