When asked whether Lowry thought the league should review the play for possible retroactive punishment, he told ESPN, “I’m personally not going to dwell on it. We have bigger things to fry than something that happened in the first [half] or whatever.”
Those things would, quite specifically, include both Lowry and center Marc Gasol giving them more offensively. For all of the (understandable) talk about Philadelphia’s starters entering this series, Toronto’s starting five has plenty of star power, as well.
Leonard and Siakam (20 points) did their part. Danny Green (13 points in 34 minutes) wasn’t bad, either. Lowry and Gasol, on the other hand — five- and three-time All-Stars, respectively — didn’t come close to matching the production on their glittering résumés. Both looked passive. Gasol was 2-for-6 and scored seven points while recording a minus-26 in 29 minutes.
Meanwhile, Philadelphia received dominant performances from Joel Embiid (33 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists and 5 blocks) and Jimmy Butler (22 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists) and had all five starters finish in double figures.
“We’re being unselfish, and we have to be more selfish,” Lowry told ESPN. “We have to help Kawhi and Pascal, and score more and be a little bit more assertive.
“We’re just being very — we’re passive. We’re too passive to a fault.”
Raptors coach Nick Nurse would agree, as he said after the game the Raptors will have no chance of evening up the series if his team doesn’t show up with more effort and energy in Game 4 on Sunday afternoon.
“Yeah, I think we got outplayed in just about every area we could get outplayed in,” Nurse said. “Just in overall physicality, energy, cutting, rebounding, passing — you know, all of that kind of stuff — we got thoroughly outplayed, and it’s been a while. Right? It’s been a while since we’ve seen this team play that way.
“I think the first adjustment, we’re going to have to make it, I guess we’re going to have to play all of them a lot harder. We’re going to have to play a hell of a lot more physical. I mean, if we don’t do that, the prettiest things we decided to do offensively aren’t going to matter much.”
Besides Leonard — who was spectacular in defeat, finishing with 33 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists as he tried to keep Toronto in the game — there wasn’t much about Toronto’s performance that could be described as pretty. Besides Leonard, Siakam and Green, the Raptors were a combined 10-for-36 from the floor — including 2-for-14 from 3-point range.
The tendencies and behaviour Handy refers to all began overseas. Nurse arrived as a player coach for the Derby Bucks of the British Basketball League in 1990, sporting a crew-cut that had blossomed as a graduate assistant at his alma mater, Northern Iowa, the previous year. The BBL had only been in existence for three seasons, less time than Nurse had run the point in college, but he would grow alongside the division, leading four other British teams over an 11 year span. It was a period of obstacles and opportunities that prepared Nurse – not that anybody knew it – to become an NBA head coach, and was “a lesson in how not to be pampered”, former Bucks owner Tim Rudge says.
The difficulty of landing any job in the NBA is enormous, hence Green’s puzzled look in learning that Nurse’s coaching apprenticeship was in a country known for soccer first and pastimes such as cricket and rugby second. What Green and others probably guessed is, it was never part of the plan.
Iowa to Derby via Germany, Australia and Japan
Every year during the Christmas period, two letters are posted between cities that have likely never connected before. The delivery begins in Derby, England and ends in Carroll, Iowa and is the means by which Chris Squires and Bill Baddeley maintain a friendship they have shared since meeting at a basketball tournament in Holland in the early 90’s. The distance between them is sizeable, but so too is their loyalty to each other, and that began because of basketball. They have been equally faithful to the sport, and it has rewarded them in many ways. Most significantly, they happen to be two of the central characters that landed Nurse his first professional coaching role in England almost 30 years ago. As Baddeley says, “sport shrinks the world”.
The NBA has fined Ben Simmons $20,000 and assessed the Philadelphia 76ers guard a flagrant foul 1 upon league office review for an elbow to the groin of Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry during the Sixers’ win Thursday night.
Kiki VanDeWeghe, the NBA’s executive vice president of basketball operations, announced the penalties Friday. The play occurred in the second quarter when Simmons and Lowry became tangled after going for a rebound under the basket.
While they jostled back-to-back directly under the basket as the ball bounded off the rim, Simmons left his feet before falling onto Lowry’s back and landing on the court in a crouch. Lowry then backpedaled for two steps toward the baseline, extending his backside into Simmons’ head.
The 2018 Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles framed a movement during their memorable run. And the Philadelphia 76ers look to emulate that very motivation in these NBA Playoffs. The Eagles, who wore dog masks to embrace their then-underdog phase in the midst of the postseason, have clearly blazed a trail around championship mentality in Philly. The Sixers could be next, as they gave the “green light” for fans to wear the same mask during their games going forward.
Originally orchestrated by Eagles players Lane Johnson and Chris Long, Sixers fans will likely be repping the city in this title-hungry nature.
“We’ve got to help him. We’ve got to help him,” Raptors guard Kyle Lowry said after Philly’s 116-95 win in Game 3, a night where Leonard scored 33 points and his teammates shot 36 percent. “Myself, especially me. I’ve got to help him. Score more, I’ve got to help him on the floor. We all got to help him.
“He’s playing unbelievable right now. But we’re not giving him any help. Me — I’m not giving him any help. Got to help him.”
Leonard has been brilliant in the playoffs, averaging 31.5 points and 6.9 rebounds while shooting 58 percent. The only player in NBA history who has put up those numbers over a full postseason is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, for the Los Angeles Lakers in 1977.
And the Raptors, who finished the regular season with the NBA’s second-best record despite giving Leonard 22 games off largely for rest and maintenance, are in trouble anyway — down in the series, and needing a win Sunday to avoid a 3-1 hole.
“As bad as everything feels, one win gets this thing back in our favor,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse told reporters in Philadelphia on Friday. “It is simple as that.”
The Toronto Raptors coach had just come from reviewing film of Thursday night’s Game 3 debacle. It was a horror show.
“It was difficult to watch. We obviously didn’t play well enough in a lot of facets of the game,” the coach said, his black monogrammed baseball hat pulled down low on Friday. “So it’s not that much fun to watch a team you know is that much better than that, a team that has been playing very well and competing at a super-high level to play that way.”
The Raptors are searching for answers after a blowout loss to the Philadelphia 76ers that has them trailing the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series 2-1. It has raised all kinds of questions about a roster that was specifically built with a long playoff run in mind, but is coming apart at the seams.
For the third straight game, Kawhi Leonard was spectacular. But the rest of the Raptors looked lost, which brought up concerns Friday about load management — the team’s injury prevention plan that had Leonard miss 22 games in the regular season.
The Raptors won 17 of those Leonard-less games in the regular season. Could having him back playing major minutes throw the rest of the team out of synch?
“It might have last night, right? It felt like it might have last night a little bit,” Nurse conceded.
The Raptors didn’t practise Friday, instead studying video. Meeting the media afterward in a room at the team’s posh downtown hotel, Nurse said it was tough to pinpoint once particular area of the game that was worse than another.
“It was rebounding, it was transition, it was screening, all the physical parts of the game,” he said. “Passing wasn’t as good. Contested shooters wasn’t as good as it needed to be. There were a lot of things.”
In the first three games of the series, Leonard has scored 45, 35, and 33 points.
“His individual offensive brilliance is daunting, haunting, pick whatever word you want to say,” coach Brett Brown said of the 6-foot-7 Leonard after the 76ers’ Game 3 win on Thursday. “You’re sitting there and you’ve got a 6-10 athlete like Ben on him, and he’s busting his tail to try to do a good job, and he just makes tough shots.”
The Raptors’ centerpiece is nearly unstoppable and is seemingly unfazed by shooting from anywhere on the floor with a hand in his face. When Leonard scores over the top of outstretched hands, fading to his left or right, and off one foot, nearly every person in the building shakes their head as if to say, is there anything that this guy can’t do?
The simple answer is, no. The more complex answer is that while Leonard is capable of anything on the floor and there is no chance of completely shutting him down, it is possible to limit his contributions through the course of a game. And if that is done correctly, the thing that Leonard can’t do is carry a team by himself. That’s where Simmons comes in, and he deserves recognition for his efforts in this series.
For a 6-10 player, Simmons’ recovery time is nothing short of amazing. When Simmons is guarding Leonard on the weak side, he makes sure to have a view of both the play and of Leonard. Even when Simmons sags into the paint to help on a drive and the driver kicks out to Leonard, Simmons needs almost no time to slide back up to Leonard, in a defensive stance, ready to withstand an attack. There’s not really much more you can ask of Simmons in those situations.
3-pt FG: 0-7
With 11:46 left in the fourth quarter of Game 1, VanVleet came off a high screen and drained a pull-up jumper from the elbow. It was his first attempt of the series.
It was also his only make.
Since then, the backup point guard has missed all 10 of his shots and is 0-7 from beyond the 3-point line.
MORE: Lowry on Leonard: “We’ve all gotta help him.”
Like Ibaka, VanVleet is getting good looks, but simply has not been able to take advantage. So far in this series, he is 0-5 on shots with no defender within six feet.
“It’s not that much fun to watch a team you know is that much better than that, a team that has been playing very well and competing at a super-high level, to play that way,” said head coach Nick Nurse, one day after Toronto’s 116-95 loss in Game 3 of this second-round series, which the Raptors now trail two games to one.
The Raptors are telling themselves they’re better than this, and they should be right. This Raptors team isn’t the one whose ceiling caved in against LeBron, over and over. It’s different.
But it felt the same. The Raptors entered Game 3 with a ruthless defence and high level of habitual force, and both crumbled. The Sixers had 64 points in the first half. Gasol missed two early perimeter shots and never tried one again, which is a frustrating aspect of his game. Lowry passed up shots, too, and missed eight of the 10 he took. The $40-million (U.S.) bench has become a wasteland.
The numbers are jarring. With Leonard on the court in this series, Toronto has scored 110.7 points per 100 possessions. That would rank 11th in the regular season, or sixth in these playoffs. It’s enough.
As we detailed in the wee hours of Friday morning, Philadelphia’s plan to get Embiid involved in a multitude of ways was also a big key to Philadelphia’s blowout win in Game 3. The Sixers have figured out a counter to Gasol’s stout defense on Embiid, and they did so coming off of a big win on the road, which could have lulled them into a false sense of comfort heading home.
There has been none of that so far. Anytime the opposing coach is questioning his team’s effort in a postgame presser, you know that you’ve taken the upper hand. That was all Nick Nurse wanted to discuss on Thursday night when questioned on adjustments the team might make.
“I think the first adjustment we’re going to have to make,” Nurse said Thursday, “is we’re going to have to play a helluva lot harder, right? And we’re gonna have to play a helluva lot more physical. And if we don’t do that, the prettiest things that we decide to do offensively aren’t gonna matter much.”
Brown has pulled all the right strings so far. There’s plenty of time left for this to go south, and I would expect some different looks from Toronto on Sunday. One area I think we’ll see them explore — screening for the screener to free up shooters like Danny Green, if not for shots from deep than at least to get them space for cuts.
But this is what everyone has wanted to see from the head coach in a pivotal playoff run. It’s up to Brown and everyone else to buckle down and take a commanding lead in Game 4.
With Leonard on the floor, the Raptors are scoring 110.7 points per 100 possessions which is very good. Their net rating is 7.2. With the exception of Game 4, they’ve looked dominant.
But in the 27 minutes Leonard hasn’t played in the series, Toronto turns into squirrels racing around, jumping from place to place, accomplishing nothing. They have scored 54.1 points/100 possessions with a net rating of -52.5.
The non-Leonard lineups cannot play worse than that. It’s hard to imagine any collection of any five NBA players playing worse.
And the wild thing?
During the regular season, the same group of Raptors thrived when Leonard was being load managed. They went 17-5 and averaged 117.2 points a game, with 28.6 assists and only 23.4 turnovers. Extrapolated over an entire season the Kawhi-less Raptors would have been the equivalent of a 63-win team that was third in the league in scoring and second in assists.
Now that’s probably a stretch, but it is proof over a fairly significant sample that the Raptors success this year wasn’t only dependant on Leonard, far from it. And it also suggests that it makes no sense that with Leonard off the floor, the remaining Raptors turn into a ninth-grade team playing the 76ers varsity.
Are the Raptors, like everyone else, too caught up in watching Leonard paint the analytic version of the Mona Lisa? Does Leonard’s brilliance throw them off?
Kawhi Leonard has been tremendous throughout the postseason, but the rest of Toronto’s roster has struggled of late. How will the Raptors’ series against the Sixers potentially impact Leonard’s future? SI Now’s Robin Lundberg and Amy Campbell weigh in.
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.
Kawhi Leonard continued his dominant playoffs, dropping 33 points in the Raptors’ Game 3 loss. But the big question is where is his help, specifically from fellow All-Star Kyle Lowry? ESPN’s Get Up! crew discusses after the point guard went 2-for-10 from the field Thursday night, finishing with just seven points.
The Raptors got waxed. The 116-95 final score doesn’t quite do justice to how one-sided the game felt. Within minutes it had become clear that the teams were competing across wildly mismatched weight classes: the Raptors frantically scrambling to close the gap and land anything of consequence, and the Sixers calmly maintaining arm’s-length distance and occasionally punishing all of Toronto’s sweaty effort with a knee-buckling combination. The shots the Sixers wanted they cruised into, via the bare-minimal application of attention and focus; the Raptors had to settle for whatever low-percentage crap poor, lonely, heroic Kawhi Leonard could improvise off the bounce against a defense ever more boldly just ignoring all but one of his teammates. It doesn’t seem like a fair fight.
No one player embodied that mismatch more than Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, who made the Raptors look puny and hopeless on both ends of the floor. For fun, here’s him rolling down the middle of the lane for a frickin’ windmill dunk midway through the fourth quarter …
Nobody even thinks about giving a hard foul here. Why bother?
… a quarter in which it only seemed like Embiid outscored the Raptors 50-2, but in which it definitely became clear that nothing short of his untimely total disintegration will get the Raptors to the conference finals. He finished with 33 points, 10 rebounds, and five blocks that felt more like 20; in the second half Toronto’s interior offense lapsed out of all function. When Embiid was on the floor, the Sixers outscored Toronto by 31 points.
After Game 1 the Gasol trade briefly looked ingenious, like it had given the Raptors a legitimate Embiid stopper. That idea seems ludicrous now. Gasol went minus-26 in 29 minutes last night; if you can spot a point where he successfully made things hard for Embiid in the below video, you’ve got better eyes than I do.