Pregame news and notes: Sink or Swim, but without Scottie Barnes

We’ve seen the Toronto Raptors go down 0-2 before. We’ve seen them swept and we’ve seen them win the series. It should be easy to tell what you’re looking at, but truths can be hidden. Either way, we’re about to find out tonight.

Scottie Barnes is officially out tonight. Nick Nurse said before the game he’ll probably be ready to go for Game 4. Trent is feeling “a bit better” but far from perfect. Nurse was concerned with his breathing, which he said is due to his illness. Thad Young isn’t on the injury report at all, and though he was a relative non-factor in Game 2 after spraining his thumb in the first contest, it has to be assumed the team will continue to rely on him.

In other words, reinforcements probably aren’t marching through the door. The Raptors are going to have to make do with what they’ve got already in the room. And that’s doable! Let’s start with the positives, especially the most important one.

The Raptors are punching even with the Sixers in the half court. That’s not a typo: The Sixers have outscored the Raptors by 20 points in transition, 52-32. They’re shooting 77.8 percent from the floor and Toronto 41.7 percent on far fewer attempts besides. This series was always going to come down to identity on Toronto’s defensive side of the floor (I at least got that right in my series preview!), which is the mountain from which the stream of transition offense flows. The Raps just haven’t gotten stops and beyond that haven’t forced turnovers, which means they haven’t been able to power the engine that makes the car go.

“We’ve got to get the ‘Toronto Raptors flying-around’ defense going here,” said Nick Nurse pre-game. True: for a lot of reasons. If the Raps can punch with the Sixers in the half court, then they can still win this series! Toronto is supposed to be one of the best transition teams — both offensively and defensively — in the league. If they can live up to that, they’re golden.

Individually, there have been a ton of issues. The Raptors just haven’t put any schemes into place against guys like Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris, and Danny Green — all of whom have torched the Raptors at various points in the series. Nurse says there are schemes, but they haven’t been executed. Rotations haven’t been crisp, which both means Sixers have scored easily and the Raptors haven’t forced transition play. It all stems from the same cause.

The Raps haven’t lacked energy or intensity or will or any other of those playoff buzzwords. They haven’t lived up to their collective identity. Getting back to Scotiabank helps.

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Philadelphia Probable Lineup

PF: T. Harris, P. Reed, P. Millsap
SF: D. Green, G. Niang,
C: J. Embiid, D. Jordan
PG: J. Harden, S. Milton
SG: T. Maxey, F. Korkmaz, I. Joe, J. Springer

Toronto Probable Lineup

Once again, Barnes is officially out, says Nurse. Trent is feeling better and almost certainly will play.

PF: P. Siakam, C. Boucher, T. Young,
SF: O. Anunoby, Y. Watanabe
C: P. Achiuwa, K. Birch
PG: F. VanVleet, M. Flynn, D. Banton
SG: G. Trent Jr., A. Brooks, S. Mykhailiuk, I. Bonga

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