A late fourth-quarter comeback was not enough as the Toronto Raptors fell to the Philadelphia 76ers in a heartbreaking loss.
Heartbreaking. Crushing. Defeating. All three are synonymous with how the Toronto Raptors felt after Monday’s Game 2 loss. After playing poorly all game long, Toronto had still had a chance in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter. Ultimately, they came up short.
The truth is, the Raptors didn’t deserve to win Game 2. They failed to execute offensively, they didn’t make adjustments, and they didn’t make shots. After performing to the peak of their abilities in the first game of the series, they came out and played an absolute clunker.
The first half was particularly rough. The 76ers made a few adjustments (more on those later) and defensively were locked-in. Philly took the lead early in the first, and at one point, were up by a 19. Toronto failed to find any type of consistent offense, scoring just 38 points at the break.
The second half saw a more competitive game. The Raptors inched their way back into the contest, primarily on the back of Kawhi Leonard. Leonard dropped a ridiculous 35-points on efficient shooting. No matter how the rest of the team is playing, he’s been unstoppable this postseason.
After a Kawhi-led comeback, the Raptors had a shot in the fourth quarter. In the closing seconds, Danny Green opened up for a WIDE open three to tie the game. Clank. Back Rim. The Toronto Raptors lose.
So what did we learn from this heartbreaking loss?
Nick Nurse’s rotations
Nick Nurse’s rotations have been very bad through two games of this series.
With Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell each receiving less than 20 minutes each, Nurse needs to be able to manage it so Jodie Meeks never enters the game. Meeks played one minute with disastrous results in Game 2. A horrible missed three and then a turnover to follow. There’s no reason Meeks needs to play at all.
However, the most egregious mistake is the inability to match Joel Embiid and Marc Gasol‘s minutes. In Game 1, Embiid scored 13 points in the 13 minutes he shared with Serge Ibaka on 4/10 shooting. He scored just 3 on 1-8 shooting in 17 minutes against Gasol. After seeing that play out, why is Ibaka ever facing Embiid?
Embiid did not have a big Game 2 performance. But whenever he goes against Ibaka, it impacts everyone else on the court. The Raptors are forced to double, Philly gets Toronto in foul trouble, and more.
Nurse should be pulling Gasol as soon as Embiid leaves the floor, matching their minutes exactly. Hopefully, we see that change for Game 2.
What happened to the rest of the team?
Of course, scoring is not everything, but let’s not over think this. It’s hard to win when three players need to carry such a large scoring load. Marc Gasol finished 1-6 from the field, Danny Green went 1-8, and the bench shot a combined 2-11.
With the 76ers sending a hard double at Kawhi, they were asking for anyone else to beat them. As we saw at the end of the game, no-one else did.
Embiid on Siakam
The biggest difference in the 76ers defense from Game 1 to 2 is where they played Joel Embiid. Embiid switched off Gasol and onto Siakam in Game 2, impacting the Raptors offense severely.
In Game 1, Siakam scored 29 points on 12-15 shooting. In Game 2, he scored 21 on 9-25 shooting. To say Embiid shut him down would be an understatement.
Embiid is quick enough that he can defend Siakam’s jumpshot well enough; particularly when Siakam is above the break, an area where his jumpshot still needs to grow. As Siakam attempts to attack the lane, Embiid is big enough effective contest Siakam floaters and layups. Pascal has to work for his buckets much more than he did against Harris.
The Raptors need to counter, either by feed Gasol on the perimeter or finding unconventional ways to free Pascal up. Clearly, after watching him shoot under 40-percent from the field, allowing Siakam to attempt to isolate Embiid isn’t enough of a gameplan.
Siakam’s offense is just one of many fixes the Raptors will need to make before Game 3. Heading into Philadelphia, it won’t be easy.