Morning Coffee – Fri, Apr 29

56 mins read
Cover Photo by Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

10 things: Raptors come undone as Sixers finish things off in Game 6 – Sportsnet

Five – This was a learning experience for Barnes: The Sixers actively funneled the action towards him and dared the rookie to beat them, and he couldn’t. Barnes confidently stepped into his threes, but every team in the league will live with him attempting seven in a game because he’s still very inconsistent at this stage of his development. The Sixers also had Embiid assigned to Barnes, although he largely ignored him and roamed in the paint. In the occasions where Barnes did attack, he was able to score on Embiid on occasion which is truly impressive, but it wasn’t at the consistency where the Sixers were made to reshape their strategy. In a few seasons, when Barnes expands his skillset and becomes the star that he is capable of becoming, he will be on the opposite end of this strategy where he is the one being doubled. But for now, he needs to improve his outside shot, and to develop his scoring even further because teams will keep challenging him as the Sixers did here.

Raptors have raised ceiling, but there’s still a long way to go – Sportsnet

It wasn’t how the Raptors drew it up.

The Sixers had put themselves in a pickle and the hope was they might not be able to pull themselves out from their own salty brine.

“We got no choice now,” former Raptor and now Sixers guard Danny Green said before Game 6. “We either got to put up or fold.”

In contrast, the Raptors were looking to double-down on house money.

Just by forcing a Game 6, the Raptors already surpassed all but 14 teams of the 143 clubs that had gone down 0-3 in a playoff series before this season. A win Thursday night would have made the Raptors just the fourth team to force a Game 7 from that deep a hole and – as every school-aged child in Toronto probably knows by now – a win on Saturday would make them the first team to win a series after losing the first three games.

But winning Game 6 was a vital first step, and Toronto stumbled.

“Obviously it hurts so it’s kinda hard to think how far we came [this season] and how many guys on this team just showed up night in and night out,” said Boucher. “… And the fact that we made it to the playoffs and were down 3-0 and fought all the way back, I think it showed the character and the fight that we have. It’s just what this team has been going through all year, it wasn’t easy. It’s a special group of guys and like I said, I wouldn’t want to be in the fight with anybody else.”

In the early going, there was concerning signs for the Raptors and encouraging ones for the Sixers. Harden – a non-factor in Game 5 and carrying the collective weight of several playoff failures – came out aggressively, coming off screens and driving. He had one dunk, got fouled trying to dunk another time and finished the first quarter with 10 points and five assists. Each of Maxey and Harris – the role players who were essential in Philly jumping out to a 3-0 lead – hit threes XXX as Philadelphia led 34-29 after the first quarter.

The Raptors’ best moments came in the second quarter. Having taken Philadelphia’s first punch early, Toronto began to hit back in the form of an 11-0 run engineered by a far more aggressive Siakam, who looked like the player who dissected the Sixers in Game 5 and topped off by Boucher, who played as if shot from a cannon. His triple gave the Raptors a five-point lead on his way to putting up 19 points and nine rebounds in the first half. But it was Siakam who was carrying the groceries. Possession after possession, he isolated at the top of the circle, hunted the matchup he wanted, put it on the floor, got his feet in the paint and scored. It was big-time stuff, though not quite enough to keep the Raptors in front heading into the half as the three triples by Green in the second quarter helped Philly to a 62-61 halftime lead.

It looked promising, but then then the second half happened, or the third quarter at least, and the Raptors’ pluck finally ran out.

Even in defeat, it’s a season that has to be deemed a triumph, and a building block. Being swept of even losing in five games would have been an unfair resolution to year that has been overwhelmingly full of positives, and which has reset the franchise’s trajectory in the post-Kyle Lowry era.

In no particular order the Raptors ‘wins’ this season include exceeding the oddsmaker’s actual projected win total by a dozen; having Siakam returning to All-NBA form after some time in the wilderness; VanVleet making his first all-star team and seeing Precious Achiuwa transition from project to fixture in the matter of months.

But wait, there’s more: In between injuries, OG Anunoby has looked like a borderline all-star at times and never more than in the playoffs, his five points and one rebound in Game 6 notwithstanding. Trent Jr., has advanced from curiosity to constant and Boucher has cemented his role as a game-changer off the bench.

And all of that on top of choosing the rookie-of-the-year Barnes in a deep draft with the No.4 pick?

There is no chance the Raptors wouldn’t have signed off on that when the season started. It was a season for development, and Toronto checked off a lot of boxes.

But in some essential ways, the Raptors are who you thought they were. Coming out of training camp, the plan was to make a commitment to crashing the offensive glass, and play an aggressive, swarming defensively style where they used their overall team length to be aggressive on the ball and in passing lanes to force turnovers. Both strategies were to compensate for predictable weakness, based on their personnel: poor shooting.

NBA playoffs: Raptors fight until the bitter end in series loss to Sixers – Yahoo!

This is a team that no one expected to be in the playoffs, that fought their way to a No. 5 seed in a competitive Eastern Conference despite consistently losing their best players to injuries and COVID-related absences. It’s a team that nobody expected to fight out of a 3-0 hole once Joel Embiid hit a buzzer-beater in overtime of Game 3, that fought back in the series, becoming just the 14th out of 143 teams in NBA history to rally back and force a Game 6.

The Raptors lost Game 6, but they fought all game long and left it all on the floor. That’s cliche to say, but as a fan of a sports team, what else can you ask for? Especially coming off a two-year relocation due to a global pandemic, the Raptors returned to Toronto and gave their basketball-deprived fans something to cheer for. It wasn’t always easy, but they fought nonetheless.

“My message [after the game] was that, as a whole, I thought we went through a tremendous amount this year with a number of things and we just kept fighting and kept playing and kept getting better and kept figuring things out,” Nick Nurse said about his message to the locker room following the loss.

“And it was never really smooth, right? There was always a big ol’ bump in the road. We’d win six and three guys would get hurt and we’d have to reassemble and lose three and win six and lose three and, you know, it was continually picking ourselves back up all year long. And I give ‘em a lot of credit for that, [for] hanging in there.”

When I asked franchise icon Kyle Lowry if this year’s team reminds him of the best teams that he played for as a member of the Raptors, this is how he responded:

“Yeah. They play hard every night. They’re all over the place. They scramble. They’re athletic, they help each other very well. They don’t give up much.”

“They remind me a lot of just the team that, when we were down 15 in the fourth quarter, we [used to] find ways to win games, scrap and claw and find a way, and fight to win a game. That’s what these guys do. There’s never a moment where they just don’t feel like they can’t win the game.”

After a dominant closeout performance in Toronto, what did we learn about the Sixers in Round 1? – The Athletic

The Sixers were likely not going to survive if they let Chris Boucher and the Raptors rebound 40 percent of their misses. Even with a one-point game at halftime, Doc Rivers sensed that the Sixers never wavered.

“I told our guys this was the most serious game that I think we played this year. Like, just no messing around,” Rivers said. “I thought we came with a great intent and that’s a lesson.”

Listening to Rivers and some of the Sixers players, there was a sense that they felt some of their issues from Games 4 and 5 were self-inflicted. Harris used the word “slippage.” And it did feel like the Sixers’ level of focus in Games 1, 2 and 6 were at a different level than the rest of the series.

This series was always going to be more about the Sixers. It ultimately came down to a more talented, healthier, more experienced team showing up more times than not. Rivers said that he cut Thursday’s shootaround short because he sensed that he had an annoyed team ready to take care of business. But Rivers also finished his initial thought by congratulating the Raptors and the unique challenges that they presented to his team. As he accurately summarized, the Raptors pushed the Sixers as the series moved along.

“This series made us a better basketball team,” Rivers said. “We actually needed them in some ways. We are a new team and we’re still growing. With all the switching and all the things they did, I thought it was really good for our team. I thought it was really something good to go through.”

In his postgame interview on NBA TV, Joel Embiid spoke about how he believed the Raptors prepared him well for a Miami team that also likes to switch and throw unorthodox defensive looks. But what else did we learn about the Sixers?

The first thing we learned is that Harden is still capable, on the right night, of leading a devastatingly efficient offensive attack. This was not an easy matchup for Harden on paper and he confirmed after the game that it was one of the toughest series he has played in due to the Raptors’ switching, athleticism, length and schemes. As he put it, “They just mess up the game, credit to Nick Nurse.” And Harden did struggle in some respects, particularly in shooting a measly 37 percent from two-point range through five games.

This version of Harden is likely going to have his ups and downs, but the ups are still there. It’s just important to note that the ups are not going to feature the volume scoring that the 32-year-old supplied during his prime in Houston. Instead, it’s a mix of both scoring and high-volume playmaking. In the opening and closing games of the series, Harden supplied a combined 29 assists to 4 turnovers.

Against the Raptors switching defense, the Sixers found success running double drags and stagger screens for Harden with the weakest defender’s man (Danny Green) first and Embiid slipping the screen second. This got Harden downhill with Embiid as an outlet.

Sixers Playoff Bell Ringer: Sixers finally close out Raptors with excellent effort in Toronto – Liberty Ballers

Joel Embiid: 33 points, 10 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 3 blocks, 1 turnover
After what was his poorest performance of the series on both ends in Game 5, you knew Joel Embiid would raise his game in this critical Game 6. And he certainly did, starting with his effort on the defensive side of the ball. Joel was much more attentive, sliding over for an early charge, lurking for a pair of helpside blocks of Precious Achiuwa in the first half, and being his overall usual menacing self. Offensively, Joel didn’t have the three ball working, but his mid-range game was silky smooth, and he got back to powerfully attacking the rim where the undersized Raptors had little recourse but to foul. Embiid would end his night 9-of-10 from the charity stripe. In the midst of putting the game away for good with 12 fourth-quarter points, Joel even briefly brought back his airplane celebration to the “delight” of the Toronto crowd following a dunk with a few minutes in the game. Ever the showman, Joel.

James Harden: 22 points, 6 rebounds, 15 assists, 3 turnovers
In his Game 5 post-game press conference, Joel Embiid said he would like Harden to be more aggressive. He got his wish tonight. The Beard looked spry right from the opening tip, getting to the rim right away for easy assists and points of his own. If there was any doubt that Harden was bringing an attacking mentality to the table in Game 6, you only had to wait three minutes to witness this incredible hammer dunk down the lane.

With his 15 assists, Harden was the head of a hyper-efficient offense throughout the night, working the drive-and-kick game expertly. Later on, he even chipped in a couple of his signature step-back threes. However, there was a brief scare after one of those made threes when OG Anunoby came down on Harden’s ankle, leaving the Sixers guard lying on the floor in pain for some time. After a timeout, James did remain in the game, so hopefully, it was a passing discomfort. The Sixers will need this outstanding version of Harden on a more consistent basis moving forward against Miami.

Tyrese Maxey: 25 points, 3 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 turnovers
Against the team that had a chance to trade for him a year ago, it’s only fitting that Tyrese Maxey was the tip of the spear delivering the finishing blow to the Raptors’ season. In the game-breaking third quarter, Maxey went absolutely wild, hitting three of his five three-pointers on the night and scoring 15 points in the frame. In addition to his hot perimeter shooting, Maxey flashed his lightning-quick speed in transition and as a playmaker in the half court. After a couple down games, it was thrilling to see the rising star version of Tyrese re-emerge.

Sixers advance to the second round with Game 6 win over Toronto – Liberty Ballers

It was an excellent shooting night from beyond the arc for Tyrese Maxey. After going 2-of-5 in the first half, the second-year standout’s three made threes and 11 points in the third quarter were crucial to the Sixers getting out to a double-digit lead.

The Sixers mixed up their center rotation slightly, subbing in Paul Reed when Embiid would normally play the entire first and third quarters. This adjustment worked out well for Philly, as Toronto didn’t go on massive runs with Embiid on the bench. Reed’s skillset was much needed for rebounding reinforcements in this series.

After the last two games, it was so refreshing from a Philly perspective to see them push the lead to 20 in the third quarter. They shot 11-of-19 in the third quarter. For the first time since Game 2, they easily looked like the superior team in the series.

Harden found his step-back stroke in the second half. If his three-point shot starts falling at a high clip, that will be a game-changer for the Sixers moving forward.

2022 NBA Playoffs: Toronto Raptors – Philadelphia 76ers Game 6 Recap – Raptors HQ

Philadelphia was fuelled by Joel Embiid, who shot 12-for-18, scored 33 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, and amassed 3 blocks. This time, he waited until the game was decided before busting out his airplane wings.

Riding along with Embiid, James Harden (22 points, 15 assists, and 6 rebounds), Tobias Harris (19 points and 11 rebounds), and Tyrese Maxey (25 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 threes) each took turns breaking the defensive schemes of a Toronto squad that was without Fred VanVleet.

Without their floor general again, the Raptors received a boost from the bench in the form of Chris Boucher. He almost had a double-double in the first half (19 points and 9 rebounds). Slimm Duck finished the game with 25 points and 10 rebounds.

In the second quarter, Pascal Siakam appeared to be on his way to another dominant performance, attacking Harden and Harris relentlessly, turning a first-quarter deficit into a second-quarter lead. He would finish with 24 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists.

The Scotiabank Arena crowd was late arriving, but those that were in the building on time made sure to compensate for the noise. The players on the court made sure to reciprocate by scoring in seven of their first 10 field goal attempts. On the opening two possessions, Scottie Barnes scored in the paint over Joel Embiid, then followed that with an assertive 1-on-1 move to score over the MVP candidate.

Gary Trent Jr. continued to show he has fully recovered from the illness that plagued him at the start of the series, leading the Raptors with 11 points in the opening quarter.


For Philadelphia, Harden got the memo and attacked the basket with purpose. By my count, he drove 8 times in the first five minutes. Whether it was kickouts to awaiting shooters beyond the arc, laying it in with ease, or forcing the refs to blow the whistle, Harden was a man on a mission.

The second quarter started similarly to the first quarter, with the Raptors attacking with purpose, scoring 17 in the first five minutes. The Thad Young — Chris Boucher connection continued to thrive. On two possessions within the first minute of the second quarter, Thad found Chris on a backcut for a layup, followed by another cut that led to free throws.

Keeping Philadelphia afloat, despite a raucous Scotiabank Arena, was someone who is quite familiar with this atmosphere, Danny Green. Whether he was setting up shop in the corner, making timely hustle plays, or even hitting a stepback three, Green’s 12 first-half points were just what (the) Doc(tor) ordered.

All series long, Doc has had his troops ready coming out of halftime, winning the third quarter in every game of the series. Game 6 was no different as Harden and Maxey re-established the assertiveness that fuelled Philadelphia’s hot start to the game.

In the end, the Raptors were predictably undone by their lack of shooting – The Athletic

The Raptors’ season ended the same way it began, back in October against Washington: They created more field-goal attempts than their opponents by way of a few means, but just couldn’t make them count because of a lack of shooting. In between that beginning and ending, the Raptors showed themselves to be a funky team with some paths to competence in the half court. However, their worst moments, including their season-ending 132-97 loss to Philadelphia on Thursday, prominently featured a lack of perimeter shooting and playmaking. The Raptors shot 7-for-35 from deep.

“I don’t know how many 3s they made,” Siakam said, “but we didn’t make any 3s, really.

“We have to develop in a lot of areas. (Shooting) is definitely one of them.”

To pin it all on the offence would be silly. The 76ers handled the Raptors comfortably in three of their four wins, and the crumbling of the Raptors’ defensive schemes was a theme in all of those defeats. In Game 6, Gary Trent’s individual defence proved a weak spot, and the 76ers exploited it. The Raptors allowed nearly 120 points per 100 possessions for the series. That’s not adequate.

However, in the modern NBA, good offence often beats good defence. In other words, games like Game 6 are going to happen. The Raptors have to be able to keep up, at least some of the time, in games that make it into the high 110s or low 120s. They need more than one plausible path to victory.

With the Raptors not getting much in transition, the 76ers were able to funnel Siakam and his passes in the directions they wanted — to Barnes or Thaddeus Young or Precious Achiuwa. All of those players can hit 3-pointers, but they are not high-volume shot takers. Those players didn’t make the 76ers pay for the outside at any point in the series. For a 76ers defence that prefers to have Joel Embiid drop back into the paint, there were too many players for his teammates to ignore to close down the paint.

Siakam could only do so much. He was sensational again in the first half, hitting a collection of tough floaters and jumpers to help the Raptors keep pace with the Sixers, who were finding their points a lot more easily. Siakam already was a champion, an All-Star and an All-NBA player, but his performance in the back half of this series should help make him a franchise icon. Siakam essentially was the Raptors’ entire half-court offence without the injured Fred VanVleet, and he made play after play to keep his team chugging along, until he simply ran out of gas.

Ultimately, his space disappeared. Philadelphia trapped him aggressively in the second half, and Siakam, perhaps, was a beat or two slow in getting rid of the ball. If he did not have enough faith in his teammates, it was at least understandable. He had to do almost everything for the offence after VanVleet left the series.

“I thought he, for the most part, made the right reads,” Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said. “It was the other guys that didn’t make the right reads, and that’s disappointing to me because it’s something we work on almost every single day to start practice. … For whatever reason, we would make the one pass, and that guy would hold it and not make the next one. … And then when we did do it right, we’d miss the shot. So, there was a lot of confidence lost playing against that when there shouldn’t be.”

Raptors’ valiant comeback bid falls short but series epitomized their season –

Expectations were modest, at best, when this group first came together in the fall. They had one of the league’s youngest and most uniquely constructed rosters and, for the first time in a decade, they were opening training camp without . Vegas set their pre-season win total at 36.5.

Despite some early-season growing pains, a mid-season COVID outbreak, and a myriad of injuries to key players, they sailed past that mark in early March and finished with 48 victories. Most people figured they would be in the mix for the play-in tournament. Instead, they were in contention for home-court advantage until the penultimate day of the campaign. They ended up in the fifth seed and, following a one-year blip, they returned to the playoffs.

So, when their first-round series called for them to overcome injuries and illness or defy the odds and expectations, they didn’t flinch. In most cases, when a team finds itself in a seemingly insurmountable 0-3 hole, they know the end is near and human nature kicks in. Usually, they take their foot off the gas and start looking ahead to their vacation or planning for the off-season. Very rarely do they find the mental fortitude to push harder. Somehow, Toronto did.

Led by , who followed a scoreless second half in Game 3 with a playoff career-high 34-point performance, the Raptors avoided the sweep with a convincing Game 4 win. Then, they went on the road, led for all but 21 seconds in the opening quarter, and stole Game 5 without their all-star point guard . They never lacked for belief, but with Philly’s own crowd turning on them, the Sixers looked like they were starting to believe it was possible too. Of the 146 teams to trail 3-0 in a best-of-seven, Toronto was just the 14th to force a Game 6.

They went toe-to-toe with the Sixers during a competitive first half on Thursday, with Philadelphia leading by one point at the break, before running out of steam in a nightmare third quarter. Toronto shot 5-for-19 from the field and 2-for-11 from three-point range, and was outscored 37-17 over a 12-minute stretch that essentially sealed its fate.

In the span of just two or three games, we saw both the pros and the cons of this season’s great experiment – building a position-less roster around versatile and athletic players, most of them of similar size and skill set. At its best, it looks like it did in Games 4 and 5, with all of its length and quickness flying around and wreaking havoc on defence. But when they’re not locked in or they’re exposed for their lack of shooting and scoring in the half court, it can look like it did in the second half of Game 6.

Playing without VanVleet, one of their three legitimate shooting threats, and with another, , in foul trouble, the Sixers trapped Siakam and Toronto didn’t have an answer offensively. The Raptors were never going to have the talent advantage in this series, not against a team led by an MVP frontrunner and a former MVP, and while they made up for that by simply outplaying Philly at various points, Embiid and were too much in the end.

“Obviously it hurts, so its kinda hard to think about how far we came,” said Boucher, one of the bright spots of Game 6, who scored 19 of his playoff career-high 25 points in the first half. “It’s a great group of guys and I feel like we learned so much. The fact that we made it to the playoffs and were down 3-0 and fought all the way back, I think it showed the character and the fight that we have. It’s a special group of guys and I wouldn’t want to a fight with anybody else.”

It’s not hard to imagine a universe in which the series plays out very differently.

What if Embiid had never stepped on the foot of Scottie Barnes in Game 1? What if never hurt his thumb or Trent didn’t come down with a viral illness that limited him through the first half of the series?

What if VanVleet was closer to full strength coming into the series, or healthy enough to finish it? But mostly, what if the Raptors had been able to close out Game 3?

These are questions that might weigh on the minds of Toronto’s players and staff over the next few days, or maybe even weeks. Fortunately, that sting of disappointment shouldn’t stick with them very long.

The Raptors’ season ends in Game 6 against the Sixers | The Star

After gambling, successfully in the bigger picture, on a roster long on lanky defensive forwards and very short on shooters, the Raptors paid dearly for a lack of offence at critical junctures of Thursday’s season-ending loss.

The Sixers put the game away with a 25-6 run to start the third quarter — 17-0 at one point — and the Raptors couldn’t find anyone who could make a bunch of shots to solve the onslaught.

Without injured Fred VanVleet — the team’s best shooter, but more important the guy who could get other shooters good, consistent looks — the Raptors offence sputtered most of the night.

Only Chris Boucher and Pascal Siakam had above-average offensive nights when the Raptors needed more, from more players, because their transition defence wasn’t up to the occasion.

While Gary Trent had 19 points, he was scorched most of the night by a resurgent James Harden, who exploded for 22 points and 15 assists.

OG Anunoby was ineffective — five points after two quick fouls in the first quarter — and Precious Achiuwa did not score a point until the game was long over in the fourth quarter.

The Raptors shot just 32 per cent as a team from three-point range in the first five games of the series, then struggled even worse on Thursday. They were 7-for-35 from beyond the arc, not nearly good enough even if the shots weren’t bad.

“Just a couple of guys were anxious to make an impact on the game,” Nurse said. “I said it before the game: It’s a fine line between being aggressive and a bad shot. It’s a fine line. But again, don’t fault our guys for the aggressiveness and spirit they’ve played with all year long. I’m not going to hang that one on anyone tonight.”

The Sixers, who appeared reeling from two straight losses after taking the 3-0 lead, just dictated the pace of the game from the opening tip.

Harden and Joel Embiid (33 points) were, of course, central to their attack, but Danny Green, Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris also stepped up when Toronto’s counterparts didn’t.

The Raptors couldn’t have been surprised that the Sixers came out looking to dictate the pace because they were run out of the gym at times in Games 4 and 5.

The Raptors certainly weren’t up to speed early, as Harden got to the rim easily in a 10-point first quarter that was Philadelphia’s best in two games. And when the Raptors made seven of their first eight shots, a Sixers zone defence befuddled them into nine straight misses.

Cue Siakam and Boucher, whose combined second quarter kept the Raptors in the game. Siakam made six of eight shots, Boucher was four-for-six from the floor as each played the entire quarter.

Siakam finished with 24 points, seven rebounds and six assists in what, when it’s all looked at clearly, was an impressive series. Boucher had a great 25-point, 10-rebound game.

“I think it showed the character and the fight that we have,” Boucher said. “It’s just what this team has been going through all year. It wasn’t easy. It’s a special group of guys, and like I said, wouldn’t want to fight with anybody else.”

The magic ends in Game 6 as Raptors’ season ends with blowout loss to the Sixers | Toronto Sun

At some point the idea that the Raptors might just pull this off and become the first time in NBA history to rebound from a 3-0 hole started to seem believable.

And it stayed that way until Tyrese Maxey, the 76er who jumped on the Raptors in Game 1 putting them in that early hole, finally re-asserted his dominance in this series in that third quarter with 15 points. He would finish with 25 and the Sixers wouldn’t look back.

Raptors head coach Nick Nurse was understandably disappointed with the result, but the defensive effort in that second half in particular.

“You’ve got to give yourself a chance by executing your defensive schemes and the last three games we did that and tonight we didn’t,” Nurse said. “We got to understand that that stuff has to get done to give ourselves the best chance to win and for whatever reason tonight we made a lot of mistakes in our schemes and we were scrambling a lot tonight.”

The Raptors were outscored 37-17 in the third quarter and never got back in the game.

Embiid, who has had his issues playing in Toronto and has been booed every time he touched the ball while on the Scotiabank Court throughout this series, enjoyed this one to the hilt.

As the Sixers lead grew through the game-turning third quarter and into the fourth, Embiid could be seen cupping his hand to his ear wondering where all the noise had gone.

Midway through the fourth on his way to the bench during a timeout he exchanged words with the fans seated on the baseline by the Sixers bench.

It was there that he broke out the airplane pose with arms spread that earned him so much vitriol in the series the Raptors beat the Sixers in on their way to the championship in 2019..

Then, in case it was missed the first time Embiid once against spread his arms and airplanced his way back up the court having just extended the league to 27 with a bucket.

He was smiling broadly for a handful of seconds until Siakam came down and caught him flush in the face with an elbow as he went up to score.

Siakam was apologetic in the aftermath searching out Embiid, his countryman in the post-game and making sure he understood the knock to the head that took Embiid out of the game was not intentional.

Successful Raptors Season Comes to an End with Loss to 76ers – Sports Illustrated

For all the flack Siakam took following a disappointing Game 3, the 28-year-old forward has repeatedly risen to the call when he and the Raptors have had their backs against the wall. He came out aggressive and ready to go in games four and five, and Game 6 was no different.

He got to the bucket early and often, going at Embiid in the short mid-range. Things did slow down a bit for Siakam after an 18-point first half, but an early third-quarter run by the 76ers quickly put Philadelphia up 20 points and Toronto never got close.

“I thought he for the most part made the right reads,” Nurse said of Siakam. “It was the other guys that didn’t make the right reads and that’s disappointing to me because it’s something we work on like almost every single day to start practice. … I was pretty disappointed in that execution from us, but it goes in line with a lot of stuff tonight. We weren’t executing very well at either end.”

Siakam took his sixth foul with just over two minutes to go and walked off the court to a standing ovation from the Raptors faithful. He finished the night with 24 points, seven assists, and seven rebounds.

The young Raptors gave the Sixers a scare, and fans a thrill | The Star

In losses to the Raptors in Games 4 and 5, the Sixers had appeared in deep, deep trouble. Joel Embiid, the scoring champ of a centre, looked addled by the torn ligament in his shooting thumb. James Harden, the former MVP of a point guard, looked a step slow and checked out. And in the lead-up to Thursday’s Game 6 — with the Raptors two wins away from becoming the first team in the annals of the NBA to overcome a 3-0 series deficit — Rivers sounded uncharacteristically shaken as he ill-advisedly attempted to defend a post-season coaching resumé pockmarked by an NBA-record three series losses in which his team led by 3-1.

But the landscape can shift quickly in pro basketball. One moment the Raptors had the Sixers on the ropes, trailing by a single point at halftime. The next moment the Sixers were using their heavyweight punching power to reel off a 37-17 third quarter and essentially knock the Raptors into next season with what devolved into a 132-97 pummeling.

In the end, the dream of the plucky underdogs pulling off the immortal comeback ended with more downtown Toronto pragmatism than any real drama. With the Raptors never closer than 20 points in the final 10 minutes, fans looking to beat the traffic headed to the exits before the fourth quarter was half over.

Halfway to immortality, the Raptors were fully on vacation. All that was left were the consolation prizes of kind words and a bright future.

“They fought. They made it a series,” said Danny Green, the ex-Raptor who shot it reliably for the Sixers. “We had to play the right way and play for 48 minutes to beat them, and that’s what we did.”

Maybe it’s a compliment to the Raptors that the Sixers had to pull out the heavy artillery to snuff out Toronto’s storybook storyline. Harden, who’d largely loafed through the opening five games of the series, had more discernible jump in his step on Thursday than he’d previously shown, reeling off 22 points and 15 assists in a game-controlling performance. Embiid, who’d played up the extent of his injured shooting thumb at times during losses in Games 4 and 5, wasn’t seen favouring the injured digit. Instead, he was dominating the paint with 33 points and 10 rebounds as he airplaned his way up and down the floor in a celebratory preen.

Before the game, Raptors coach Nick Nurse sounded like he knew what was coming, that the Sixers didn’t want to play at the plodding pace that favoured Toronto.

Philadelphia 76ers centre Joel Embiid airplanes down the court after scoring a late basket in a 132-97 win over the Toronto Raptors Thursday at Scotiabank Arena.

“I would expect them to play fast tonight and push the pace, and play a lot faster than the series has been going. We are going to have to be better and better in our transition defence,” Nurse said.

Alas, the Sixers outscored Toronto 21-5 on the fast break. They dominated them 52-38 in the paint. And Philadelphia shot a ridiculously efficient 58 per cent from the field, which spoke to Toronto’s abdication of the defensive game plan.

“You’ve gotta give yourself a chance by executing your defensive schemes. The last three games we did that, and tonight we didn’t,” Nurse said. “For whatever reason, we made a lot of mistakes in our schemes.”

SIMMONS: Raptors were Broad Street Bullied to end impressive season | Toronto Sun

The historical ending to this first-round playoff series with the Philadelphia 76ers that so many were hoping for was not to be. Instead, the Raptors are history instead of making it. There was a partial comeback in the series, from 3-0 to 3-2, but there will be no Game 7 on Saturday night.

Instead, there will be locker cleanout on Friday morning — and film of this 132-97 blowout worth avoiding for a day or several.

The Raptors playoff season ended Thursday night at Scotiabank Arena without drama, without question, without anything resembling a second-half response from this normally responsive squad. The ending was neither close nor emotional. This was a beating, a thrashing, the Raptors were Broad Street Bullied by the Sixers.

“This was the most serious game we’ve played this year,” said Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers, who walked off the court after the win, but not before acknowledging the Scotiabank Arena fans. He waved to the crowd — a gesture of appreciation. Said one Philadelphia front office man, walking alongside Rivers: “These are the best fans in the NBA.”

They were the best right to the end of a rather dreadful second half — they kept cheering when there wasn’t anything to cheer about anymore. They stood and chanted “Let’s Go Raptors” as the final seconds of the season ticked off.

Everyone standing. No one heading to the exits. This isn’t Philadelphia. Even in defeat, that doesn’t play here.

Toronto trailed by just one point at the half and there was reason for optimism. For a moment, maybe. But it was never close again. They were blitzed 37-17 in the third quarter. They were blitzed again 33-19 in the fourth quarter. The Raptors lost every game in which the Sixers scored 30 or more points in any quarter. The Sixers did it three times last night.

In the last second half of this season of promise, Philadelphia outscored Toronto by 34. That was it. That was the end.

A season that exceeded expectations. This wasn’t expected to be a playoff team. This wasn’t expected to be a team winning 48 games and two more in the playoffs. This was supposed to be a new beginning — a rebuild — and then the dial got turned up and the Raptors grew at a quicker rate than was anticipated. And then for a day or two, a moment or two, it looked like the Raptors could become the first team in NBA history to come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series. That seemed so possible.


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