The Toronto Raptors re-took their place in the driver’s seat of their second round matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday, making a statement with a 125-89 drubbing.
Most encouragingly for the Raptors, their big win came with an overall team effort that saw solid performances across the board (including superstar Kawhi Leonard, who owned the highlight reels thanks to a trio of impressive dunks).
The Raps take a 3-2 series lead with the win, with a chance to end the Sixers season and advance to the conference finals for the second time in three years.
In the aftermath of Tuesday’s game, most focused on the Sixers’ failures more than the Raptors’ virtues, but it was hard to ignore the impressive display Toronto showed to take a 3-2 series lead.
As we do following each and every playoff game, let’s check in with the out-of-town media markets to see what they’re saying about Raptors.
Kevin Arnovitz shines a light on the Raptors’ overall team effort and contributions in the team’s latest win:
But as much as Kawhi Leonard added Tuesday to one of the most impressive individual postseason résumés in NBA history, the Toronto Raptors’ resounding 125-89 Game 5 victory over Philadelphia was a collective statement by the Raptors. A supporting cast that has been promising to help its transcendent superstar delivered in a multitude of ways.
Furthermore, the Raptors feature a core of heady veterans such as Lowry, Marc Gasol and Danny Green, whose contributions aren’t always easily quantified in stat lines. By nature, these are cerebral players who have mastered the art of contributing without scoring, and what often looks like a dud in the box score is an exercise in winning on the game’s margins.
Still, the disparity between Leonard’s production and the rest of the team was profound. Coming into Game 5, Leonard had scored 38.8 percent of the Raptors’ points in this series — far and away a larger share than any other individual player in the conference semifinals (Kevin Durant and James Harden are next, at 32 percent). After the Raptors were embarrassed in Game 3, Lowry told ESPN’s Tim Bontemps, “We’ve got to help him.”
Help came early and often Tuesday, and every member of the team was, in some form or fashion, the best version of himself.
Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman — who, reasonably, drew heat after saying Kawhi Leonard is better under pressure than Kobe Bryant following Game 4’s win — talk about what Smith calls “an a**-whooping” on Tuesday:
FS1’s Skip Bayless offers the hottest of takes:
Inside the NBA crew breaks down Raptors’ win
“Now the Sixers, as a team, are battling Toronto Raptor-itis. Symptoms include: a rash of fast-break points, a sudden urge to turn the ball over, and a mysterious desire to read a stat sheet while you’re being blown out.”
“Oh no he didn’t,” proclaims Shaquille O’Neal while watching one of Leonard’s impressive throwdowns on Tuesday, while he and Charles Barkley can finally agree on one thing: the Sixers needed a whole lot more from Joel Embiid.
NBA.com’s John Schuhmann also delves into how the Raptors secured their biggest win in franchise history, without needing Leonard to singlehandedly carry the team. “Leonard was just a cog in the machine,” he writes, “instead of being the entire machine himself.”
Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse didn’t believe his team needed another huge performance from Kawhi Leonard to win Game 5 of of his team’s Eastern Conference semifinals series against the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Raptors were 17-5 without Leonard in the regular season. Kyle Lowry is an All-Star, Pascal Siakam is the next big thing, and the Raptors’ go eight deep with capable NBA players with postseason experience.
But that 17-5 record without Leonard broke down to 13-0 against non-playoff teams and 4-5 against playoff teams. And in this series, Leonard simply wasn’t getting a lot of help. His 68 points over Games 2 and 3 weren’t enough, and the Raptors needed every bit of his 39 to win Game 4 in Philadelphia on Sunday and essentially keep their season alive. The guy was averaging 38 points on 62 percent shooting, and they were a possession or two from being down 3-1.
So yeah, to have Leonard come back down to earth somewhat and still get a blowout, 125-89 victory on Tuesday to take a 3-2 series lead? It was somewhat comforting, as you might imagine.
Philly beat writer Marcus Hayes breaks down a disheartening performance for the 76ers and a Raptors team that was simply too much to handle on Tuesday.
Enfeebled, Embiid was unable to guard nimble forward Pascal Siakam, a matchup that was the key adjustment in the three previous games. Tobias Harris drew the assignment. Siakam led the Raptors with 15 points in the first half and finished with 25.
He was one of four Raptors in double figures at halftime. That included backup center Serge Ibaka, who abused Embiid twice and had 10 points and finished plus-27 in 22 minutes.
Kawhi Leonard had 21, and he’d averaged 38 in the first four games, but the Raptors didn’t need his volume. Besides, quality trumped quantity. A last-minute dunk to end the second quarter sucked the will from the Sixers’ souls. Then he pounded one past Embiid’s head near the end of the third.
Despite their warts, the Sixers seemed to have divined a means by which to overcome their deficiencies, before losing Games 4 and 5. Gun-shy point guard Ben Simmons, who won’t take a shot beyond arm’s reach of the basket, shot five times Tuesday, and he turned the ball over five times in 25 minutes.
They looked overmatched and, worse, uninterested.
ESPN’s morning crew reacts to Tuesday’s win
“Kawhi Leonard does the best job in the NBA converting defense to offence,” says former Raptor and current Get Up co-host Jalen Rose.