Morning Coffee – Mon, Apr 25

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Cover Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6hC-pCclr8&ab_channel=ESPN

NBA Playoffs picks, odds for Celtics at Nets, Raptors at 76ers and Jazz at Mavericks – The Athletic

What can the Sixers do to win Game 5?
Feed off the home crowd and stop playing with your food. There’s absolutely some concern with Joel Embiid’s thumb being problematic for him for the next game, the rest of the series and the rest of the playoffs. But no team in the NBA has ever lost a series after being up 3-0. They were up 3-0 for a reason. Let the Sixers fans create a chaotic environment, get out in transition and score when you force the Raptors into mistakes, especially when it’s a live ball turnover or a long miss.

What can the Raptors do to win Game 5?
We’ll have to see what the deal is with VanVleet’s hip injury, but the Raptors have to find a way to keep Embiid and Harden inefficient. Tyrese Maxey is a monster at home, and he really feeds off that Philly crowd. If he and Tobias Harris can carry some of the offensive load, then Toronto is in trouble. Remember, they have to score against Matisse Thybulle again too. But the Raptors are more than good enough to win another game. They just can’t have any extended lulls in their execution.

Thaddeus Young setting example for Raptors both with play and leadership – Sportsnet

Young had played sparingly during the first three games of the series, in no small part because of a sprained thumb on his shooting hand.

But in Game 4 with rookie Scottie Barnes limited in his own comeback from a sprained ankle and Fred VanVleet having to leave early in the second quarter after straining his hip, Raptors head coach Nick Nurse turned to Young, who has a Swiss Army knife skillset: able to do everything from wrestle with Sixers centre Joel Embiid in the post to pick apart the Sixers zone with pinpoint passes from the inside of defence.

And Young delivered. The Raptors needed his 13 points, 5 rebounds, five assists and three steals on 6-of-9 shooting in his 29 minutes to help them keep their hopes of reeling the Sixers back in after falling behind 3-0 in the series. Game 5 is Monday night. He even provided on the game’s highlights, when he caused Embiid to lose his balance with a cross-over dribble Young used to pull up into a smooth jumper, to the crowd’s delight.

It’s not normally part of his menu. The last time he dropped someone with a crossover?

“This knucklehead,” he said, pointing at Thad Jr. “It happened. I’m sure everyone was going crazy. I’m more excited about the win. I’m happy we got that.”

It’s the entirety of the performance that Young takes pride in. The former lottery pick has carved out a long career by figuring out what teams need and ways to give it to them.

“It’s all about going out there and executing and making sure that I’m always there for my teammates,” said Young. “I’m always putting out that 100 per cent every single day. That’s the plan. We stuck to it [in Game 4] and got the win … I don’t control minutes; I don’t control coaching or anything like that. The only thing I can control is when I’m touching the court. When I touch the court it’s just going out there and proving your work and proving who you are for the period of time you’re in this league.”

It’s the role player’s credo, and not everyone is cut out for it, but Young takes pride in it. It’s an outlook the Raptors were looking for at the trade deadline. The dividends have paid off already in that 22-year-old Precious Achiuwa has credited Young’s example to help accelerate his learning curve as he plays significant minutes in his second season, VanVleet has said how much he appreciates having a true veteran on hand to help with the leadership burden, and Nurse says Young’s attention to detail in practice, film sessions and walk-throughs has helped his younger teammates pick up on game plans as they get more sophisticated as the season goes along.

“Yeah man, he’s the ultimate pro, right?” said Pascal Siakam, who led the Raptors with playoff career-high 34 points in Game 4. “[You] see him every day, he comes in, gets his work done, after, recovery, he’s just a professional with all that. Having someone like him on our team is definitely a plus.

“And I just like the fact that, I don’t think he’s been playing that much in the series – obviously had that thing on his finger – but just having the opportunity to come in and just be ready it shows how professional he is, and he’s been in the league for a long time and he knows what it takes. I think that he was huge for us [in Game 4] in just making plays and defensively understanding the coverages, the matchups, and he’s always talking to us out there and I think he was great.”

Young was especially helpful as the Sixers stayed in a zone for long stretches of the game. He hit one corner three and had good looks at a couple of others, but it was his passing that was even more important, as he connected with Chris Boucher for four of his five assists as Boucher made cuts into seams in the defence and Young found him.

“That’s why I’ve kind of done, especially the last four or five years, is kind of been out there as a guy who can calm everything down when they’re running zone – flashing to middle, staying poised, make the right play,” said Young. “If there’s nothing there you can always throw the ball back out and start again, so just always having patience. That’s what gets us over the hump, having that patience, having that poise throughout the poise of the basketball game.”

Report: MRI confirms torn ligament in Joel Embiid’s right thumb – Liberty Ballers

The good news for the Sixers and their supporters is that the MVP finalist will continue to suit up as the team looks to close out the Toronto Raptors in Monday night’s Game 5 and advance through the Eastern Conference playoffs. However, Philadelphia will ultimately go as far as their superstar big man is able to take him, and he was visibly hampered at times in Saturday’s Game 4, in which he shot 7-of-16 from the field and committed five turnovers. Embiid has been adamant that he will not need to miss time due to the injury, and that it’s a matter of pain tolerance, but a version of Joel at 100 percent versus one at, say, 85 percent, could potentially mean the difference between winning and losing a series.

You have to feel for the big man, who made conditioning a priority coming into this season and played a career-high 68 games during the regular season, averaging a career-high 33.8 minutes per game. Embiid has been particularly snakebitten during postseason competition, having the orbital fracture in 2018, the upper respiratory infection, knee tendonitis, and gastroenteritis in 2019, and the torn meniscus in his right knee last year. Fans wanted to see what a relatively healthy Embiid could do in the postseason at the height of his powers, but now, this unfortunate setback has emerged.

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Embiid will undoubtedly keep pressing on, but the Sixers finishing off this series tomorrow night becomes even more important to afford Joel additional rest and treatment in advance of a second-round series. We’ll continue to keep an eye on that thumb and provide updates as they become available.

With or without VanVleet, Raptors need Trent’s best in Game 5 | The Star

If VanVleet isn’t able to go, Trent could find himself as the only traditional guard in a four-forward starting lineup. And even if VanVleet plays, it’ll likely be Trent who’ll be assigned the difficult task of chasing around Tyrese Maxey — the streak of a Philadelphia guard who’s been particularly deadly in home games, averaging 30.5 points a night in Games 1 and 2 in Philadelphia before cooling off for 15 points a game in Games 3 and 4 in Toronto.

On top of all that, the Raptors, already short on perimeter shooting, will need Trent to fire away with the stroke that, beyond VanVleet, poses Toronto’s best three-point shooting threat.

“It’s playoff basketball, you gotta do anything you can to win the game,” Trent was saying the other day.

Though Trent was severely limited by illness in cameo appearances in Games 1 and 2 — suffering from a virus that jacked his body temperature while dropping his weight 10 pounds — he has bounced back to register a pair of much-needed 24-point performances in Games 3 and 4.

That 24 points is a career playoff high is probably an underplayed storyline. While NBA rookie of the year Scottie Barnes, at age 20, has rightly been the focus of Toronto’s developing core, it’s worth remembering that Trent, now 23, is also a relative neophyte. Heading into this series he’d played a grand total of five career playoff games as a member of the Portland Trail Blazers, starting exactly one. That he’s looked at ease and performed effectively suggests Toronto’s bet on him — like Nurse’s faith that Trent had more to give on defence — was well placed.

Exactly what VanVleet will be able to contribute Monday night is anyone’s guess. As dogged as he’s known to be, the veteran point guard has been nursing a knee injury of late, and the hip trouble only compounds his hurt.

“As you all know, he has been banged around pretty good this year and he continues to lace them up and go out there and play big minutes every night. So, there’s a lot to that. Not every guy in this league does that,” Nurse said of VanVleet after Game 4. “And when you are fighting through one thing and all of a sudden you get another (injury) that feels as painful as it looked to him, then it’s frustrating.”

Trent, for his part, said he is feeling “one thousand per cent” of late.

“Man, I wish I felt like this the first two games,” he said. “I’m good, I’m strong. Just continue to take it game by game and chip away.”

Raptors List Fred VanVleet as Questionable for Game 5 – Sports Illustrated

Fred VanVleet is officially listed as questionable to play for the Toronto Raptors ahead of Monday’s Game 5 against the Philadelphia 76ers.

The 28-year-old guard is battling a left hip flexor strain he suffered in the first half of Saturday afternoon’s Game 4 victory over the 76ers. It’s unclear when exactly he suffered the injury, but took an intentional foul midway through the second quarter and immediately checked himself out of the game. As he walked off the court, he ripped his jersey in frustration.

“First of all, as you all know, he has been banged around pretty good this year and he continues to lace them up and go out there and play big minutes every night,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said post-game. “Not every guy in this league does that. And when you are fighting through one thing and all of a sudden you get another one that feels as painful as it looked to him, then it’s frustrating. He is going to play through a lot of bangs and bruises and bumps and not being healthy and I’m sure he just wanted to play so I’m sure he was frustrated.”

VanVleet went for further imaging following the game but the team has yet to release the results of the MRI.

If VanVleet cannot play, expect Scottie Barnes to see more time at the point guard for the Raptors as Toronto turns to its supersized lineup alongside Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Gary Trent Jr., and Precious Achiuwa or Khem Birch.

Raptors have a life, but the climb out of 3-0 hole is just beginning | Toronto Sun

“We were just talking a little bit about the stuff we have been talking about the last couple of days,” Nurse began. “That we have all talked about here too. That being down 3-0 is difficult, but let’s get it to 3-1 and then it’s not 3-0 anymore. He just kind of repeated that to me. That it wasn’t 3-0 anymore and let’s go have some fun in Philly and see what we can do.”

And really that has to be the mindset despite some circumstances that do not play into the Raptors favour.

The biggest of those being the expected availability of point guard and undisputed leader Fred VanVleet.

VanVleet left Game 4 in some very un-optimistic circumstances.

The man who has played through pain and injuries finally reached the point where he couldn’t go any longer.

Anyone doubting his frustration only had to watch him rip his own jersey down the front on his way to the locker room to be convinced.

To this point the major injury that was limiting VanVleet was believed to be a knee bruise. But this injury is in the hip and he was headed for imaging following Game 4.

Officially he’s listed as questionable for Game 5.

VanVleet didn’t return to the bench after leaving the game, but he was in the hallway with hugs and back slaps aplenty after Siakam, Gary Trent Jr. and the rest of them pulled off the win without him.

How much or if he’ll be able to play in Game 5 remains a question.

With or without him, getting another win in Philadelphia is going to take even more.

In Toronto’s favour heading into Game 5 is the notion that Scottie Barnes is going to be better than he was in his first game back following a severe ankle sprain.

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