The prevailing thought is the lessons learned by losing a Game 7 can also help a young team to grow.

“If you go back and look at some of the possession [in the fourth quarter] that really hurt us – offensive rebounds, shot-clock violations,” said Sixers veteran Amir Johnson, who did not play Sunday, but has appeared in two Game 7s in his career. “I re-watched the game when I got back to Philly and there were so many possessions we could have been better at.”

Learning by losing is necessary. In the last six years, the NBA title was won by a team that had lost Game 7 the prior season (Spurs 2014; Warriors 2015, 2017).

But dig a little deeper and history paints a more concerning picture for Sixers fans because of the way they lost.

Before the Sixers’ hearts were broken by Kawhi Leonard, there were seven Game 7s that were one possession final scores in the last 24 years. Nobody lost on a buzzer-beater like the other night, but the 2015 Spurs were beaten by the Clippers with one second left on a Chris Paul bank-shot.

The Raptors in 2014 and again in 2001, the Kings in 2004, Miami in 2000, and the Knicks and Suns in 1995 all lost their Game 7 by three points or less. The only team of the seven to win the NBA title was Miami six years later with an entirely different nucleus.

You have to go back to the 1993 Rockets, who lost by three in overtime at Seattle, to find the last team that bounced back from a crushing Game 7 loss to win an NBA title within five years. Houston had a chance to win that 1993 conference semifinal, but Vernon Maxwell missed an 18-footer and Seattle made two free throws with 0.8 seconds left to win 103-100.

Houston beat the Knicks the following year to win their first NBA title as Michael Jordan scuffled with Double-A baseball. They won the series in seven. Repeated as champs in 1995.

Misery to ecstasy happened a few times in the 1980s, once when Julius Erving lost a Game 7 to the Celtics (while blowing a 3-1 series lead) and won his title two years later. And again when the Pistons dusted themselves off after getting beat by three in both the 1987 East Finals (by Boston) and the 1988 NBA Finals (by the Lakers). Detroit won the championship in 1988 and 1989.

The Bird and Magic era was winding down and the Bulls hadn’t yet figured out how to win.

Joel Embiid was specific in the lessons he learned from the Raptors, especially in Game 7. Double teams are coming and he better know how to handle them.

If priority No. 1 for the Sixers is bringing back Jimmy Butler. Priority No. 2 should be Ben Simmons ending his bizarre reluctance to shoot from the outside.

“Watching the whole series, I’m sure that’s the way [other teams] will start guarding me in the future,” Embiid said. “You kind of hafta get the ball out of my hands and that’s what Toronto did. There was always two guys on me. I’ve got to find better ways to create for myself and my teammates.”

Teams that lost by three points or less in a Game 7 since 1989-90:

  • 1990 Spurs, second round. They were 21-61 the year before, so getting to the playoffs was (ahem) Admirable. David Robinson and the Spurs led the Blazers by seven with 2 ½ minutes left before losing by three in overtime. They lost in the first round three of the next four years and didn’t win a title until 1999, the year after adding Tim Duncan.
  • 1993 Rockets, second round. Lost Had a chance to win but missed a mid-range jumper with less than a second. Won back-to-back NBA titles behind Hakeem Olajuwon the following two years.
  • 1995 Suns, second round. Were beaten by the Rockets when Mario Elie broke a tie with a three-pointer with 7.1 seconds left. Phoenix lost in the first round each of the next four years.
  • 1995 Knicks, second round. Patrick Ewing missed a layup at the buzzer that would have forced overtime. It was the first of four consecutive second-round losses for the Knicks, who did reach the finals again in 1999. But, by then, Ewing was past his prime and the Spurs won in five.
  • 2000 Heat, second round. Were eliminated by the Knicks in the deciding game for the third consecutive year. Remarkable. Offense was ugly in this era and New York won 83-82 as neither team scored in the final 1:20. Miami lost in the first round in 2001 and missed the playoffs in 2002 and 2003 before drafting Dwyane Wade in ’04.
  • 2001 Raptors, second round. Vince Carter missed a 22-footer that would have won it in Philadelphia. Toronto would go 14 years without winning a playoff series.
  • 2004 Kings, second round. Chris Webber’s three-pointer at the buzzer, which would have force overtime, went in and out. Sacramento has been through nine coaches in the 15 years since and hasn’t won a won a playoff series.
  • 2014 Raptors, first round. Kyle Lowry’s short shot after a scramble was blocked by Paul Pierce and the Nets escaped with a one-point win. It was Toronto’s first playoff appearance in five years. Lowry is the only player still with the Raptors.
  • 2015 Spurs, first round. The Clippers’ Chris Paul came with 1.0 seconds of hitting the first buzzer-beater in Game 7 history. This was a veteran San Antonio team. Though they haven’t won an NBA title since this game, they did win 67 games the following season and went to the conference finals the year after that.