The Sixers are back home, with their backs against the wall in a win-or-the-season-is-over Game 6. Meanwhile, the Raptors are fresh off the biggest postseason win in franchise history. To see how Toronto fans are feeling, 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, Game 3, Game 4, and Game 5.
Kawhi Leonard finally came back down to earth in Game 5, playing well, but not at the superhuman level we witnessed across the first four games. Was that the best collective performance you’ve seen from the Raptors’ supporting cast in this postseason and how encouraged were you by it?
It was certainly encouraging to see the Raptors make their shots again – I had almost completely forgotten what that was like. Even Fred VanVleet made a couple shots, albeit one of those came in garbage time.
In terms of ranking this performance from the Raptors’ supporting cast, a couple other games come to mind that might give this one a run for its money. Game 2 against the Magic was the Raptors’ first breakout game of the postseason, though Marc Gasol, Danny Green, Norman Powell and Fred VanVleet still struggled offensively. However, Kyle Lowry was brilliant that night, chipping in 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting. Game 5 of the Magic series was also exhilarating to watch, as we saw efficient performances from Serge Ibaka, Lowry and Powell in a blowout win.
However, last game was a perfect example of what this team can be, even without Kawhi Leonard. Yes, he still had a very good game, but despite his slow start, the rest of the Raptors kept up. Finally, Lowry and Gasol decided to shoot open shots (and, for the most part, not brick them). As well, let’s not forget about Danny Green, who was simply ridiculous. Because of the high stakes, I’d like to officially title this performance, ‘The Supporting Cast Game’.
During Game 5, they mentioned on the broadcast that Pascal Siakam said he was still hampered moving laterally, but nothing about his performance made it look like his calf injury was bothering him. Is he back to 100 percent in your estimation?
Having watched every game Siakam’s ever played, I can tell you with certainty that he’s not completely healthy. He’s definitely closer than he was the previous game (where he could barely move at all), but he’s not 100% yet.
Siakam looked far more hesitant on the offensive end than he usually does. His success is often predicated on his ability to catch defenders off guard with quick fakes followed by creative drives. This past game, there were multiple instances where Pascal would have previously attempted one of these moves. However, you could tell that Pascal knew that his lateral quickness wasn’t quite there, so he opted to kick the ball out instead. Given the Raptors’ success from deep in Game 5, it didn’t prove to be an issue. However, if Toronto’s shooters struggle again, we need the healthy version of Pascal back to take care of business.
Stitches to the forehead aside, Serge Ibaka has looked much better the last two games. How much is that attributable to him possibly being more comfortable playing increased time at power forward, the position he played for the bulk of his career?
Props to Nick Nurse for finally realizing that Philly has a much taller team than the Raptors do. It would’ve been nice if he had realized that earlier in the series, but hey, I’m not complaining (too much, anyway).
Ibaka’s minutes alongside Gasol in this series have done wonders for the Raptors on both ends of the floor. Serge finally has a defender to torch in Tobias Harris, and while Marc hasn’t had too much of an issue with a physically ailing Embiid, Serge can help if needed by doubling in the post. Now that the Raptors are playing both big men at the same time, they can successfully run Lowry-Ibaka pick and rolls with the option of diverting to Marc if things go awry.
It’s funny. Serge was having the best season of his Raptors career playing at the centre position and most of us credited Nurse for the role change. Now, Ibaka is back at the PF spot and Nurse is, once again, a “genius”. Go figure.
Thanks again to Dylan for the back-and-forth. Hopefully, we’ll have a chance to do this one more time ahead of a Game 7.