Here’s 10 takeaways from the Toronto Raptors’ 116-95 loss in Game 3 to the Philadelphia 76ers.
One - Familiar: Every year, we swear up and down that the Raptors are different, and every year, this same embarrassment hits us like a cold shower. It’s never just that the Raptors lost, it’s that they got punked, again. The aftermath of these moments just leave you numb and dumbfounded, because the Raptors can just never escape this horror. It’s hard to even be furious after six years. It goes far beyond that. It just feels fundamentally broken, no matter what they do.
Two - Perspective: A more impartial assessment would be that the Sixers just caught the Raptors on a bad night. Toronto withstood body blows right until fourth quarter before completely coming apart. Those types of losses happen - the Sixers are a bit of a front-running team, and it’s not the end of world. This series was never going to be easy, and the Raptors should still be able to regain composure and dig their way out of a 2-1 deficit. They’ve certainly done it before against Indiana, Miami, and Milwaukee. This series isn’t over just yet. We’ll know what the Raptors are truly made of in Game 4.
Three - Pivotal: However, the Raptors will be toast if Kyle Lowry and Marc Gasol don’t immediately turn it around. Both Gasol and Lowry were consistently passing up shots, and even their open looks wouldn’t fall. They’re bringing veteran presence, and the Sixers are coming back with sheer talent. Philadelphia is not Orlando - the Raptors aren’t going anywhere if Lowry and Gasol can’t even crack 15 points.
Four - Concern: The bigger threat is that Joel Embiid has finally found his footing. Embiid had 33 points - more than double his previous career-high against Gasol - and capped off the night with a windmill dunk that brought the house down. Embiid was bothered by a bad knee and gastroenteritis in Games 1 and 2, but if this is the norm going forward, the Raptors stand no chance. Gasol needs to be tougher in the post, and the Raptors need to send more help.
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) May 3, 2019
Five - Crafty: To make matters worse, the Sixers have found their rhythm by attacking through Jimmy Butler in the high pick-and-roll. Butler is consistently able to get downhill off Embiid’s screens, and it’s putting the Raptors’ bigs in an impossible position of defending two-on-one. Butler had 22 points, nine rebounds, nine assists, and three steals while shooting 9-of-15 from the field for one of the finest playoff performances of his career. The Raptors should seriously consider putting Kawhi Leonard on Butler just to make the Sixers think twice.
Six - Outmuscled: It’s also becoming abundantly clear that the Sixers are just too big for the Raptors to handle. Coming into the series, it was unclear if Philly’s tenacity on the offensive glass would beat out Toronto’s ability in the fast break, but now it’s clear that the Sixers have the advantage. Furthermore, the Sixers’ bigger defenders aren’t even allowing guys like Fred VanVleet to get their shots off, which has effectively neutered Toronto’s bench. At this point, the Raptors just need to limit the damage by sending everyone to the defensive glass.
Seven - Beaten: Pascal Siakam is doing his best, but there might just not be much he can do against a healthy Embiid. Siakam is crafty and tenacious, but can he really solve a 7-foot-3 center at the rim? Embiid met Siakam at the rim twice, and Siakam responded by tripping Embiid, which earned him a flagrant 1. The Raptors might just have to get their offense from other players, and again, it’s on Lowry and Gasol to step up their play.
Eight - Chess match: Brett Brown yet again got the better of Nick Nurse as he threw a curveball by going back to his original matchups from Game 1, instead of the adjustments that worked in Game 2. Toronto got off to a bad start, and it just spiralled from there. Nurse did make all the requisite adjustments, as he matched Gasol’s minutes with Embiid’s, while also mixing in his bench with the starters, but all Nurse could do was sit in a deep squat on the sidelines as the Raptors came apart in the fourth.
Nine - Dominance: Leonard was the only reason this game was even close through three quarters. He literally took over by calling clear outs and going one-on-three against the Sixers’ best defenders. Leonard came away with two midrange jumpers, a three, and found Siakam for a lob dunk, and for a moment it looked as if the Raptors could potentially steal the game as they only trailed by seven heading in the final frame.
Ten - Liability: Nurse tried to buy Leonard a quick breather by sticking Siakam, Lowry, and Gasol on the floor to start the fourth, but it didn’t matter. Here’s what followed: Lowry fouled Butler, which led to two free throws; Siakam bricked an open three; Lowry drew back iron on a step-back two; Embiid hit a three in Gasol’s face; Norman Powell coughed up a bad jumper; Siakam’s layup got swallowed by Embiid at the basket, he tripped him for another two free throws, and Butler capped off the run by driving right past Gasol for a layup. It’s too early to think about free agency, but it’s hard to imagine that moment won’t stick with Leonard if the Raptors can’t advance past this series.
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