Down 3-1, on the road, and without your All-Star guard, the Toronto Raptors should be despondent heading into tonight’s Game 5 — even after a rousing victory over the weekend to extend their first round series.
These are different circumstances, though, and everyone knows it. We’re all aware of the issues that Doc Rivers-led teams have in elimination games, with the stats really starting to look sour for the veteran coach.
Doc Rivers has won 6 of his last 20 series closeout games— Fastbreak Breakfast (@fastbreakbreak) April 23, 2022
On top of cranking up the volume on Rivers slander, this Sixers team, however capable they are of hitting their stride — and they certainly did that in the first two games of this series — seem like a team incapable of dealing with adversity without dramatics. Philly did not mince words about officiating in Game 4, the first in this series where the whistle favoured the Raptors over Joel Embiid and James Harden’s usual march to the charity stripe. There wasn’t a lot of maturity in handling it. Embiid sarcastically applauded the refs while walking off the court and congratulated them on doing their “one job” in the post-game presser, continuing an exhausting narrative across the league where everyone is piling on the pinstripes.
Regardless of the drama, the Raptors are still on the edge of their season coming to an end. At the same time, a win tonight could really send the Sixers reeling. A Game 6 back in Toronto would be a raucous atmosphere, and all those questions about Harden, Embiid and Rivers in the playoffs would start to surface again. The pressure would shift substantially.
Toronto still has to get there, though. Tonight, they’ll go at it without Fred VanVleet, who will sit out due to hip soreness. Scottie Barnes will return to the starting lineup in Fred’s place, with Nick Nurse deciding to go with one of Precious Achiuwa, Khem Birch or Chris Boucher starting at the five.
Barnes will start in Game 5 in place of VanVleet. One of Birch, Young or Achiuwa will start at 5.— Michael Grange (@michaelgrange) April 25, 2022
Going big has been a look that works for the Raptors, and we’ll get a great look at what the Sixers have done to adjust in the first quarter.
For a longer look at tonight’s game, check out Dylan Litman’s preview from this morning. Here are the game details.
Where to Watch
Sportsnet (Canada) and NBA TV (U.S.), 8 PM ET
Toronto – Gary Trent Jr., OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Khem Birch
Philadelphia – James Harden, Tyrese Maxey, Danny Green, Tobias Harris, Joel Embiid
Toronto – Fred VanVleet (hip – OUT)
Philadelphia – Charles Bassey (shoulder – OUT)