The Raptors did the thing they were supposed to do. They got the series back to 2-2, and kept the hopes and dreams of their season alive. Should they have been blown out in Game 3? Should they have even lost Game 2? Should we be here right now in this situation heading into Game 5? Let’s take these answers one at a time — and in the process, assess our mood right now.
First, the Game 3 question. Yes, the Raptors were due for one big game in front of the home crowd from Joel Embiid. The Sixers centre has been that guy all year, and throughout his career. Embiid lives for those big moments in front of his adoring fans and knows just how to play up to them. Heading into the series, I figured Toronto would shrink in one of either Games 3 or 4, and it happened just that way.
But Game 2, well, Toronto should have won that one. How do I know this? Because Game 4 was instructive in how exactly the Raptors can keep the Sixers on their heels. They managed to contain Ben Simmons for the most part, they chased JJ Redick out of his spots (though continue not to do enough to attack him on offense), and they banked on the rest of Philly’s players not being able to hit open shots. Have the Raptors also benefited from a terrible run of health from Embiid? Sure, but thems the breaks.
So what can the Raptors do in Game 5? The “play big” mandate appears to have worked, with Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol out there together to control the paint. (And to minimize the need to play Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell, Patrick McCaw, or anyone else.) What’s more, the law of averages means there has been a slow uptick in shooting from Gasol, Kyle Lowry, and Danny Green. And finally, that Toronto could bounce back from their thorough dismantling in Game 3 suggests that they have the mental toughness to keep things going and bring this series back to Philly up 3-2.
Then, of course, there’s Kawhi Leonard. It feels like we don’t have to add anything new here except to say that this is, without a doubt, the greatest post-season run of any Raptor in franchise history. Yes, Vince Carter had the 50-point game, Lowry and DeMar DeRozan had their Eastern Conference Finals bid, but none of them have consistently and single-handedly devastated teams like Kawhi is right now.
Can Kawhi do it again in Toronto? Read up on our Game 5 preview here from Mitch Orsatti, check out the updated game details below, and then let’s watch.
Where to Watch:
Sportsnet at 8:00pm EST
Toronto - Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol
Philadelphia - Ben Simmons, JJ Redick, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris, Joel Embiid
Toronto - OG Anunoby (out — appendectomy), Chris Boucher (out — back)
Philadelphia - Joel Embiid (probable — upper respiratory infection)