76ers

Raptors 125, Sixers 89: Season now on the brink after dreadful showing in Game 5

Raptors 125, Sixers 89: Season now on the brink after dreadful showing in Game 5

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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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Tobias Harris keeps the Sixers entertained on their bus ride to Toronto

Tobias Harris keeps the Sixers entertained on their bus ride to Toronto

Around 10:30 p.m. Monday night, we were blessed with a Ben Simmons Instagram Live video of "DJ Tobi," Tobias Harris, on the Sixers’ bus from the airport to the hotel.

“There’s a soul plane and there’s a soul bus. You’re on the soul bus, ya dig?”

DJ Tobi then proceeded to interview all the players, coaches and team personnel who entered the bus, as you can see in the videos below, which do contain profanity. 

“State your name, where are you from and where are you going,” head coach Brett Brown said Tuesday morning, laughing about last night’s bus ride. “And when there is a lull, he's got Spotify hooked up, and he's got some hip hop going on.”

“DJ Tobi,” Matisse Thybulle laughed, struggling to find the words for Harris’ performance. “He was putting on a show for everyone. … It was funny because you were seeing people out of their comfort zone.”

With the rigors of an NBA season, and through all the travel, bus rides and plane rides, the value of that type of team bonding can go underestimated.

“It's team bonding,” Simmons told NBC Sports Philadelphia. “We're a pretty close group. We like to have fun and there are a lot of different characters and personalities on the team. … It's awesome. But that's just who we are as a team, everyone just likes to have fun, everyone has good personalities and means well."

Of course, it’s easier when you’re winning, and the Sixers delivered one of their most impressive defensive performances of the year in their win over Brooklyn, led by Simmons and Thybulle.

“We could carry that good energy over,” Thybulle said of the win over the Nets. “But it definitely help to keeps things light because the travel gets tedious and boring.”

For the Brown, it’s yet another characteristic he’s seen blossom out of Harris.

“Leadership comes in all different forms … and he does it naturally,” Brown said.

“It’s what makes team sport, for me, as enjoyable as it gets, when you can win with people that you respect and trust that care. And this group does.”

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Jameer Nelson, Phil Martelli react to troubling Delonte West video

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Jameer Nelson, Phil Martelli react to troubling Delonte West video

Troubling video surfaced Monday on social media of former Saint Joseph’s great and NBA player Delonte West.

The 36-year-old appeared to get into a physical altercation and then was recorded spewing profanities with his hands behind his back. The video contains inappropriate language.

On Monday night, West’s former college teammate Jameer Nelson and head coach Phil Martelli voiced their concern and offered support.

West has opened up in the past about his battle with bipolar disorder and run-ins with the law. The most notable incident was when he was pulled over in Maryland on a three-wheeled motorcycle and subsequently arrested and charged with speeding and two counts of carrying a handgun.

When he was on Hawk Hill, West starred during his sophomore and junior seasons alongside Nelson. The duo led St. Joe’s on an incredible run in 2004. The Hawks were the No. 1 team in the country at one point and earned a one-seed in the NCAA Tournament. They lost in a thriller in the Elite 8 to two-seed Oklahoma State.

After choosing to forego his senior season, West was selected by the Boston Celtics with the 24th overall pick. He last played in the NBA with the Mavericks in 2012 and his professional career ended in 2015 after a brief stint in the G League.