The Toronto Raptors had an opportunity to put the Philadelphia 76ers’ season to an end on Thursday, but instead got blown out in a closeout game on the road.
It’s hard to wrap your head around how a team can get throttled to such a degree — for more than one stretch of Tuesday’s 112-101 loss, the Raptors trailed by 20 points — on the heels of a blowout win at home, but the 76ers home court and much better performances from their starters were enough to send the series back to Toronto for a decisive Game 7 Sunday night.
The Raptors got production from their most reliable — maybe only reliable — players in Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam, but the supporting cast that has stepped up in the team’s wins during the season were AWOL on Thursday night. Around these parts, there is plenty to break down about the Raptors’ disappointing effort in Game 6, but, as we do following each Raps playoff game, let’s take a look around the out-of-market media landscape to see what is being said about the Raptors in the wake of another lopsided loss:
USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt breaks down the keys to Philadelphia’s season-saving win, which includes running into a Raptors team that simply failed to produce as needed:
The Raptors didn’t shoot well from the field (43.2%), were outrebounded 52-34 and had nearly non-existent bench production.
Leonard had an off night for him, especially compared to what he had done in this series, with 29 points on 9-for-20 shooting.
With 5:38 left in the fourth, backup center Serge Ibaka was the only reserve who had taken a shot or scored as Raptors coach Nick Nurse’s rotation is limited to about seven players. Only Ibaka, Fred Van Vleet and Norman Powell played more than five minutes off the bench.
— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) May 10, 2019
With both the Raptors-76ers and Nuggets-Trailblazers series going to Game 7 on Sunday (the Warriors and Rockets could, too, if Houston wins tonight), The Ringer’s Haley O’Shaughnessy anoints winners and losers on the night. And wouldn’t you know it? The Raptors bench falls on the wrong side of things:
Loser: Raptors Bench
For a team often applauded for its depth, Toronto’s bench has been especially unproductive in the second round. Three games in, the Raptors reserves had played 163 total minutes and had combined for just 21 points, shooting 21 percent from the field. In Game 4, only Serge Ibaka scored from the second unit, adding 12 points. The bench nearly topped its point total from the first four contests in Game 5 alone, scoring 32 points in Philadelphia’s worst playoffs loss since Dr. J was wearing the uniform (a 1982 40-point loss to Boston).
They regressed again in Game 6. At the end of the third quarter, only Ibaka was on the board (nine points). He led all relievers; Fred VanVleet, once hailed as the backup no one’s talking about, was a nonfactor again, yet Nick Nurse didn’t play Jeremy Lin at all while still briefly subbing in Pat McCaw. The bench managed to finish with 23 points, but most of that was acquired in garbage time.
More from The Ringer, who posted an episode of The Ringer NBA Show immediately following the buzzer on Thursday night and discussed the Raptors flaws — made all more frustrating by the fact that their best players, Leonard and Siakam, have been reliable models of consistency throughout the post-season.
NBATV’s Gametime crew break it down
“Is it the old cliche that role players play better at home than on the road?” wonders the NBATV crew as they discuss the Raptors’ loss and lack of support for Leonard and Siakam.
This series was destined to go the distance, writes Rohan Nadkarni, who points out why the Raptors, despite a horrid Game 6 performance, should be favoured to win on Sunday:
The two teams have performed across their respective spectrums during this series, peaking and valleying over the course of the first six games. It’s only fair that the series goes the limit, and whoever loses could be facing major consequences in the offseason.
Game 6 was the kind of postseason contest that most often favors the Sixers, in that Philly capitalized on the poor shooting of its opponent to find easy looks on offense.
…The Raptors received solid performances from their stars. Kawhi Leonard had 29 points, 12 rebounds and five assists, though he shot a less-than-stellar 9-of-20 from the field, compensating by working his way through the free throw line. (Leonard missed all four of his three-point attempts.) Pascal Siakam also stuffed the stat sheet with 21 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals. Toronto’s bellwethers—its role players—struggled, however. Marc Gasol, Kyle Lowry and Danny Green combined to shoot only 10-of-27 from the field, including a 5-of-18 mark from three. The Raptors have received a superstar turn from Leonard and a breakout act from Siakam in this series. Their success often hinges on the performances of the role players. And in Game 6, the supporting cast couldn’t offer enough lift.
…The Raptors should feel good about their chances at home. Toronto is shooting 33.7% from three up north in the second round, compared to only 27.7% while in Philadelphia. At this point, the Raps should expect solid performances from Leonard and Siakam. If the role players receive a boost from playing in their own gym, Toronto becomes much more difficult to beat.