The Sixers will be back at Wells Fargo Center Thursday. The only question is whether they'll be playing to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals or to stay alive.
Paul Hudrick and Noah Levick give their predictions for Game 5.
With things knotted at 2-2, there is one big X-factor for the remainder of the series: Joel Embiid’s health.
You saw what a healthy Embiid could do in Game 3. When Embiid and Jimmy Butler are clicking at the same time, forget it. Embiid is the Sixers’ best player. He’s their “crown jewel,” as Brett Brown is fond of saying. If they can get him right, they have a great chance to take this series.
Kawhi Leonard has been otherworldly and there likely isn’t much you can do to stop him. With that said, the Sixers have won two of the last three — painfully close to all three — with Leonard playing at an absurd level. Depth may have appeared to be one of the Raptors’ biggest advantages, but even in Game 4, the Sixers looked like the deeper team.
I don’t think it matters what lineup either coach throws out or whatever adjustments they make. While it would be nice for Ben Simmons to give something more offensively or Tobias Harris to find his groove again, there is nothing more important to the rest of this series than Embiid.
With only one day to recover and a travel day mixed in, I don’t like Embiid’s chances to make a full recovery in time for Game 5. If the IVs do the trick, maybe Embiid breaks out again, but I see the Sixers returning to the Wells Fargo Center Thursday with their season on the line.
I understand why the Raptors are healthy favorites to win this game.
The Sixers missed an excellent opportunity to take command of the series in Game 4, and Joel Embiid’s health is a seemingly perpetual question as the series shifts back to Scotiabank Arena.
Kawhi Leonard was special in Game 4, but Toronto wouldn’t have won without their secondary players finally giving him some help. Marc Gasol scored 16 points, his most in a game since March 30, while Kyle Lowry, Danny Green and Serge Ibaka were also in double figures. Look for more of the Gasol-Ibaka frontcourt in Game 5 as a means to counter the Sixers’ size.
Game 4 didn’t change my sense that the Sixers are the better team. Leonard has to play at a historic level and his teammates need to support him for the Raptors to win. Jimmy Butler is demanding more offensive aggression from Ben Simmons and Embiid, reasonably enough, but it’s worth noting they still could have won Sunday if Tobias Harris had shot better than 2 for 13 from three-point range.
Excessive confidence or insufficient intensity shouldn’t be problems for either team. At this point, both the Sixers and Raptors respect their opponents and know full well how important this game is. I think the Sixers win it.
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