PHILADELPHIA – After the Raptors took down the 76ers 103-88 in Recreation 5 of their Japanese Convention first-round sequence Monday night time — transferring Toronto inside two wins of changing into the primary group to erase a 3-0 deficit in NBA historical past — Philadelphia celebrity Joel Embiid remained assured his group has what it takes to shut out this sequence.
“We’re tremendous,” Embiid stated after ending with 20 factors, 11 rebounds and 4 assists in 39 minutes. “I imply, it’s the identical recipe. Don’t flip the ball over, offensive rebound. We’ve positively obtained to be higher defensively, extra linked. Defensively, I felt like there was a number of performs the place we weren’t on level and we didn’t have every others’ backs.
“However we’re tremendous. There’s a cause we gained three video games in a row. Offensively, we clearly we haven’t been ourselves and that’s actually been the explanation why we gave up these final two video games. So we simply obtained to do higher.”
That Embiid, who stated the torn ligament in his proper thumb didn’t really feel any totally different after Recreation 5, even needed to ship out a reassuring message to the group and its fan base reveals simply how a lot issues have modified since he drained the game-winning 3-pointer in additional time of Recreation 3 to push Philadelphia to the brink of advancing to the second spherical for the fourth time previously 5 years.
Now, nevertheless, the 76ers discover themselves in an absolute dogfight with a Raptors group that — regardless of lacking All-Star level guard Fred VanVleet, who sat out with a left hip flexor pressure — managed Monday’s recreation nearly from begin to end to develop into the 14th group to win two video games after falling behind 3-0 in a best-of-seven sequence, based on ESPN Stats & Data analysis. If Toronto can win at house Thursday, the Raptors would develop into the fourth group to power a Recreation 7 in that state of affairs — and the primary for the reason that Portland Path Blazers towards the Dallas Mavericks in 2003.
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Philadelphia led for all of 21 seconds — from when James Harden buried a midrange jumper to open the scoring 18 seconds into the sport, to when Raptors ahead OG Anunoby made a protracted 2-point jumper. The Raptors scored the subsequent 5 factors and by no means regarded again, blowing the sport open after a decent first quarter by scoring the primary 12 factors of the second quarter to open up a lead they might by no means relinquish.
“They obtained every little thing they wished,” 76ers coach Doc Rivers stated, “and never solely did they get it, they used 23 seconds dang close to each possession. They turned the sport right into a slow-paced slugfest however each time they might run they did run. In order that they obtained each, like they beat us in transition, once they didn’t have transition they backed it out, used the clock, obtained the iso they wished and scored on us.
“We’re going to need to do one thing higher to assist our guys defend higher.”
With VanVleet sidelined, Toronto turned to Rookie of the 12 months Scottie Barnes at level guard, deploying lengthy, athletic defenders at each place, with no participant beneath 6-foot-6 touching the ground till rubbish time. The outcome was a suffocating defensive show, one which held Philadelphia to 38% taking pictures from the sector, 10-for-37 from 3-point vary, and compelled 16 76ers turnovers that turned 20 Raptors factors.
“They had been actually working exhausting and simply lively,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse stated. “My objective isn’t essentially to show them over, it’s that we ran exhausting to shooters and issues like that. I feel for essentially the most half we did, particularly early and I feel that issues. … However yeah, we performed exhausting for the entire recreation defensively.”
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Harden, specifically, wasn’t concerned. After scoring the primary 4 factors of the sport for Philadelphia on that jumper and a fast-break dunk, Harden went simply 2-for-9 over the ultimate 46 minutes, ending 4-for-11 from the sector and 2-for-6 from 3-point vary to build up 15 factors, 7 assists and 5 turnovers in 39 minutes.
When requested if Toronto was doing something to power him into lacking photographs, nevertheless, Harden dismissed the query.
“I took 11 photographs,” he stated.
Embiid, in the meantime, stated it was on Harden to be extra aggressive offensively — one thing he’s stated repeatedly since Harden was acquired for Ben Simmons on the NBA commerce deadline — and that it’s as much as Rivers to make that occur.
“I’ve been saying all season since he obtained right here, he must be aggressive and he must be himself,” Embiid stated. “That’s probably not my job. That’s most likely on Coach to speak to him and inform him to take extra photographs, particularly in the event that they’re going to protect me the best way they’ve been guarding. However that’s actually not my job.
“However all of us should be higher offensively. We missed a bunch of wide-open photographs. At instances, I simply felt like we simply invited, after I was getting doubled, we weren’t aggressive attacking the ball. We simply stored transferring the ball across the perimeter, and that gave them time to get better, and that’s why weren’t in a position to get something out of it.
“So if that’s what they wish to hold doing, we’ve obtained to make the most of it.”
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The temper contained in the Wells Fargo Heart was tense from the start, with the reminiscence of final season’s 3-1 collapse by the hands of the Atlanta Hawks within the Japanese Convention semifinals — capped off by Simmons passing up a dunk late within the fourth quarter of Recreation 7 — clearly hanging over the proceedings.
The gang booed early and sometimes, and after an Anunoby dunk put Toronto up 14 with 2:18 to go, followers started streaming to the exits.
“Typically, the Philly followers, they’re robust,” stated Raptors ahead Thaddeus Younger, who spent seven seasons with the 76ers to start his profession. “I feel that’s one of many causes I beloved being right here for the seven years I used to be right here, they’re a troublesome crowd.
“They’re gonna let you already know if you’re doing nice, they’re gonna let you already know if you’re doing flawed, and so they wanna see their guys play exhausting. This can be a blue-collar metropolis and that’s what they imagine in — blue-collar work and ensuring you’re bringing your 100% most effort each night time.”
The gang didn’t like a lot of something it noticed Monday night time. The query now, although, is whether or not this group might be again right here for a Recreation 7 on Saturday — one with all types of historical past on the road to go together with it — or will as a substitute shut this sequence out in Toronto on Thursday.
“Possibly there’s [momentum] nevertheless it doesn’t actually matter,” Nurse stated. “Ball goes up on Thursday, everyone’s gotta play like heck.”