Game 6 of the Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers was a microcosm of the entire series.
A roller coaster.
The Sixers started the game with a 7-0 run before the Raptors responded with 10 straight points to go up 15-13 in the first quarter.
Philadelphia went on an 8-0 run to regain the lead and never looked back.
The Sixers dominated the Raptors 112-101 to force a do-or-die Game 7. Given the back-and-forth, unpredictable nature of the six Raptors/Sixers games, it felt appropriate that the series was going the distance.
— Dave Uram (@MrUram) May 10, 2019
“We have to play harder,” Lowry said. “We have to do everything we need to do to win the game. It’s do or die, win or go home.”
From one game to the next, momentum was difficult to achieve. After the Raptors set a franchise playoff record in the margin of victory in Game 5 (36 points), there was optimism with a chance to go to the Eastern Conference Finals in Game 6.
But in an uncertain series, the Sixers played with the urgency of a team facing elimination. They outplayed the Raptors on the glass with 52 rebounds, shot 46.1 percent from the field and had six players with double-digit points.
The Raptors only had three players in double-digits.
“We didn’t play with enough force, we didn’t play hard enough, we didn’t stand in there, we didn’t play with enough physicality,” Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said.
Similar to Game 3, the Sixers defense played with a ferocious intensity. Their length and size allowed for successful double teams on Raptors star Kawhi Leonard, who shot 9-of-20 from the field.
The Sixers also clogged the paint, preventing the Raptor players from getting quality shots inside. This meant that the Raptors struggled to dictate their pace on offense, constantly slowed in transition by the Sixers lock-down, half-court defense.
With a Game 7 on the horizon, there was an uneasiness amongst Raptors fans. While any do-or-die game is important, this one felt different. It was an opportunity to avenge two previous playoff appearances that ended in the second round. With Kawhi leading the way, a Raptors win provides this team with the belief that making the NBA Finals is possible.
Toronto had every reason to be confident going into Game 7. For starters, the Raptors were playing in front of their raucous home fans in Scotiabank Arena. A venue where they won two games against the Sixers already.
In the two wins at home, the Raptors outplayed the Sixers. They successfully utilized Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka to guard Embiid. And they distributed the scoring so that Leonard did not have to inherit the entire offensive burden.
Which Joel Embiid was going to show up for the Sixers was a question that hovered over Game 7. His moments ranged from struggling with flu-like symptoms to doing “airplane” celebrations.
With Embiid on the floor, the Sixers outscored the Raptors by 21 points per 100 possessions. In Embiid’s 96 minutes off the floor, the Raptors beat the Sixers by 46 points per 100 possessions.
Given the Raptors experienced roster, the stage was set for the franchise to exorcise its recent playoff demons.
Giving a city and an entire nation a team to believe in.
**NOTE: Game 7 of the Raptors/Sixers Series will reair at 8 pm EST on Sportsnet Tuesday, March 31st**