10 things from Raptors-Sixers (Game 5)

·NBA reporter

Here’s 10 takeaways from the Toronto Raptors’ 125-89 win over the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead.

One - Smackdown: The Raptors just ran the Sixers straight out of the gym. Admittedly, the Sixers were just completely out of sorts, but this was also a statement by the Raptors, who reasserted control of the series in the most emphatic way possible. The Raptors won every quarter, ran down every loose ball, found their range from deep, and made highlight after highlight to put Philadelphia on the brink of elimination.

Two - Together: Toronto’s wins in Games 1 and 4 came down to having the best player in the series, while tonight’s win was about being the better team. Every starter finished in double-digits, and the bench even tallied 32 points. Again, it helped that the Sixers were completely out of sorts, but it was a positive sign that the Raptors played with such confidence as a team. They pushed the pace on both misses and makes, confidently stepped into open threes, and shared the ball beautifully as a group. This is the best version of the Raptors.

Three - Hammer: With the rest of the team humming, Kawhi Leonard busied himself with making highlights. He sent the Raptors into halftime with a 21-point lead after elevating over two defenders for a jam, and put the final nail into the coffin by posterizing Joel Embiid on a baseline drive. Leonard also chipped in on the glass with a team-high 13 rebounds, while also making the right passes to find open shooters. This was a much healthier dynamic than the previous four games, where it was all about Leonard taking on the Sixers by himself.

Four - Floodgates: The Raptors caught fire from deep for the first time in this series and finished with 16 threes. Danny Green finally capitalized on his open opportunities, while the likes of Kyle Lowry and Marc Gasol avoided aggressively turning down looks. In fact, Gasol was so confident that at one point he gestured Embiid to meet him on the perimeter, before swishing the jumper right in his eye. Philadelphia’s defence had success by flooding the lane and denying the rim, but that strategy was only viable because Toronto wasn’t hitting shots.

Five - Warriors: Serge Ibaka delivered another inspirational performance off the bench as he was a plus-27 in 22 minutes. Ibaka’s forehead split open after he caught an accidental elbow from Leonard in the first half, but returned shortly thereafter with a band-aid and didn’t miss a beat as he drove inside for a dunk before hitting a mid-range jumper. Ibaka’s ability to contribute at power forward — after spending the entire season playing exclusively at centre — has been a crucial development for the Raptors. That now allows Nick Nurse to play bigger lineups and shore up defensive rebounding while also adding an element of shot blocking.

Six - Stellar: This was a near perfect performance from Kyle Lowry. He never imposed himself on the game, but he showed up in all the margins. Lowry picked his spots, was opportunistic in transition, aggressively went to the basket when Embiid wasn’t in the lane, and chipped in elsewhere with his rebounding and playmaking while finishing with 19 points.

Seven - Lively: Pascal Siakam is still hurting from his right calf injury and an aching left hamstring, but he was much looser in Game 5 as compared to Game 4. Siakam was back to his usual self punishing mismatches in the post, nailing corner threes, while making hustle plays all over the floor. In one sequence, Siakam pinned a shot against the backboard, collected the rebound, took it the length of the floor, and drove all the way to the rim for two free throws.

Eight - Encouraging: It’s not as if five points are worthy of praise, but this was Fred VanVleet’s best performance of the series. VanVleet made a handful of scrappy defensive plays in the post, stayed attached to JJ Redick around screens, while also drilling a triple and hitting a layup. This is a difficult match-up for VanVleet, but his defensive focus never waivers, and that’s what endears him to Nick Nurse.

Nine - Baiting: Jimmy Butler was the only Sixers player who showed up tonight, but that also threw their offence out of balance. Butler pounded the ball every trip down, and even though he was able to be effective by drawing questionable fouls, none of his teammates were able to feed off his greatness. More shots for Butler means less post-ups for Embiid, fewer dribble hand-offs for Redick, and Ben Simmons is absolutely useless when he doesn’t have the ball. Butler has been fantastic throughout the playoffs, but the Sixers won’t get far if he’s the main man.

Ten - Excuses: This was yet another pathetic performance from Embiid, who is still apparently under the weather. Embiid has been a no-show in four out of five games, and tonight was his worst effort yet. Embiid turned it over eight times and only got to the line twice, which is simply unacceptable for the supposed leader of the team. Brett Brown tried to cover for Embiid yet again post-game by explaining that Embiid was running such a high fever that he wasn’t even able to attend film sessions. Regardless of the circumstances, Embiid just isn’t getting the job done, and it makes his antics in Game 3 look all the more ridiculous.

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