The 76ers are looking to take that next step in this, their fourth consecutive year in the playoffs. They haven’t gotten beyond the second round in any of the previous three seasons while under former coach Brett Brown.
They begin their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series on Sunday against the Atlanta Hawks after eliminating the Washington Wizards in five games in the first round.
Here is a look back at the previous three years’ series losses.
2017-18 Eastern Conference semifinals, lost, 4-1, to the Boston Celtics
After beating the Miami Heat in five games, the Sixers were outclassed by the Celtics in Round 2.
The series was closer than the outcome indicated. The Sixers lost the first three games, but in Games 2 and 3, they were beaten by a combined eight points.
After winning Game 4, 103-92, the Sixers lost another nail-biter, 114-112, in Game 5.
This was the first playoff experience for both Ben Simmons, a rookie, and Joel Embiid, in his second year on the court. The series was a forgettable one for Simmons. In the five games, he had a minus-63 rating. When Simmons was off the court, the Sixers were a plus-48.
He averaged 6.4 assists to 4.8 turnovers.
Robert Covington struggled, shooting 6-for-24 from three-point range. He was dealt early in the next season as part of the Jimmy Butler trade.
Embiid had a strong postseason, averaging 23 points and 14 rebounds.
The Sixers got a glimpse of how good Jayson Tatum would be. As a 20-year-old rookie, he led the Celtics with a 23.6 scoring average in the series.
2018-2019 Eastern Conference semifinals, lost, 4-3, to the Toronto Raptors.
This series will always be remembered for the four-bouncer on the rim at the buzzer by Kawhi Leonard that gave the Raptors a 92-90 home win in the decisive Game 7.
The Raptors would go on to win the NBA title but nobody tested them like the Sixers did. Toronto beat Milwaukee in six games in the Eastern Conference finals and Golden State in six games in the NBA Finals.
Leonard was the biggest reason the Sixers didn’t advance. He averaged 34.7 points and 9.9 rebounds in 39.7 minutes in the seven games.
The series turned in Game 4. The Sixers, who beat Brooklyn in five games in the first round, held a 2-1 lead and were at home for Game 4, but the Raptors earned a 101-96 victory, behind 39 points and 14 rebounds from Leonard.
Embiid, playing with a cold, contributed just 11 points (2-for-7 shooting). The Sixers weren’t helped by a suspect bench. Their four reserves were Mike Scott, James Ennis, Greg Monroe, and Boban Marjanovic, who were a combined minus-26.
For the series, Butler averaged a team-high 22 points. Embiid, taking a backseat, averaged 17.6 points and 8.7 rebounds. Tobias Harris struggled, shooting 27.9% from three-point range.
Simmons wasn’t much of a factor, averaging 11.6 points and 4.9 assists. It was apparent that he wasn’t jelling with Butler, who departed for Miami in the offseason.
2019-2020 Eastern Conference first round, swept, 4-0, by the Boston Celtics
This elimination was easy to explain. During a game in the bubble in Kissimmee, Fla., Simmons suffered a season-ending partial dislocation of his left kneecap on Aug. 5.
Without Simmons against the Celtics, the Sixers didn’t have enough depth.
Embiid had his best playoff series by far, averaging 30.0 points and 12.3 rebounds. Harris struggled. In the first three games, he shot 16-for-48 (33.3%), which included missing all 10 of his threes. He was 7-for-12, 2-for-5 from three, in Game 4.
Al Horford, who all season had trouble jelling with Embiid, averaged 7.0 points and 7.3 rebounds.
For the second time in the previous three postseasons, the Sixers had no answer for Tatum, who averaged 27 points.
Two of the losses were by eight points each and another, the series-ending defeat, was by four, 110-106.
Brett Brown would be fired the next day, Aug. 24, eventually replaced by Doc Rivers, who was hired Oct. 3.