The Toronto Raptors finally have a home playoff game to look forward to — the first since Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals — but they’re bringing with them an 0-2 series deficit thanks to a 112-97 loss the Philadelphia 76ers tonight.
Philadelphia used a sensational 19-6 second quarter run — most of it coming with Joel Embiid on the bench — to take control of what was, until then, a very tight game, and never looked back.
With the score tied at 40, the Raptors gave up back-to-back corner threes to Tobias Harris and Danny Green, then back-to-back drives to Tyrese Maxey, followed by another three, this time from James Harden. Before you knew it, it was 59-46 for Philly, and they never trailed again.
Getting thumped in non-Embiid minutes is not a sustainable approach.— Michael Grange (@michaelgrange) April 19, 2022
All told, the Raptors gave up 35 points in the second quarter, on their way to a 67-52 halftime deficit from which they never recovered.
Toronto led by 1 after one quarter, incidentally.
Pascal Siakam scored 20 for the Raptors, and grabbed 10 boards and dished five assists. He was slowed by foul trouble, though, and only hit 7 of his 20 shots. Fred VanVleet scored 20 as well, and finished with five assists.
Joel Embiid led the Sixers with 31 points and 11 rebounds. Tyrese Maxey was fantastic yet again; he finished with 23-9-8, shooting 8-for-11 from the field.
Toronto was without Scottie Barnes in this one; the rookie was on the sidelines in a walking boot after spraining his ankle in Game 1. There’s no timetable for his return, although he did say early today he already felt better. The Raptors also lost Gary Trent to a non-COVID illness that’s been bothering him for a week; he didn’t practice yesterday, but gave the game today a go — and it didn’t go well. He left in the third after just nine scoreless minutes. Thad Young, who hyperextended his thumb in Game 1, only managed eight minutes.
The Raptors’s sleepy D was the main culprit in Philadelphia’s critical second-quarter run, except perhaps for the Harden three — that was just a classic unstoppable Harden step-back. But the others? Leaving shooters in the corners is part of Toronto’s scheme, sure, but helping off Green on Harden drives surely can’t be in the playbook. (Philly hit 8 of their first 14 threes, if you want the raw numbers on how the strategy worked.)
As for Maxey, he simply used his speed to beat the Raptors down the floor for easy buckets, after makes or misses, and Toronto didn’t seem able or willing to put the effort in to slow down the ball. (Maxey was 4-for-5 from field for 11 first half points, if we’re still talking numbers).
An unfriendly whistle didn’t help the Raptors on this night — Philadelphia shot 23 first-half free throws, to Toronto’s 7, and as a result, pretty much every Raptor was in early foul trouble.
But take nothing away from Philadelphia. Much as he did in Game 1, Doc Rivers turned all of Philly’s weaknesses into strengths (or, vice versa, from the Toronto side). Toronto wants to crash the offensive glass? The Sixers will run. Philly isn’t a good offensive rebounding team? They’ll crash the offensive glass.
the defensive rebounding against the #30 offensive rebounding team in the league has been borderline pathetic— Sean Woodley (@woodleysean) April 19, 2022
The Raptors started out well enough — the quickly rang up an 11-2 lead, and tried to bring some physicality to the game. But that quickly led to a parade of free throws for Embiid, and made the officials the centre of the conversation for the rest of the frame. VanVleet was on fire in the first, scoring 15 points on 4-of-6 shooting from downtown, and despite the foul disparity, it looked like the Raptors were the Raptors for a quarter.
But Fred played the entire first half, and ended up completely gassed; he only hit one of his next 10 shots. It wasn’t just Fred — the Raptors entered one of their patented offensive droughts that spanned the first second and third quarters, a run that saw them miss 19 of their 23 shot attempts.
Things didn’t get any better the rest of the way. Philly continued its dominance into the third, leading by as many as 27; they outscored Toronto by 25 points combined in the second and third quarters. The Raptors used a fourth quarter run to get the score down to 11, but never seriously threatened.
If there are any positives to be had on this night, one might be the offensive play of OG Anunoby, who had his best scoring game since before his thigh contusion; he scored on a variety of stepbacks and drives, and looked far more comfortable in the flow of the offense.
Anunoby finished with 26, a new playoff career high, and shot 4-for-7 from downtown.
Chris Boucher also had a good one, after an especially rough game 1; he drew three offensive fouls, and was the right-guy-in-the-right-place on a handful of offensive putbacks. He finished with 17 and eight boards.
Meanwhile, Malachi Flynn got some decent burn with Trent ailing, and although he didn’t play particularly well, the reps will do him some good. And that’s a good thing to remember; sure, we were all hoping for an upset here, and I even predicted it, but the Raptors weren’t supposed to be here, and any playoff reps for the group will be valuable heading into next season. (Of course, Scottie Barnes not getting many of those reps hurts... a lot.)
Also, it never hurts to remember — the Raptors have been 0-2 in a series before, and that turned out pretty OK!