76ers vs. Raptors score, takeaways: Philadelphia routs Toronto in Game 6, to face Heat in East semifinals

There will be no history this year. The Philadelphia 76ers went on the road for Game 6 and crushed the Toronto Raptors, 132-97, to take their first-round series, 4-2, and avoid another playoff collapse. They will now advance to face the No. 1 seed Miami Heat in the second round.

After an even and highly competitive first half, the Sixers broke things open in the middle of the third quarter with a 22-3 run that included a four-minute scoreless stretch for the Raptors. The game was not competitive the rest of the way, as the Sixers cruised to a 35-point win. Joel Embiid led the way with 33 points and 10 rebounds, while James Harden registered 22 points and 15 assists in the type of performance they were hoping for from him all along. The Sixers shot 58 percent from the field, and all five starters scored in double figures.

The Raptors put up a valiant fight in this series, but they ultimately ran out of gas against a more talented Sixers team. Fred VanVleet’s absence was noticeable, especially in the second half when the Raptors struggled to score the ball. Chris Boucher was one of the few bright spots, scoring a playoff career-high 25 points.

Here are some key takeaways from the game:

1. Sixers’ dominating third-quarter run

The back-and-forth first half was super competitive and within seven points the entire time. The second half, not so much. In fact, it was a rather dull 24 minutes of basketball as the Sixers quickly built a double-digit lead that they continued to grow the rest of the way.

Everything changed for good during the middle of the third quarter when the Sixers went on a 22-3 run. With 9:42 remaining, Pascal Siakam scored to make it 70-67 Sixers. The Raptors would not score again for over four minutes, and had just one basket over the next seven. They couldn’t buy a bucket, and also couldn’t stop the Sixers on the other end.

In particular, Tyrese Maxey caught fire from long range, hitting three 3-pointers during the run. One of them was from well behind the line in transition — a shot that exemplified his supreme confidence. Maxey’s ability to give the Sixers another scoring punch has been crucial all season, and he showed up again at the perfect time.

2. Harden shows why the Sixers traded for him

James Harden’s Sixers tenure got off to a tremendous start, but has overall been a bit disappointing. He’s seemed a step slow and strangely unaggressive at times on the offensive end. In the Game 5 loss, for example, he went 3 of 11 from the field and turned the ball over five times.

Even Joel Embiid was starting to get fed up with his co-star’s lack of production, and called him out in the postgame press conference.

“I’ve been saying all season since he got here, he needs to be aggressive and he needs to be himself,” Embiid said. “That’s not really my job. That’s probably on Coach [Doc Rivers] to talk to him and tell him to take more shots, especially if they’re going to guard me the way they’ve been guarding. But that’s really not my job.”

Harden, to his credit, responded in Game 6. He actually ended up taking just one more field goal, but he attacked right from the opening tip and showed exactly why the Sixers were so eager to acquire him at the trade deadline. He finished with 22 points, six rebounds and 15 assists on 7 of 12 from the field, and the Sixers were plus-38 when he was on the floor.

Perhaps the most encouraging aspect was that he got into the paint over and over again to create for himself and others. He was zipping the ball around the floor and even had his patented step-back 3-pointer working. All in all a tremendous game from Harden, and the type of performance they’re going to need more of against the Heat.

3. Doc avoids another collapse

The Sixers losing Game 4 on the road to a Raptors team desperate to not get swept was understandable. But when they got embarrassed at home in Game 5 as well, the vibes surrounding the series flipped. All of a sudden they had to go back to Toronto for Game 6 and all anyone wanted to talk about was their collapse last season and Doc Rivers’ history of blown playoff leads.

Rivers, who is the only coach in NBA history to blow multiple 3-1 leads, was visibly frustrated earlier in the week and tried to defend himself with a lengthy monologue. While the Sixers still had the upper hand in the series, it was clear that they were dealing with some serious pressure.

But in the end, they took care of business in convincing fashion. They went into a raucous environment in Toronto without one of their best defenders, Matisse Thybulle, and put together one of their best performances of the series. There are still going to be a lot of questions about the Sixers’ potential ceiling this season, but this was a very impressive showing.

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