You have to give the Toronto Raptors credit.
After getting crushed in Game 3, they got off to a strong start in Game 4. Even after the Sixers took a lead in the second half and looked poised to take a commanding 3-1 series lead, Toronto fought back.
On the back of Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors were able to even the series at 2-2 with a thrilling 101-96 win in Game 4 at the Wells Fargo Center Sunday afternoon. The series heads back to Scotiabank Arena for Game 5 Tuesday night.
Here are observations from the loss:
• Leonard has been the Raptors’ only consistent threat offensively and the Sixers turned up the heat on him. Leonard went 6 of 10 in the first, but also committed four turnovers. They consistently double-teamed Leonard just about every time he made a move toward the paint. The pressure seemed to bother Leonard early and expose the fact that, for as great of a scorer as he is, he’s not that great of a passer.
But Leonard eventually got his, willing the Raptors to a win with a 14-point third quarter and eight-point fourth. He finished a point shy of his second 40-point performance of the series.
The team’s defense on Pascal Siakam has been so much better since his 12-of-15 performance in Game 1. He missed his first eight shots in this one. The Sixers are taking away his fast-break opportunities and forcing him into taking shots he doesn’t want to take.
• I’m not sure about the guy we saw in Game 1, but the Jimmy Butler we’ve seen in the last three games has been an absolute monster. He made a big jumper in the first quarter to stop the bleeding early and prevent the Raptors from piling on. He also made a huge three to close out the first half and get the Sixers within two.
Nick Nurse tried using little-used Patrick McCaw on Butler, but to no avail. McCaw was fighting, but Butler is just so damn strong. On one finish in particular, he took the ball right to the chest of Serge Ibaka. He finished through contact and probably should’ve gotten and and-one opportunity. Nurse eventually used Leonard on Butler. If that continues, Ben Simmons needs to win his matchup.
Fans chanted “Jim-my But-ler” throughout the fourth quarter and he earned it. He scored 10 of his 29 points in the final period and continued to play hard-nosed defense.
• Joel Embiid struggled yet again offensively, but his defensive presence was felt throughout. He was there to deter Leonard from getting to the rim. His help defense overall was outstanding as he viciously blocked two of Ibaka’s dunk attempts late in the second quarter.
Embiid had a tough go in the fourth quarter, making just 1 of 4 from the line and committing two crucial turnovers. Whether it’s physical or mental, the Sixers need way more out of the All-Star center, who finished with just 11 points on 2 of 7.
After the game, Embiid was diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection.
Joel Embiid seemed very sick talking to him post-game.— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) May 5, 2019
He told us he could not sleep, was throwing up last night, and had to get an IV at 6AM this morning.
Also said it was not related to the stomach issue he had for Game 2.
• Tobias Harris didn’t have his most efficient game. He went just 2 of 13 from three and 7 of 23 overall. It was nice to see Harris playing without hesitation, but he missed a couple big threes that could’ve changed the momentum of the game. Harris is getting good looks. The Sixers need him to make them.
• This is simply a JJ Redick appreciation observation. He’s quietly been good on both ends during the series. He’s worked his butt off on defense, fighting through screens and taking elbows to the face.
Meanwhile, he’s still managed to hit big threes and his movement without the ball helps the entire offense. For a guy who almost got played off the floor in the second round against Boston last season, Redick is playing tremendously. He hit 4 of 7 from three and 6 of 9 overall for 19 points.
• It seemed like Nurse was pulling out all the stops and rightfully so. He used McCaw in hopes of getting a defensive spark. He used Marc Gasol with Ibaka in an attempt to go big and Ibaka rewarded him with strong minutes. After making successful adjustments in Game 2, it’ll be up to Brett Brown to adjust yet again in Game 5.
• James Ennis didn’t record his fourth straight game in double digits, but that didn’t mar his effectiveness. He was still providing energy, hitting the glass and making winning plays. Can’t give Elton Brand enough credit for getting this guy in a second-round pick swap with Houston.
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