Hope was not very high after Game 3 of the current Toronto Raptors, Philadelphia 76ers round one series — for the fans at least. But the players, and the newly minted Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes, looked cool as cucumbers strolling into Saturday’s elimination Game Four.
It paid off, and they out performed the Sixers on Toronto home turf — but could they do it again Monday night to bring the series to 3-2? Especially back in Philadelphia? Despite what the haters, the pundits, and even the odds had to say about it, the Raptors pulled off ANOTHER impressive win.
Now, the series is back in Toronto for Game 6. It’s still an elimination setting, if the Sixers win they’ll take the series — BUT another stellar performance from the Raptors will tie them 3-3 and force a do or die Game 7 in Philadelphia.
In just a few days, the Raptors odds to win the series have improved to +550, and while they are still underdogs for today’s game on the Moneyline at +105, there seems to be something in the air that was lacking after Game Three — hope.
So can the Raptors become the first team in NBA history to come back from a 3-0 series deficit and advance to Round 2? As Head Coach Nick Nurse said, “if anyone is going to do it, it will be us.”
Game Six will start at 7:00PM EST on TSN.
Raptors: Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, Gary Trent Jr., Precious Achiuwa
Sixers: Joel Embiid, James Harden, Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris, DeAndre Jordan
Raptors: Fred VanVleet - Doubtful (Hip)
Sixers: Matisse Thybulle - OUT (Ineligible to Play), Charles Bassey - OUT (Shoulder)
With Fred VanVleet out of the lineup for Monday’s game, and presumably Game 6 and 7 as well, the Raptors were forced to go BIG in Game 5. It paid off, the length at every position was too much for the Sixers to guard.
On the other side, having tall guys like Scottie Barnes on players like James Harden meant Sixers players that usually have an impact were not scoring.
Scottie Barnes held James Harden to 2 points on 0-for-3 shooting in 27.8 partial possessions last night, per NBA stats.— (@AaronBenRose) April 26, 2022
With the same strategy likely in place going into tonight’s game, the Raptors will have to keep that defensive energy strong.
Another aspect to Fred VanVleet being out is making up for his points and assists. Someone who has been having a great series so far is OG Anunoby. He scored 16 points in Game Five, and 26 points in Game Three, but his impact goes far beyond the box score.
Gary Trent Jr, who was fighting a Non-COVID illness in Games One and Two, seems to be feeling more like himself. He scored 24 points in Game Four to boost the Raptors over the edge and extend the series.
Precious Achiuwa has literally been improving in front of our eyes. He scored 17 points in Game 5, and of course, Mr. Rookie of the Year, Scottie Barnes will be back again after returning from a foot injury sustained in Game One of the series.
All of this, plus Pascal Siakam playing at an All-NBA level as he has been all season, could propel the Raptors to win Game Six and beyond.
In the regular season, Joel Embiid averaged over 30 points per game - in Game Five, the Raptors held him to 20 points. He does have a lingering thumb injury that may be a potential cause, but the defence also stepped up.
Embiid also only made six free throws in Monday’s Game Five. Keys to keeping Embiid contained are making sure he stays far away from the free throw line, and getting him frustrated.
In Game Five, you could especially tell near the end that he wasn’t defending the post as well and seemed tired and frustrated. In a game that’s almost equally mental as it is physical, another dominant performance from the Raptors needs to not only beat the Sixers physically, but get them in their heads.
When you think about home court advantage, the confidence boost of the last two wins, and a Raptors team that has defied the odds time and time again this season — it’s VERY possible for them to push this series to Game Seven. Don’t miss a second as tip-off is at 7:00PM ET on TSN.