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Emailing with the Enemy: Trio of Questions with RaptorsHQ heading into Game 4

What’s the deal with the non-Kawhi Raptors?

Toronto Raptors v Philadelphia 76ers - Game Three Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Spirits are high in Philadelphia after a triumphant 116-95 Sixers win in Game 3. Fans may not be quite as jubilant north of the border, but to verify, we’re checking back in with Dylan Litman (@DylanLitman on Twitter) of SB Nation’s RaptorsHQ in the latest part of our “3 questions” series. You can read the previous editions between Dylan and our staff prior to Game 1, Game 2, and Game 3.

The Sixers are practically begging Marc Gasol to take more shots, but he is only averaging 6.7 field goal attempts this series (after 5.6 FGA during the Orlando series). Having covered him more closely, why do you think this long-time 1 or 1a offensive option is now refusing to shoot?

Marc Gasol was brought in to add another dimension of facilitation to the Raptors’ offense. Kyle Lowry has stretches in the playoffs where he appears shell-shocked, and Gasol provides a calming, playmaking presence that leads to open looks via cuts and screens around the perimeter.

The Raptors have utilized Gasol as a distributor from the elbow, leading to buckets from other players. Traditionally, this has worked for the Raptors because very few teams had an answer for Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam. Because of the offense those two guys provide, Gasol hasn’t needed to shoot as much since he arrived in Toronto (7.2 shots per game, compared to 12.9 in Memphis). However, the 76ers have been aggressively forcing Kawhi and Siakam to make passes out to the perimeter. In situations like these, Gasol (along with Lowry) needs to switch gears. If they’re not willing to shoot outside jumpers, this series is over.

Pascal Siakam is now doubtful for Game 4 with a right calf contusion (many believe karma for his trip of Joel Embiid). If he misses the game (or needs his minutes reduced), how will Nick Nurse reconfigure the team’s rotation?

Let me just say this: If Pascal doesn’t play, the Raptors are going to lose. We rely on him chipping in 20-ish points, especially with Gasol and Lowry refusing to shoot while Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell, and Serge Ibaka all brick their jumpers.

Nick Nurse has mentioned the possibility of utilizing larger lineups against the 76ers’ starters to combat their length. In that scenario, Danny Green could provide a shooting spark off the bench if the Raptors opt to play Ibaka alongside Gasol; that said, Siakam would need to play in that lineup for that strategy to have a chance. If Powell is slotted in as a wing alongside Ibaka and Gasol, the Raptors won’t have nearly enough shot-making talent on the floor to compete.

Also, this is a side note but if karma exists, Ben Simmons would be suspended for Game 4 after his cheap shot to Lowry’s... lower region. In all seriousness though, I’d like to apologize for Siakam’s incident. He’s never shown any signs of frustration like that before, and Toronto fans were all taken aback.

Kyle Lowry has long had a reputation of disappearing in the playoffs, and is shooting only 34.6 percent from the field in this series. Is there any reason for you to think he will turn things around?

Until this series, I was a big proponent of Kyle Lowry’s playoff reputation being misguided. In last year’s postseason, Kyle shot over 50 percent from the field and 44 percent from 3, chipping in 17.4 points per game as the second option. Of course, this year Lowry has more offensive firepower around him in Kawhi, Siakam and to a lesser extent, Green. Before the playoffs started, it was generally accepted that Kyle wouldn’t need to score as much for this team to be successful.

However, we didn’t account for Kyle’s efficiency to drop dramatically, especially considering that he’s taking far fewer shots. He’s had a pretty brutal series so far, but I think a lot of his hesitation stems from Nick Nurse’s game plan. Both Lowry and Gasol entered the series under the assumption that they weren’t going to need to score for the team to win. Quickly, they learned that that’s not the case. Heading into Game 4, Lowry needs to cut to the basket when Embiid is pulled out of the paint (which becomes far rarer if Siakam doesn’t play) and, like Gasol, must be prepared to spot up for outside jumpers out of kick-outs.

Last series, Lowry followed up an abysmal Game 1 with a brilliant, aggressive performance in which he made his shots (8-of-13 from the field) and got his teammates involved (seven assists). If there’s any bulldog left in Lowry, he needs to show it tonight.

Thank again to Dylan and RaptorsHQ for continuing the great dialogue. We’ll check back in when the series shifts back to Toronto and the Sixers (hopefully) have a chance to close out the series.

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