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Emailing with the Enemy: Trio of Questions with RaptorsHQ heading into Game 5

On disappointing player performances, Kawhi Leonard’s incredible play, and more

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

As high as spirits were in Philadelphia following massive back-to-back wins in Games 2 and 3, the lows have been similarly extreme following Games 1 and 4. The topics of misery have included Joel Embiid’s left knee, his immune system, and apparently his maturity and dedication; Tobias Harris shooting an excruciating 2-of-13 from downtown; and, Ben Simmons playing passively and blowing layups:

We check 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 Games 1, 2, 3 and 4 here.

1. Hey Dylan, welcome back! Who has been the most disappointing player for each team so far in this series and is it because of the opposition’s defense or something else?

For the Raptors, it’s gotta be Fred VanVleet. The man has been a walking trash pile this series, playing himself out of the rotation nearly entirely. He’s getting torched on the defensive end, struggling to close out effectively on taller shooters. Offensively, he loves to dribble out most of the shot clock for no reason, killing momentum and wasting possessions. Instead, he should be deferring to Lowry, Siakam or Gasol to initiate an offense. Oh yeah, don’t forget that he’s hit exactly one (1) shot this entire series.

I’m torn about who to pick from the 76ers. One could argue that Joel Embiid’s been the biggest letdown, but he’s been ailing from multiple sicknesses/injuries and still managed to chip in a monstrous Game 3. Tobias Harris has struggled on the defensive end and his shot is way off, though he can be bit streaky. I’d say Boban Marjanovic has been a letdown, but was anyone really expecting that guy to do anything anyway?

2. Can you put into context what you’re seeing out of Kawhi Leonard? His hot streak on super tough shots feels almost unfair.

Kawhi is putting up easily the best postseason performance in franchise history, displaying a dominance on both ends of the floor that no Raptor fan has ever seen. Of course, it’s a shame that most other Raptors on the floor have been terrible at the same time, but I digress.

I’ve watched this team my entire life, and I can’t help but burst out laughing whenever Kawhi hits one of his ridiculous fadeaways. His performance has been so heroic that I often find myself just taking it all in and appreciating the moment. With free agency coming up, this could all be over soon, but we’ll always have the memories. I implore you to make some while you can.

3. Do you think the Raptors have really missed OG Anunoby or have they picked it up without him?

OG Anunoby would have been immensely helpful in this series. Fred VanVleet is too short to matter against the 76ers’ guards, and Norman Powell hasn’t given us anything offensively. At the very least, OG is a strong, defensive-minded presence that gives the Raptors a boost in length and awareness. He’s far from stellar the offensive end, but he couldn’t have played worse than VanVleet, right?

Last game, Nick Nurse made the smart decision to combat Philly’s length with a combination of Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol. If OG Anunoby was playing, the Raptors could’ve gone to larger lineups earlier in the series, which seemed to work last game. I don’t know how sustainable this strategy is considering JJ Redick can get hot at any time, but we’ll see what happens. That’s the fun!

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