Rudy Gobert

Winner Thursday at the Raptors (132-97), the Sixers made an appointment with Miami in the semifinals of the Eastern Conference, Phoenix, and Dallas, also reaching the last square in the West.

The fear in the stomach of finding themselves with their backs to the wall, the Sixers? 

On the contrary, it was with a bit of a bitter taste in their mouths that Nenni finished the first round (4-2) in Canada, chasing the shadow of a doubt that hovered over their ability to finish after leading 3-0 and then allowing Toronto to come back to tie the game. 

But to date, in the NBA, never has a team that won the first three games lost the next four.

By not letting Toronto tie at 3-3, Philly avoided a cup game and this potential pitfall. Enough to reassure Doc Rivers, who appeared annoyed in recent hours when he was reminded of his record in this area. 

He is the only coach to have experienced three eliminations after leading 3-1 in oppositions in the playoffs. The mobilization was collective, and basketball was of good quality in Joel Embiid. 

The Sixers strongman, who has suffered a torn ligament since Game 3 and appeared diminished in the next two, was again dominant inside (33 pts, 10 rbds, 3 blocks). 

The Cameroonian pivot added a bobo to his list. He took an involuntary elbow above the right eye by his compatriot Pascal Siakam (24 pts, 7 rbds, 7 passes, 3 interceptions), the most aggressive Raptor on the floor. 

A slight cut without much apparent damage, however.

Another reason for satisfaction for the 76ers was the very solid performance of James Harden (22 pts, 15 assists), who heard Embiid’s call, urging him to play more aggressively after the previous game. 

Full-back Tyrese Maxey also made his significant contribution with 25 points in the musette (8 assists), the overall skill proving remarkable (57.5%). 

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All these ingredients will be needed in Philadelphia to meet Miami’s challenge, a finalist in 2020, guided by Jimmy Butler.

Chris Paul is 100%

Mission also accomplished for Phoenix in Louisiana. The best team of the regular season had the last word in six games (4-2) against the Pelicans, and it was the inevitable Chris Paul who pronounced it.

CP3 often tipped games in favor of the Suns during tight games this season, and he showed that expertise again by scoring 10 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter to finish with 100% shooting (14/14) and 8 assists.

Before him, no player had ever scored so many shots without missing them in the playoffs. And it was his shot in the middle of traffic gave the Suns some oxygen in the final minute after Larry Nance Jr had just brought “NOLA” closer to three units.

Devin Booker, back, after three games of absence due to contracture in the right hamstring, struggled to find the right rhythm (13 pts, at 5/12). But his teammates were up to the task, with the overall address reaching 60%.

The Pelicans did not deserve, like Brandon Ingram (21 pts, 11 rbds), without being able to build on their ten-length lead at the break.

Enough to shed a tear of emotion to their coach Willie Green, consoled after the fact by his counterpart Monty Williams, of which he was the assistant last year.

Rudy Gobert, frustrating elimination

For the first time since 2011, the Suns will face the Mavs, who won the Jazz (98-96) and finally passed the 1st round.

And it didn’t play out much, in this case, a walk by Mike Conley, whose shoe moved too much on a brake, to spoil a crucial possession, followed by a failed attempt behind the arc of Bojan Bogdanovic.

One too many, since Utah, abusing the exercise, shot 25.7% from long range.

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Enough to frustrate Rudy Gobert again. The Frenchman, who could play despite having been stung in the nose by a bee from his hive, was still underused (10 pt, at 3/6, 12 rbds).

Dallas was more skillful, as it led by 12 units at the break (53-41); it rained down the award-winning banners (8/12) in the 3rd quarter alone to turn things around (77-72).

And to hold the score until the end, in the wake of Luka Doncic (24 pts, 9 assists, 8 rbds) passing the 500-point mark in the playoffs in 16 games. Only Michael Jordan has done better in 14 games.

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