PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — No one is complaining now. Winning can do that. It always has and always will have a way of quieting dissenters.
A few weeks ago, Brett Brown’s title had the added qualifier of “dubious head coach” of the Philadelphia 76ers moving forward. When the Sixers lost, it was mostly his fault, if you listen to Philadelphia fans.
Now with the Sixers up 2-1 against the No. 2-seed Toronto Raptors in the NBA Eastern Conference semifinals, those tremors of Brown being gone after this season (something never uttered under this byline) appear to be dissipating as the thought of something else replaces it: The Sixers advancing to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since the 2000-01 season.
The version of the Sixers that has shown up in Games 2 and 3 of the semifinal series looks like a team heading further than just the Eastern Conference finals, too.
Joel Embiid is simply unstoppable when he’s nailing threes. His 33 points on 9 of 18 shooting against the Raptors in the Sixers’ Game 3 116-95 blowout win Thursday at the Wells Fargo Center is indicative of just how dominant he can be. Add in inspired Jimmy Butler, who dropped 22 on the Raptors and the exhaustive defense Ben Simmons is applying to arguably the NBA’s best player, Kawhi Leonard, and this looks like a cohesive bunch that can pull off this upset series win.
A few things helped—and they were Brown’s doing. His move to have Simmons guard Leonard after Game 1 was pivotal. Leonard is still scoring. Simmons is making him work harder to get to his spots on the floor where he likes to shoot. Brown’s move to have Embiid on Pascal Siakam in Game 2, then back to Embiid on Marc Gasol in Game 3 baffled Raptors head coach Nick Nurse.
Moreover, the Sixers are listening to Brown.
They’ve failed to shut down Leonard and Siakam, who combined are averaging 30.5 points a game on 55.5 percent shooting. The rest of the Raptors are shooting 30.5 percent, including the guard tandem of Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet, who were a combined 2-of-17 (11.7 percent) in Game 3.
Maybe, finally, Brown gets some credit.