Raptors go cold and lose Game 6 to Sixers, 112-101

Toronto’s supporting cast withered while the Sixers finally got a good Ben Simmons game. This series will go seven. The years are ticking off our collective life, but the Toronto Raptors still refuse to do things the easy way. After a Game 5 drubbing of the Sixers, it appeared the corner had finally been turned. The supporting cast had done their part, even during a mediocre Kawhi Leonard game. Happy surprises were happening everywhere — Siakam looks healthy again! Fred is making jumpers! Band-aid Serge over everything!
And yet… and yet.
The concept of momentum continues to be foreign in this second round series between the Raptors and Sixers, as very little of what happened in Game 5 carried over into Thursday’s Game 6 on Toronto’s side. Once again, the open shooting went cold, the rotations reverted back to problematic, and a hungry Philadelphia team capitalized. The Raptors had their runs, but ultimately fell well short — losing Game 6, 112-101. Game 7 is Sunday night in Toronto.
Statistically, the number bolded and highlighted on the scoresheet from tonight’s game is a bit off the wall: Joel Embiid posting a +40, the highest ever for a Raptors playoff opponent.
Despite a relatively quiet 17 points …

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Author: John Gaudes / Raptors HQ

Raptors vs. 76ers Game 6 Thread: Updates, TV info, and more

The Raptors are in a close-out scenario, while the Sixers are hoping a healthier Joel Embiid can extend this to seven. In the playoffs, it’s very hard to carry momentum from game to game — but, damn it, could we have it just this once? The Raptors played to their truest form in Tuesday’s Game 5, showing what happens when someone besides Kawhi Leonard shows up to make shots. Kyle Lowry and Marc Gasol were shooting without thought. Pascal Siakam seemingly shook off an injury to return to form. Fred VanVleet had his best game in a millennia. The Raptors won by 36 damn points.
If Toronto was to carry that team into tonight’s Game 6 — well, there’d be a lot less to worry about. Elimination games in Philadelphia haven’t been kind to this franchise in a small sample size, but it would appear that the Sixers are starting to run out of answers. Ben Simmons has been swallowed up, as some expected he would be. Mike Scott and James Ennis have faded. Jimmy Butler has been asked to do too much.
The one behemoth casting a shadow on Game 6 is Joel Embiid. Dealing with an overzealous digestion system …

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Author: John Gaudes / Raptors HQ

Tactical Issues: How will the Raptors and Sixers adjust in Game 6?

Nick Nurse fine-tuned his new rotation, and the Sixers’ strategy to stop Kawhi opened up a whole host of issues. Can the Raptors close this series out in six? For the Philadelphia 76ers, the good news is that they were able to slow down Kawhi Leonard. In Game 5, they were able to hold Kawhi to just five points in the first quarter on 2-of-6 shooting, and a “mere” 19 points through three quarters, on 6-of-15 shooting.
The bad news? The Sixers were concentrating so much on Kawhi, they forgot that Kawhi’s got some really good teammates, and the Raptors made them pay.
I guess the worst news for the Sixers is that given Kawhi’s performance in Game 5, he’s probably due for maintenance/re-calibration/firmware update in Game 6. And judging from the gear that Kawhi (and the whole team) was in on Tuesday, he should be heading into Game 6 fresh.
Let’s look at how both coaches approached Game 5, and predict what kind of adjustments the Raptors and Sixers might roll out.
For the Sixers
Brett Brown’s got quite a few issues to solve. After handing the keys of the offense to Jimmy Butler, Ben Simmons has looked …

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Author: JD Quirante / Raptors HQ

Kawhi yammed on the Sixers twice, but which one was better?

During the Raptors’ Game 5 dismantling of the Sixers, Kawhi Leonard threw down two soul-crushing dunks. Before tonight’s Game 6, we’re here to figure out which sent the better message to Philly. Kawhi Leonard has spent a fortnight demolishing the Sixers in just about every conceivable way. Most of the time, it’s been done in his typically understated and brilliant way. You know what that entails — the slow motion probing of the mid-range, the hilarious efficiency and that thing where he is really good at defense. In Game 5, though, his punking of the Sixers was completed with a tad more thunder.
The two dunks Leonard crammed on Tuesday — one at the end of the second quarter, another to close the third — were as exhilarating as they were malicious. Never has the impartiality of press box-sitting bloggers been so challenged. On the first of the two, our beloved tyrannical boss man Daniel Reynolds had to hold onto my arm lest he fall out of his chair.
The dunks were, on their own, all the justification the Raptors will ever need for their load management game plan with Leonard. You keep him fresh and bouncy in the regular season so he …

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Author: Sean Woodley / Raptors HQ

Raptors look to finish the 76ers in Game 6: Preview, start time, and more

The Raptors head to Philadelphia to take on the Sixers for a closeout Game 6 — with a bearth in the Eastern Conference Finals waiting for them. Closeout games are fun for no other reason than the lack of pulled punches. Brett Brown, five games into the series, should have a better idea about what he wants to do with his roster. Does he move away from Greg Monroe at back-up centre? Is Jimmy Butler able to take on a bigger offensive role? Butler shot 22 times in their Game 2 win, but took 16 shots in their recent Game 5 loss.
The same type of questions exist for Nick Nurse and the Raptors. Will Serge Ibaka continue to play heavy minutes at power forward with Pascal Siakam returning to health? Who does Kawhi Leonard defend? How many minutes do Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell play?
The Raptors are 5-4 in closeout games since their playoff run started in 2014. Not a bad record, but only now do they have Kawhi. In 18 closeout games during his career, Leonard has averaged 15.8 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 1.8 steals per game on 46 percent shooting from the field. Stats that don’t exactly jump off the page, and yet: he’s had …

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Author: Ben_Scott / Raptors HQ

Five thoughts on last night’s Game 5: Raptors 125, 76ers 89

Kawhi dunked the Sixers away, and the Raptors are heading back to Philly up 3-2. Last night we saw the Raptors put together one of their most complete games of the season, while the 76ers cobbled together what had to be their worst. The result was a 36-point beatdown.
It felt really good to be on the other side of one of those, didn’t it?
The series isn’t over yet, but if the Raptors can get something similar from their non-Kawhi players on Thursday night in Philly, then it just might be.
Which Dunk Was Dunkingest?
Was it the end of the half dunk?

TRUST THIS pic.twitter.com/0tSwgWwiWW— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) May 8, 2019

Or the end of the third quarter dunk?

FLYIN’ HIGH pic.twitter.com/qfXfzizrlO— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) May 8, 2019

This is a tough one. The end of the half dunk was more emphatic, it was a great exclamation point to a great half and a statement by Kawhi Leonard — who had a quiet half, by his standards — that “oh yeah, I’m still here.”
On the other hand, the third quarter dunk was right on Joel Embiid’s head, which, given his penchant for taunting, …

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Author: Josh Kern / Raptors HQ

Raptors vs. 76ers Game 5 Thread: Updates, TV info, and more

The Raptors are back in Toronto, the series is locked up at 2-2, and the Sixers are hungry to steal back home court advantage. It’s time for Game 5. Let’s watch. The Raptors did the thing they were supposed to do. They got the series back to 2-2, and kept the hopes and dreams of their season alive. Should they have been blown out in Game 3? Should they have even lost Game 2? Should we be here right now in this situation heading into Game 5? Let’s take these answers one at a time — and in the process, assess our mood right now.
First, the Game 3 question. Yes, the Raptors were due for one big game in front of the home crowd from Joel Embiid. The Sixers centre has been that guy all year, and throughout his career. Embiid lives for those big moments in front of his adoring fans and knows just how to play up to them. Heading into the series, I figured Toronto would shrink in one of either Games 3 or 4, and it happened just that way.
But Game 2, well, Toronto should have won that one. How do I know this? Because Game 4 was instructive in how …

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Author: Daniel Reynolds / Raptors HQ

Tactical Issues: How will the Raptors and Sixers adjust in Game 4?

The Sixers have the Raptors against the ropes after securing a 2-1 series lead. Does Toronto have what it takes to turn things around, or is this the beginning of the end of their season? The Toronto Raptors find themselves in an awfully familiar situation, but this time, there’s no LeBron James wearing the opposing team’s uniform. The Raptors were favoured to win this matchup heading into this playoff series and appeared to be on the right track after winning Game 1 convincingly.
However, a combination of an eerily familiar playoff regression and masterful counter adjustments by coach Brett Brown and the Philadelphia 76ers has put the Raptors in a Game 4 that might be the biggest game in the franchise history.
Can Nick Nurse prove that Masai Ujiri made the right hire by coming up with better adjustments than what he’s shown so far? We’ve got some ideas to help.
For the Sixers
For the first time in this series, the Sixers managed to get their offense going in a big way. Philly appeared to be pushing the right buttons for the past two games, and everything finally came together in Game 3 with momentum now firmly on …

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Author: JD Quirante / Raptors HQ

Game 3 Analysis: The search for Toronto’s silver linings

The Raptors’ performance in Game 3 against the Sixers was terrible. But, believe it or not, there were some silver linings to be found. First off, Game 3 was awful. The Raptors’ offense was disjointed throughout, only saved by Kawhi Leonard for stretches (an increasingly concerning trend), and their defense was about as bad.
But a lot of that was just players having really bad games. Some of it was poor tactics and poor preparation — such as coming into the game with a plan to establish Marc Gasol as a scorer because the 76ers had shown a willingness to cover him with Tobias Harris. A good idea, except then they stuck with that plan even as the Sixers put Joel Embiid Gasola, leading to several wasted possessions trying to force offense through an unfavourable matchup.
There are dozens of examples of frustrating strategy like that, and many more examples of players simply playing badly. Gasol and Kyle Lowry passing up open three pointers repeatedly to make an unnecessary extra pass, allowing the defense to recover, Fred VanVleet seeming to forget how to play basketball at all, Serge Ibaka doing the bad kind of Serge Ibaka things, and so on.
But were there …

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Author: Daniel Hackett / Raptors HQ

Listen to That’s A Rap #21: Post-Game 3 vs. Sixers Reaction

After a frustrating Game 3 loss to the Sixers, the boys try to assure us that Everything Is Fine with the Raptors. Last I checked, the Raptors only needed one win in Philadelphia to regain home-court advantage. When Kyle Lowry states that Kawhi Leonard needs more help, doesn’t he have a history of bringing his A-game? Hasn’t a season-long worth of games with constant rotational changes – and continued success – afforded this team some leeway that they’ll “figure it out”?
The answers to these questions will have to wait until Sunday, but for now, listen to our latest episode as we dissect Game 3.

On The Latest Episode:
Raptors were treading water with Kawhi on the court… and absolutely sinking when he wasn’t. At least Danny Green started hitting from deep.
In an ironic twist of fate, it’s Kawhi who is managing the Raptors’ load. Passing and assist rates have increased since the trade deadline, but the Raptors fell victim to over-passing and lots of apprehension. If a fire wasn’t lit after Game 2, it certainly is now.
Some missed (groin-related?) calls by the referees created a negative trickle effect. Foul trouble led to slower defensive …

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Author: JayRosales / Raptors HQ