NBA Playoffs: Philadelphia 76ers Vs Toronto Raptors- Game 3 predictions & Game 2 Highlights
With the teams having split Toronto's home leg 1 - 1, the action moves to the Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Despite Philly having the stronger lineup on paper, it is the Raptors that are the strong favorites in this series. This is because of the presence of Kawhi Leonard who is proving that he is one of the best players in the world and the fact that they play as one cohesive unit.
The Sixers' superstar Joel Embiid is also far from 100 % as he is playing through a lingering knee injury. If the 76ers can defeat them on Friday, then all the pressure will shift to the Raptors who are known to underperform in the postseason.
When: May 3rd, 5:30 AM IST
After being routed in game 1, the Sixers came out strong in game 2. They took a nine-point lead in a low scoring first quarter, making four of their eight three-point attempts. The Sixers continued to play well going into halftime leading the game 51 - 38.
Jimmy Butler had a productive half scoring 13 points, going 3 - 4 from long range with 7 rebounds and 1 block. James Ennis contributed off the bench pouring in 12 points.
Kawhi Leonard was excellent with 15 points at 60% and two steals. Despite the lead, Philly was careless with the ball, turning it over 12 times (highest by any team these playoffs). However, they dominated the Raptors on the glass, outrebounding them 33 - 13.
Toronto mounted a spirited comeback in the second half making it a one-point game late in the third quarter. The Sixers opened up the lead once again leading by 13 points midway through the fourth.
Just when the game looked over, the Raptors went on a 19-7 run, bringing the lead down to one with 46 seconds left on the clock. Embiid then attacked the rim and made a contested layup with three players surrounding him to seal the game for Philly.
Jimmy Butler led the Sixers with 30 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists. Joel Embiid was suffering from a stomach bug in addition to the knee tendonitis which has been bothering him throughout the playoffs. He struggled from the field yet again, scoring only 12 points, 8 of which came from the charity stripe.
Kawhi Leonard was exceptional, going off for 35 points. Toronto's much talked about bench was a huge disappointment being outscored 5 - 26 by their counterparts.
The Sixers won the rebounding battle while Toronto had the edge on points in the paint. It was a bad night from the three-point arc, both teams shooting under 29%. Philly went 10 - 35 as opposed to 10 - 37 from Toronto.
Score: The Sixers win 94 - 89
Sixers lineup: Tobias Harris (F), Jimmy Butler (F), Joel Embiid (C), Ben Simmons (PG), and JJ Redick (SG).
If Mike Scott who has missed both games with a right heel contusion can return it will give Philly's bench a much-needed boost. James Ennis' has made valuable contributions and will continue to play significant minutes.
Toronto lineup: Pascal Siakam (F), Kawhi Leonard (F), Marc Gasol (C), Kyle Lowry (PG), and Danny Green (SG).
Despite Embiid having another sub-par game, the Sixers were able to hold on to their lead and win a Game 2 that went down to the wire.
They will now look to defend home court and take a lead in the series. Despite winning the game there are many areas in which Philly could improve, primary among them being turnovers.
Philly turns the ball over more than any other team in the playoffs (16.9 per playoff game) but they had a bad night even by their own standards, giving up 23 points off 20 turnovers. Toronto on the other hand only gave up six such points.
They cannot continue turning it over at this rate and hope to win. Embiid, Simmons, and Harris have been lackluster so far and now playing at home, must bring their 'A' game. Jimmy Butler needs to continue producing at a high level and JJ Redick needs to make more of his 3-pointers.
For the Raptors, Kawhi Leonard has been nothing short of sensational averaging 40 points and 9 rebounds. Pascal Siakam has also been putting up consistent performances, but the Sixers did manage to limit him in Game 2. Apart from the two of them, the team has struggled to find consistent scoring.
They need contributions from their bench which at 22 ppg is the second lowest this postseason. Danny Green who was one of the best 3-point shooters in the regular season needs to find his groove and improve his efficiency from the field(shooting 20.8% from 3 this series). They also need Kyle Lowry to carry more of the scoring load. Marc Gasol's defense on Embiid has been excellent and he must not let the talented big man break free.
After a resounding comeback from Philly in game 2, this series looks primed to go the distance. The Sixers should carry their momentum back home for game 3 and win a close game to take the lead.