Before last game, down 3-0 in the series, the Toronto Raptors could have taken the easy route, packed their bags early and simply handed the Philadelphia 76ers the win. Instead, the team put together an exhilarating performance. Prior to tip-off, it was reported that Scottie Barnes won the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award, and he was also returning to play from his injury. The atmosphere surrounding this game changed completely, and for the first time this series, the vibes were finally immaculate. It surely didn’t feel like watching a team whose entire season was hinging on the outcome of that contest.
Unfortunately, Fred VanVleet left the game with a hip injury and did not return. If the injury keeps him off the floor for any substantial length of time, it will seriously hinder any chances of the Raptors making a comeback in this series. Still, the Raptors will hope to keep the vibe train rolling into Game 5, and if everyone else remains healthy, the team can still retain switch-ability on defense, a vital factor moving forward.
Joel Embiid’s health will play a big role in how this series unfolds as well. Generally, the Raptors have done a good job overwhelming Embiid and forcing him into uncomfortable situations, though his ridiculous propensity for shot-making has been on full display since the series began. Now though, with an ailing thumb that will require offseason surgery, Embiid may not be able to consistently perform at his most dominant state.
If you’re extra confident in this Raptors squad, you can even place a bet on DraftKings where the Raptors are +260 underdogs to win the game, meaning a $360 payout on a $100 bet. Will Toronto come away with the victory and prolong the series? Let’s find out together!
Check out the details for tonight’s game:
Where to Watch
Sportsnet, 8:00 PM EST
Toronto – Scottie Barnes, Gary Trent Jr., OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Khem Birch
Philadelphia – James Harden, Tyrese Maxey, Danny Green, Tobias Harris, Joel Embiid
Toronto – Fred VanVleet (hip – questionable)
Philadelphia – Charles Bassey (shoulder – out)
Scottie “ROTY” Barnes
If we’ve learned one thing throughout this series, it’s that Scottie Barnes’ presence is larger than the basketball decisions he makes on the floor. He radiates confidence, and his jubilance is contagious. Both the crowd and his teammates feed off his energy, and it’s simply a joy to watch. Scottie’s physicality on the floor is always welcome – his 11 boards the other night seriously aided to quell the 76ers’ offensive-rebounding dominance, which had been plaguing the Raptors all series.
After raising eyebrows on draft night, Masai Ujiri has been officially vindicated. Many criticized Masai at the time for making what seemed to be an odd pick, leaving overwhelming favourite Jalen Suggs for the Orlando Magic. Analysts were comparing Scottie to Draymond Green, a glue guy with little scoring talent. Instead, he became an offensive hub, a multi-level scorer and generational passer capable of making brilliant reads. It was a pleasure to watch Masai join Scottie on the floor for the Rookie of the Year ceremony. It served as a reminder that the Raptors’ process is working, and fans have much more to look forward to beyond this series.
Pascal responded to an off-night on offense in Game 3 with a brilliant performance in Game 4, wherein he reminded Raptors fans that the team already has a perfectly capable number one guy at its disposal. Siakam had himself a 34-point outing, complete with 15 trips to the free throw line. This level of aggression is what we’ve come to expect from Pascal, and it was encouraging to see him seek contact, especially in the fourth quarter when the game slowed down.
If the Raptors are going to move forward in this series, it will require similar nights from Siakam, especially if Fred VanVleet is ruled out for some time. With Gary Trent Jr. seemingly out of his funk as well, it opens up the floor for drive-and-kick opportunities. Much like he did last game, Siakam should continue to utilize his gravity to find Gary as a play-finisher.
It’s impossible to quantify just how much the crowd plays a role in playoff games; still, one could point to this Raptors-Sixers series as a prime example of spectators influencing outcomes. Philadelphia is known as a city whose fans will exacerbate what’s happening on the floor — no matter how the team is doing, positively or negatively, the Philadelphian spectators will let the Sixers players know how they’re feeling.
For the Raptors to stand a fighting chance in this series, they must start out this next game unfazed by the crowd. Once the Raptors dig themselves a hole, it’s that much more difficult to climb out while playing in the Wells Fargo Center. Poise will play a crucial role in tonight’s match — if the Raptors can stay composed and roll with Philly’s punches, they have a decent chance of coming away with the victory.