TORONTO — It felt like the Sixers let a golden opportunity slip by in Game 4 on Sunday afternoon.
On Tuesday, it was clear that they did.
The Sixers were outworked, outgunned and outplayed in every capacity of a 125-89 loss to the Raptors in Game 5 of the second-round series at Scotiabank Arena.
Instead of taking a commanding 3-1 series lead Sunday, the Sixers now find themselves on the brink of elimination, down 3-2. It was so bad that Brett Brown got all of his starters out with just under nine minutes left in the game.
Kawhi Leonard cooled off from his record-setting pace, but his supporting cast finally woke up. Joel Embiid played through an upper-respiratory infection, but he still didn’t look like himself.
The Sixers’ season will now be on the line when they return to the Wells Fargo Center Thursday night for Game 6.
Here are observations from the loss.
• Turnovers and rebounds have been two big factors throughout this series. The Sixers have killed the Raptors on the boards, but that advantage has turned since Game 4. Toronto actually outrebounded the Sixers 42-37 in this one. It just appeared like the Raptors were hungrier for loose balls all night.
When the Sixers have somewhat limited their turnovers, they’ve done well in this series. That was not the case Tuesday night. Ben Simmons turned the ball over on the team’s first two possessions and Embiid kept trying to fight through crowds and had four first-half turnovers. They had 13 of the team’s 19 turnovers overall.
• Leonard’s Michael Jordan-esque pace was slowed in the first half as he went just 3 of 9. Unfortunately for the Sixers, the other Raptors woke up and started knocking down threes. Toronto jacked up 20 treys in the first half and made eight. Danny Green in particular came to life, hitting 5 of 7 from beyond. The Raptors were actually the best three-point shooting team in the NBA after the Marc Gasol trade. Brett Brown has said several times that the Sixers have “dodged bullets.” They didn’t dodge many Tuesday as Toronto hit 16 of 40 from three.
Simmons did his best job on Leonard as the three-time All-Star went just 7 of 16 for 21 points, but it didn’t matter. It’s definitely oversimplifying it, but everything looked easy for the Raptors and excruciatingly difficult for the Sixers. This may be the only off night Leonard has in this series and the Sixers didn’t take advantage.
• Embiid’s illness appeared to be affecting him. He seemed to be moving fine but committed a ton of mental mistakes. He’d done such a great job toward the end of the season in finding teammates out of double teams and not forcing things. It just seemed like he reverted to a lot of bad habits in this one. Even his body language was terrible. I get he’s sick, but at some point he has to fight through it and help his team. They’re dying without him. He had just 13 points.
While Simmons’ defense on Leonard was excellent Tuesday, the team still needs something from him offensively. He only had seven points.
Between Embiid and Simmons, the last couple games have been incredibly disappointing. These are two young All-Stars experiencing the postseason for just the second time and they both look like it. If the Sixers have any hope of keeping their season alive, they need way more out of both.
• How much more can Jimmy Butler give the Sixers? He got off to a tough shooting start, hitting just one of his first five shots, but still managed to get to the free throw line. Even as the Sixers were getting worked in the first half, Butler still looked good. Brown has referred to him as the “adult in the gym” for the Sixers and, unfortunately, he was just about the only one in the gym for them Tuesday. He finished with a team-high 22 points.
• The one positive thing offensively was Tobias Harris coming back to life. He made his first shot, a wing three in transition. It was great to see that he put the 7-of-23 performance behind him and continued to fire. It’s a shame he couldn’t find that groove in Game 4 or this series could look a lot different. He was 6 of 12 for 15 points.
• It was also good to see Mike Scott back to his spry self. This was the best the veteran forward has looked since returning to the lineup. He got his money’s worth on a foul on Leonard early in the game and made 4 of 5 from the field, including a pair of threes, for 10 points. He’s playing with plantar fasciitis in his right foot. The dude is as tough as they come.
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