The Philadelphia 76ers will host the Toronto Raptors this afternoon in what could be a deciding game in the series. For both teams, Game 4 is crucial: if the Sixers are to lose, they essentially give home court advantage back to the Raptors as the series dwindles to a best-of-three with both squads at two wins a piece; if the Raptors lose, they’ll find themselves needing three consecutive wins to advance.
Kawhi Leonard continues to score at will on the Sixers with stupid good efficiency. Fortunately for the Sixers, they’ve excelled at minimizing the damage from just about every other Raptor outside of Kawhi. Kyle Lowry has been completely passive, Marc Gasol appears uncomfortable in Toronto’s offense, and the Raptors’ bench unit looks like a JV squad. To make matters worse for Toronto, Pascal Siakam, who has been one of the few bright spots over the last two games, has been listed as doubtful for Game 4 — though there’s certainly a sense of some gamesmanship going on.
For as bad as things have gone for Toronto lately, the Sixers have seen the tide turn demonstrably in their favor. While Joel Embiid absolutely shined in Game 3, the entire roster made positive contributions. Jimmy Butler has taken over the reins as a vocal leader on the floor and his ability to run the offense has alleviated backup point guard concerns. Ben Simmons is finding ways to be useful on offense without the ball in his hands and defensively, he’s looked as good as ever (though that hasn’t affected Kawhi Leonard very much). And for a team who looked like their bench unit could be their Achilles heel, the reserves have flat out impressed.
The Sixers, though, cannot afford to start feeling themselves too much. Toronto simply needs a win today to level the series. If that happens, they regain home court advantage and still have arguably the best player in the series. Much of the burden for a Raptors turn around may rest on the shoulders of Nick Nurse, who has been out-coached thus far. After Game 3, Nurse told reporters the first adjustment that Toronto needs to make is to play harder. While that may be valid criticism of the Raptors’ effort, Nurse’s offense has appeared stale and ineffective. I suppose it doesn’t help that Joel Embiid is back to all-defensive form.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Toronto Raptors
When: 3:30 pm EST
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia PA
Listed: 97.5 The Fanatic