NBA Starting Lineups and Match Prediction: Toronto Raptors vs Philadelphia 76ers, Game 6
The Toronto Raptors are in a position to return to the NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals. They took a commanding 3-2 series lead on Tuesday night against an over-matched and confused Philadelphia 76ers squad, with a blowout 125-89 home-court victory.
76ers head coach Brett Brown looked pained, exasperated and bewildered all at the same time. If you saw the game, his facial expressions and body language explained just how frustrating it can be to play the Kawhi Leonard-led Raptors.
That said, the Raptors did not rely heavily on Leonard, but got balanced scoring from many of their key supporting cast members. All 12 players that saw action scored for the Raptors, who were led by Pascal Siakam with 25 and Leonard with 21.
Meanwhile, Philadelphia have run into two recurring themes that they cannot seem to break away from. First, they never really seem to get all their stars playing well at once. In Tuesday’s 36-point loss, only Jimmy Butler scored over 20 points, with 22.
The second theme in this second-round series that Philadelphia have struggled with is just how locked-in the Raptors are defensively as a team. With the exception of game three, which Philadelphia won 116-95, the 76ers have failed to break 100 points in the other four games.
They now find themselves facing elimination Thursday night in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia 76ers starters
Head coach Brett Brown will start Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, Jimmy Butler, Ben Simmons, and JJ Redick.
Toronto Raptors starters
Head coach Nick Nurse will likely counter with Marc Gasol, Pascal Siakam, Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry and Danny Green.
Expectations and prediction
At the moment, two expectations for game 6 of this Eastern Conference series center around Joel Embiid. He has not been comfortable since Game 1 of the first round of these 2019 playoffs.
Embiid has already missed one playoff game but has complained about or been hampered by a variety of ailments. Will he express more discomfort in Game 6? His body language the last two games of this series has to be disheartening for his teammates, who rely on his production to get their games going.
The second expectation concerning Embiid is that other than Game 3 of this series, when he produced a stellar 33 points and 10 rebounds, he has never really out-dueled Marc Gasol. Game 3 was the first time playing opposite Gasol that Embiid cracked the 20-point mark.
If Philly are to win this series in a Game 7, their only option now is that Embiid has a monster Game 6 and then a similar Game 7.
If anyone was wondering what the Raptors' true identity was with all the load management received by Leonard and Kyle Lowry in the 2018-19 season, the answer is clear now: their defense. In 10 playoff games so far against the Magic and now 76ers, the Raptors have conceded 100 points just twice.
In Game 5, the Raptors forced Embiid and Ben Simmons into a combined 13 turnovers, and the 76ers turned the ball over 19 times. The Raptors also limited Philadelphia to 79 shots and 41% efficiency from the field.
Finally, Brett Brown may want to rethink his strategy of double-teaming Leonard. With every position player able to shoot from long range, it would seem more practical to rotate your two or three best defenders against Leonard.
When the Raptors move the ball and get everyone involved, like in Tuesday night’s Game 5, it is evident just how great they can be. But if Philadelphia force Siakam and Leonard to do most of the Raptors' work offensively on isolation plays by playing man to man, the Raptors supporting cast will struggle.
The young 76ers are at home Thursday night facing elimination. If they win, they can extend this series to a Game 7 and put pressure back on the Raptors at home in Toronto. However, Philadelphia need to see Embiid’s best work on the court, which has been absent for the last two games.
If you remember Game 2 of this series in Philadelphia, Toronto shot just 36% from the field but the 76ers never really had a secure grasp of that game. Expect a close game Thursday night with the Raptors winning by three possessions.