The Philadelphia 76ers looked like they would make quick work of the 2019 NBA champions the Toronto Raptors in the opening round of the playoffs after going up 3-0 in the series. However, Toronto managed to win on home court in game four and pulled off an upset at the Wells Fargo Center on Monday evening to force a game six back at Scotiabank Arena.
“We’re fine,” Joel Embiid said told members of the media following his team’s game five loss, via ESPN. “I mean, it’s the same recipe. Don’t turn the ball over, offensive rebound. We’ve definitely got to be better defensively, more connected. Defensively, I felt like there [were] a few plays where we were not on point and we didn’t have each others’ backs.
“But we’re fine. There’s a reason we won three games in a row. Offensively, we clearly haven’t been ourselves and that’s really been the reason why we gave up these last two games. So we just got to do better.”
Embiid is playing with a torn ligament in his thumb that will require surgery at the conclusion of the campaign, but the 28-year-old still had 20 points, 11 rebounds and four assists in 39 minutes of action on Monday night. Still, it wasn’t nearly good enough to lead his team to victory.
“They got everything they wanted,” 76ers coach Doc Rivers said during the postgame press conference, via ESPN. “And not only did they get it, they used 23 seconds dang near every possession. They turned the game into a slow-paced slugfest but whenever they could run they did run. So they got both, like they beat us in transition, when they didn’t have transition they backed it out, used the clock, got the iso they wanted and scored on us.
“We are going to have to do something better to help our guys defend better.”
No team in National Basketball Association history has ever come back from being down 3-0 in a series, but the Raptors now find themselves just two wins away from accomplishing the feat. They had been missing All-Star point guard Fred VanVleet on Monday night due to a left hip flexor strain, but it didn’t matter much as the Raptors looked like the more motivated side. Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes was moved to point guard for the evening and did a great job defending the ball.
“They were really working hard and just active,” Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said. “My goal isn’t necessarily to turn them over, it’s that we ran hard to shooters and things like that. I think for the most part we did, especially early and I think that matters. … But yeah, we played hard for the whole game defensively.”
It’ll be interesting to keep an eye on the series as the pressure begins to build on the 76ers to close it out and seal the deal. The 76ers exited from the second round of the playoffs last year after an incredible regular season that saw them top the Eastern Conference. Another early exit from the postseason would be a disaster for the franchise.