“Where do you go from here?”
“I’m going to Toronto, Game three.”
No team in NBA history has ever come back to win a series when trailing 3-0, so it’s do or die time tonight as the series shifts north. If you’re looking for a ray of positivity, the Raptors bounced back to tie the last two series they were down 2-0 (Bucks 2019, Celtics 2020). It would have been nice to play this game on Thursday to give Gary Trent Jr and Scottie Barnes another recovery day, seeing how Nets/Celtics and Bulls/Bucks are playing game twos tonight. However there will be two off days before Game four on Saturday afternoon.
1. Home Cooking
This is the Raptors first home playoff game since the 2019 Finals, where they had a chance to win the title in Game five. Tip-off is 30 minutes later than usual, so that will give fans extra time to pack Scotiabank Arena. Give Joel Embiid, James Harden and the refs hell from the jump. Does Philly’s stars get the same whistle? Game two’s free throw disparity went viral, even noticed by neutral observers. The fans energy will be crucial to not only get off to a good start (which happened in Game two), but maintain it. Update: Speaking of home cooking, Scottie Barnes was at shootaround without a boot on his foot. No news yet on whether he’ll play.
2. Transition defence
Toronto ranked second in offensive rebounds per game this season but the Raps need to be much more selective on crashing the boards. The Sixers have destroyed the fastbreak points battle with a 51-20 advantage over the first two games. Tyrese Maxey in particular has been a major problem in the open court. The Raptors have also struggled to find shooters in transition, leading to open threes. This problem has reared its ugly head most in the second quarter and is a major reason why both games were in blowout territory by halftime.
3. Make Harden/role players dictate game
The Raptors are giving Harden way too much respect by overhelping and ball watching. The Sixers are shooting 30-62 (48 percent) from three so far this series and many of those shots have come from Raptor defenders sagging off the corners in position to collapse the paint on a Harden drive. He’s not at his peak right now physically to do a lot of damage inside unless its by drawing fouls. Let Harden prove he can torch a one on one matchup before throwing the kitchen sink at him.
Then there is the old theory of role players not making shots on the road in the playoffs. Tobias Harris is 6-8 from three this series. Georges Niang is 3-5. Do those shots fall in Toronto? Even Maxey’s 8-14 rate behind the arc might cool off. More attention should be paid towards stopping Maxey (30.5 ppg, 69% FG this series) than Harden right now.
Tip-Off: 8pm EDT | TV: Sportsnet Ontario/East/Pacific, NBA TV | Radio: TSN Radio 1050
Philadelphia 76ers Results, Lineups & Injuries
Toronto Raptors Results, Lineups & Injuries