The Sixers bounced back from a miserable Game 1 to tie the series with a 94-89 Game 2 victory. Now, the series turns to Philadelphia with the Sixers holding home-court advantage. Once again, we exchanged emails with Dylan Litman (@DylanLitman on Twitter) of SB Nation’s RaptorsHQ as part of our “3 questions” series. You can read the previous editions between Dylan and our staff prior to Game 1 and ahead of Game 2.
Which of Brett Brown’s Game 2 adjustments gives you the most concern moving forward?
Philly’s defensive scheme was entirely different this time around. The 76ers’ starters switched their matchups completely, which seemed to especially throw off Pascal Siakam. Embiid’s strength and intelligent positioning caused Pascal to force his offense, resulting in his worst game so far during these playoffs.
Pascal is used to imposing his will on defenders, either with strength against weaker players or speed against larger big men. Unfortunately for Siakam, Embiid is both nimble and as strong as they come. Pascal is a cornerstone of this team’s offense, so this adjustment could spell trouble for Toronto. Next game, Siakam’s best course of action would be to handle the ball on pick-and-rolls with Gasol or Green as screeners. Hopefully, this would force Philly to switch either JJ Redick or Tobias Harris onto him.
Surprisingly, the Sixers bench has outplayed the Raptors bench through the first two games of the series. Is there anyone else you would like Nick Nurse to insert into the regular rotation?
That depends – if Nick Nurse practices witchcraft, he could potentially heal OG Anunoby’s appendix. Otherwise, we’re out of luck. The Raptors don’t have any unused secret weapons. Jeremy Lin has been a massive disappointment, Patrick McCaw wouldn’t see the floor even if he were totally healthy, and Jodie Meeks shouldn’t be playing at all.
The Raptors don’t truly lack depth. The issue is, the bench guys who normally play reasonably well are being entirely misused and it’s killing Toronto on both ends of the floor. Fred VanVleet needs to start playing off-ball, Serge Ibaka’s primary matchup should never be Joel Embiid (he’d presumably do much better against Monroe), and Norman Powell has been practically useless this entire series.
There may not be a different player Nurse can insert into the lineup that would change the series, but he can certainly opt to insert only one bench player into the lineup at a time in close games. There was a stretch near the end of Game 2 where Nurse played Ibaka, Powell, and VanVleet all at the same time against Philly’s starters. Not surprisingly, the Raptors got killed in those minutes. Sometimes I truly have no idea what Nurse is thinking, but this game had me keeled over in disgust.
Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam have combined to score 66 percent of Toronto’s points across the first two series. Is that level of concentration sustainable offensively, and if not, who most needs to step up?
If Kawhi and Siakam are both cooking offensively, they can score most of the Raptors’ points with no issue. Though, sometimes that plan goes awry. Siakam struggled against Embiid last game, which wouldn’t normally be a huge problem if the Raptors’ perimeter guys capitalized on kick-out opportunities. Unfortunately for Toronto, that did not happen (10-of-37 from 3 in total on the night).
At some point, Danny Green’s going to have to start hitting his shots. He’s been abysmal this series, a far cry from his usually stellar self. He looked a step behind on both ends of the floor, giving up drives and timidly bricking jumpers. But, Green’s not the only one who needs to step up. VanVleet was straight up trash last game, going 0-of-2 from the field with a team-worst plus/minus of minus-18. If Nick Nurse utilized Fred’s quickness properly and assigned him to run around screens and take 3s instead of initiating the offense, I could see him getting back in rhythm.
I have to say, I relished this back-and-forth much more than our post-Game 1 discussion (go figure). Thanks again to Dylan and RaptorsHQ; we’ll check back in with them prior to Sunday’s Game 4.