Postseason Bell Ringer Recipients
Back home in front of an absolutely bonkers Wells Fargo Center crowd, the Sixers made a statement Thursday night by defeating the Raptors, 116-95, in a game where Philadelphia led the entire way after 0-0. Although they never trailed, the Sixers really broke the game open at the beginning of the fourth quarter. With Toronto down seven points, Nick Nurse sat a scorching hot Kawhi Leonard for two and a half minutes; the Sixers capitalized with an 11-0 run that quickly ballooned into a larger 21-3 surge. The arena broke into pandemonium as everything seemed to fall into place and the Sixers looked like the dominant team many envisioned when this starting five was first put together. Now ahead 2-1, the Sixers will look to put a stranglehold on the series during Sunday afternoon’s Game 4 in Philadelphia.
Joel Embiid: 33 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 5 blocks, 5 turnovers
I’m hesitant to place into context how great a performance this was from Joel Embiid, lest Jeff Van Gundy track me down to berate me for forgetting all the great centers in the history of the league. Here’s The Athletic’s Sheil Kapadia on how rare Joel’s stat line truly is:
30+ point, 10+ rebound, 5+ block games by every NBA player in the previous 10 postseasons: 1— Sheil Kapadia (@SheilKapadia) May 3, 2019
30+ point, 10+ rebound, 5+ block games by Joel Embiid this postseason: 2.
And he did it all in just 28 minutes! It’s hard to put together a more efficient evening than shooting 12-of-13 from the free throw line and 3-of-4 from 3. The great news for the Sixers is that Embiid finally looked to figure things out against Marc Gasol. Joel was able to establish deeper post position against the Toronto center (with plenty of help from JJ Redick, who took a beating setting screens around the paint). Combine that fact with JoJo getting a friendlier whistle and getting hot from the outside, and the Raptors were putty in his hands.
Defensively, Embiid was outstanding as well. He switched back onto Marc Gasol to begin the game, but also guarded Pascal Siakam for stretches when Siakam shared the floor with Serge Ibaka. Joel held his ground on a number of drives to the hoop, notably doing so without fouling on the majority of them, and swatted away a literal handful of shots at the rim. After Siakam had intentionally tripped Embiid to draw a Flagrant-1 foul, Joel almost immediately erased a Siakam shot with the expediency of a Thanos finger snap. It was the most glorious kind of retribution.
Plus, Embiid accomplished all these amazing feats with his trademark showmanship. He brought out the finger guns, a rock-the-baby celebration, the AI hand-to-the-ear, and the Night King raise-the-arms, but nothing came close to his utterly filthy windmill dunk, followed by the airplane celebration. This was a second round playoff game and Embiid turned it into a party-like atmosphere you don’t see outside of a Globetrotters event. What a star.
Jimmy Butler: 22 points, 9 rebounds, 9 assists, 3 steals, 1 block, 2 turnovers
Another outstanding “adult in the room” performance from Jimmy is my actual name Butler. The star wing has such a calming effect on the game with the ball in his hands. You just know he’s going to find the open teammate, get to the rim if he catches a defender napping, or work his way into an efficient mid-range shot. Whenever the Raptors had made it an 8- to 10-point game and were threatening, it was often Butler who would come up with the big drive or jumper to swing the momentum back around.
In addition to his offensive production, Butler put forth another strong defensive effort and was the vocal leader on the court. I simply love hearing Jimmy mic’d up. After we heard him calling out defensive rotations in Game 2, we were treated to him gassing up Joel Embiid as a shooter Thursday night. Butler repeatedly told Joel to shoot the 3, and then, when Butler drew two defenders and dished to Embiid at the top of the key, Joel made the 3 and Jimmy exclaimed, “That’s why you shoot it!” As Joel Embiid said post-game, “Playoff Jimmy is a different player.”
Ben Simmons throws it up, Jimmy Butler throws it DOWN pic.twitter.com/POXJLAtClx— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 3, 2019
Tobias Harris: 13 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks, 2 turnovers
Good glue guy game tonight from Tobi, who picked his spots on offense, serving as a floor spacer (2-of-5 from 3) and taking it down low when he recognized he had a smaller defender like Kyle Lowry on him. Defensively, he did a much better job on Siakam than in Game 1, which allowed the Sixers to stay with the defensive game plan they had coming into the game. When he was matched up against one of the Toronto centers, he once again did well to remain stout in the post and not yield any ground.
Honorable mention to Ben Simmons for making some gorgeous passes, JJ Redick for a trio of triples and the aforementioned excellent screens, and James Ennis for continuing his stalwart work on the offensive glass.
Who is your Bell Ringer for the Game 3 win over Toronto?
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