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Game 1 Analysis: The Raptors controlled the key match-ups against the Sixers

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A dominating win to start the Raptors’ second round series had a lot of familiar and predictable storylines — most of them good for Toronto.

Philadelphia 76ers v Toronto Raptors - Game One Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Entering the second round on the 2019 NBA Playoffs with the Raptors, we had some expectations as to the key match-ups against the Philadelphia 76ers. We also knew of some patterns from the first round to keep an eye on, particularly with Toronto. So, how did that play out?

Let’s check in with some analysis on the Raptors’ performance after a dominant Game 1 win.

Whose Turn Is It Anyway?

In each of the first round games, the Raptors had one of their stars have a tremendous impact on the game, handily winning their minutes while the team struggled without them. Let’s see if that pattern continued.

Player | On-Court RTG | Off-Court RTG
Kawhi Leonard: +34; -57
Marc Gasol: +54; -35
Kyle Lowry: +32; -53

RTG: Net rating, team point differential per 100 possessions

Each of those three had an on-vs-off-court swing of 85 to 90 points per 100 possessions, all monstrous numbers. It was a real team effort for the Raptors this time, with no single leader in this metric.

Obviously there were a couple of key producers in this game, with Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam scoring at a simply incredible rate — the two combined for 74 points on 50 used possessions, meaning on plays they finished the team had a 148 ORTG. That’s... good.

ORTG: Offensive rating, team points scored per 100 possessions.
DRTG: Defensive rating, team points allowed per 100 possessions.

Those Big Time Match-Ups

We identified two key match-ups to keep an eye on in this series. The 76ers’ starters were dominant in the first round against the Nets, as were the Raptors’ starters against the Magic. Two key individual match-ups seemed likely to swing the balance the Raptors’ way.

First, Kawhi Leonard guarding Ben Simmons. During the season, Kawhi wreaked havoc with Simmons, causing him to put up lower point production and higher turnover rates when matched up.

In this one? In 27 minutes with both players on the floor, Simmons only managed 10 points (on good efficiency) and three assists, while also committing two turnovers. He was a -14 in those minutes. His impact on the game was pretty minimal overall, and credit to the entire team — not just Kawhi — as Simmons wasn’t exactly stellar in the seven minutes he played away from Kawhi (four points, 0 assists or turnovers). The 76ers did win those minutes by 7, though.

The other matchup was the bigger one in this game. Marc Gasol once again put on a master class defending against a star opposing centre. After shutting down Nikola Vucevic in the first round, Gasol got to test his chops against Embiid — and it went quite well for Toronto.

Still, Nick Nurse oddly decided to allow the 76ers determine the match-ups in the middle. The Raptors’ coach sticking to his nominal rotation while the 76ers tried a more staggered rotation with Embiid resting in the middle of quarters and other starters taking similar rest stints. With this rotation for the Sixers, all five of their starters played to start each quarter.

This put a lot of Embiid’s minutes up against Serge Ibaka — who was decent against Embiid in the regular season but is obviously a less desired defensive matchup than Gasol. Embiid played 17 minutes against Gasol and 13 matched up to Ibaka. How did each subset of minutes go?

In the 13 minutes against Ibaka, Embiid was unstoppable. Before Ibaka had a decent stretch against him in the second half — possibly because defeat and fatigue were settling on for the Sixers’ big man — the 76ers got desperate to close the game and those minutes overall were great for Embiid. He put up 13 points on 10 used possessions and grabbed two offensive boards in those 13 minutes. Overall his line in those minutes pro-rated out to 35 points and 11 rebounds per 36 minutes. And most importantly, Embiid and the 76ers were +14 in those minutes when they got the Ibaka matchup.

In the 17 minutes against Gasol, meanwhile, Embiid was useless. He put up three points on nine used possessions, going 1-for-8 from the field and getting zero offensive rebounds. None of that is a typo, that’s what happened. Pro-rating that line to 36 minutes like Serge’s line above, and it looks even uglier — seven points and nine rebounds on 17 field goal attempts. The Raptors won those 17 minutes by 10 points.

But Why?

You might wonder why Ibaka ended up matched up with Embiid so much. It’s a good question. The Raptors coaching staff was betting they could win the minutes where the Raptors’ starters were playing away from Embiid by enough that losses when Ibaka was covering Embiid would not matter. In this one, they were right. I have misgivings about how sustainable punting minutes like that will be going forward, but it sure paid off in Game 1.

Gasol played his remaining nine minutes away from Embiid mostly beside the rest of the starting lineup, or at least most of it. In those nine minutes, the Raptors were +19. Nine minutes. Plus nineteen.

In case you wanted to pro-rate that out to 100 possessions, that ends up a 180 ORTG, 85 DRTG and +95 RTG.

Meanwhile, Serge Ibaka played only six minutes away from Embiid, and was a +5 in those six minutes. So expect the Raptors to win the minutes Embiid sits by a wide margin regardless of who is on the floor, but the Embiid minutes’ success are heavily tied into who on the Raptors is checking him. It’s something to keep an eye on as the series moves along.

All stats per NBA.com