SportsBruce Arthur: Raptors bring Claw and order with blowout win over Sixers in Game 5
Rival Watch: What U.S. media is saying ahead of Raptors-Sixers duel
The Toronto Raptors dispatched of the Orlando Magic in dominant fashion Tuesday, showing us how good they can be and prompting the U.S. media to fawn over their defensive prowess and explain why they are the favourites in their second-round matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers. The post Mike Babcock has a lot of explaining to do appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.
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“He has to come down eventually, doesn’t he?” That was the whisper in the halls before the game, from all sides. In Game 4, Kawhi Leonard bailed
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Instead, Toronto had a chance to push the Sixers to the edge of elimination, and in Game 5 they looked like a weight had been lifted. Leonard was finally human, yes. It was jarring. He missed shots, just like a normal person. He fell closer to Earth, or as close to Earth as someone who can dunk over Joel Embiid can come.
And by halftime the Raptors had run Philadelphia out of the building anyway, on the way to a 125-89 win in Game 5. Toronto leads the series three games to two, and Game 6 is Thursday in Philadelphia.
It was over fast. The prancing, dancing, dunking-and-punking Embiid of Game 3 was sick again, and a gigantic sack of flour. Ben Simmons was still being inhaled by Kawhi, when he wasn’t busy at the other end. After a close first quarter, there was suddenly no shot the Sixers couldn’t miss. They were in the zone.
Leonard scores 45 points to lift Raptors to victory over Sixers in Game 1
Kawhi Leonard poured in a post-season career-best 45 points and the Toronto Raptors opened the Eastern Conference semifinal with a 108-95 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday. On a night that all but Leonard and Pascal Siakam struggled on offence, Leonard shot 16-for-23 and hauled down a team-high 11 rebounds. Leonard drew chants of “M-V-P!” both after a beautiful spin move around Jimmy Butler early in the night and when he surpassed his previous best playoff points — set in 2017 versus Memphis — with a pair of free throws down the stretch. Siakam added 29 points, but no other Raptor scored in double figures.
The Raptors, meanwhile, looked like the Raptors again. Not the team that had two double-figure scorers in Game 1, or that couldn’t shoot outside Kawhi in Game 2, or that got trampled with Kawhi on the bench in every game, but especially Game 3.
They didn’t look like the team that watched Kawhi carry them in Game 4, either, with that seismic three over Embiid to seal it. After that game, Toronto centre Marc Gasol said, “I think we are figuring each out a little bit. We’re learning as we go. Being a new team, you have to go through those kind of things to know more about your teammates and your coaches and who you are as a team.”
This was what they’ve been searching for. A Raptors team with Kawhi, a two-legged Pascal Siakam, a fully alive Kyle Lowry, a confident Gasol, Danny Green blazing threes again, and a little bit of bench.
Gasol’s early struggles prove prophetic in Raptors’ Game 3 loss to 76ers
Marc Gasol isn’t the reason the Raptors came up short in Game 3 against the 76ers, but his struggles early on gave away how the rest of the night would unfold for Toronto. The post Gasol’s early struggles prove prophetic in Raptors’ Game 3 loss to 76ers appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.
This is what they’re supposed to be. The Sixers also made a move at the deadline and are figuring each other out, but this was the Raptors at full throttle. Toronto outscored Philadelphia 37-17 in the second quarter, with the kind of contributions that propelled this team in the 22 games that Kawhi sat. Toronto went 17-5 in those games. They weren’t Kawhi and a bunch of red-jacketed security guards.
Kawhi had entered the game in singular territory: 38 points per game over the first four on a .618/.464/.829 shooting line for a .728 true shooting percentage, which is simply beyond the stars. Some on the Sixers thought Simmons had performed at an all-NBA level on defence, and was still getting torched.
“I mean, this is my 19th year in the NBA, and I really didn’t see Jordan when Michael was Michael,” said Sixers coach Brett Brown. “I did see Kobe when Kobe was Kobe. And there are hints of that when you are trying to game plan for Kawhi. In that he can create any shot and get it off over two people, and make way more than he doesn’t.
“He just is that offensively gifted, and Kobe was that offensively gifted. And you know, Kawhi has grown to have that laser focus where he just wants that responsibility and the ball. So it becomes tough all over the place.”
Love him or hate him, Sixers’ ‘Sixth Man’ superfan is hard to miss
If you’ve been following the Raptors playoff series, you’ve probably noticed a fan in a Sixers jersey sitting courtside, cheering on Philadelphia whether the game is at home or on the road. Alan Horwitz, 75, is hard to miss. In the first two games of the series in Toronto, the superfan jumped up and held his Sixers sign above his head whenever his team scored. Horwitz, the founder and chairman of a Philadelphia-based student housing company, says Toronto has great fans. But does the city feel the same about Horwitz, who wear a jersey that says Sixth Man on the back? With his courtside seat, some TV viewers found him to be a distraction.
Elsewhere, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo was laying waste to the Boston Celtics; Kevin Durant and James Harden were duelling in a tough Golden State-Houston series; Damian Lillard was ending series for Portland on shots from Wyoming; and Denver’s Nikola Jokic was the doughy face of pure Serbian basketball genius.
But nobody had been carrying as heavy a load as Leonard, and Philadelphia sold out some more to stop him. They had wrestled with the balance between overblitzing Leonard and daring his less capable teammates to beat them.
And then he struggled, for him. Easy shots swirled around and popped out, fell short, rattled. He was still a force — he is always a force. But he wasn’t automatic. The Sixers had privately thought Simmons was playing near all-NBA defence on Leonard, and was still getting torched. Kawhi had a tough game, here.
Kawhi still finished with 21 points on 7-for-16 shooting, 12 rebounds, four assists on some of his better passes of the series, two steals, no turnovers, and that dunk over Embiid. But all five Raptors starters scored in double figures for the first time in the series, too. Brown said after Embiid’s Game 3 that when the giant was healthy, he felt he had the best player in the gym.
But Embiid and Philly flopped, and Toronto fans did his airplane celebration as he checked out the last time. One win to the conference final, and likely the Milwaukee juggernaut. But right now, the Raptors have the best player in the series, end to end. And finally, without a doubt, they had the best team.
Bruce Arthur is a Toronto-based sports columnist. Follow him on Twitter:
A 9-year-old Sixers fan wrote Joel Embiid a sweet note after seeing him cry.
"You got so far and I am proud of you."