Toronto Raptors reporters weigh in on Game 7 of playoff series vs. Sixers

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Toronto Raptors reporters weigh in on Game 7 of playoff series vs. Sixers

Before Game 7 tips off tonight, we got the lowdown on the Raptors from the media on the other side. What would Toronto have to do to beat the Sixers in Game 7?

Blake Murphy, The Athletic

I think there are two key points. They have to hit open shots around Kawhi Leonard. The Sixers have done a good job getting the ball out of his hands. The Raptors have done a good job creating really good looks from three-point range and they are hitting 32 percent on wide-open threes. In a one-game sample, you can’t really expect that to normalize, but if that is closer to 40 than to 30 percent, I like the Raptors' chances on offense. And then on the other end, it’s mostly a matter of picking Jimmy Butler and Ben Simmons up on the offensive glass. All series, unless Embiid goes off, the biggest way Philadelphia has been able to create cheap offense in the half court is when Toronto loses track of Butler and Simmons once the ball goes up.

Michael Grange, Rogers Sportsnet

Some population other than Kawhi Leonard has to score, someone amongst Ibaka, Gasol and Siakam. I’d say two of those three guys have to have a good game. I think that’s what Philly is willing to live with. Embiid seems to be ignoring all three of them most of the time. They are going to have looks from three, looks from mid-range, and then, if they can convert a reasonable percentage, I think the Raptors are going to be fine. But if they don’t look to shoot or to take advantage of the room they are going to get, then Embiid gets to camp out in the paint, make life difficult for Lowry and suck up all those offensive rebounds. Then you’re really just depending on Leonard to create anything. And that’s a risky way to go.

Doug Smith, Toronto Star

I know it sounds really simplistic, but I really think that for the Raptors to win, they’ve just got to make shots, because it takes transition away from Philadelphia where Ben Simmons is far more dangerous than he is in the half court. The Raptors' defense tends to feed off their offense and if they get on a roll, I think that’s what puts them over the top. It’s going to be loud, it’s going to be intense and it’s going to be very emotional. But if they calm down, get some shots in and their defense set up, take Philly out of what they do most effectively, I think that’s how they win.

Paul Jones, Raptors Radio

My two things: Play the defense that they played for four of the six games in this series, and the five games against Orlando. Nine of 11 games they’ve been really good defensively, holding opponents under 43 percent shooting, and that translates during the regular season — going all the way back to when Bryan Colangelo was the GM here — to a ridiculous win percentage. And the other thing is, make open shots. The quintessential make or miss phrase comes to mind but barring that, they’ve won some games in the series here and against Orlando when they didn’t make shots because the defense was good. I think it’s going to be close. The line is Toronto by six — I wouldn’t touch that. I think it’s going to be within the six points. And another thing — Leonard has been in win or go home games three times and has never had more than 20 points.

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Practice? All Sixers' Matisse Thybulle has to work with is a mini hoop

Practice? All Sixers' Matisse Thybulle has to work with is a mini hoop

Matisse Thybulle’s life had been fixated on basketball. He’d studied film and scouting reports, attended shootarounds and practices, traveled on planes across the country with his teammates and played in 57 games as an NBA rookie. 

That’s no longer the case. With the NBA season suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic, Thybulle explained Monday in a remote interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Serena Winters that basketball is now a much smaller part of his life.

It’s really limited,” he said of his basketball activity. “I’ve felt guilty because I haven’t really been doing much of basketball at all, just because I don’t have access to a gym and I care about my neighbors enough not to pound a basketball through my apartment building. I’ve been looking at other NBA players, seeing what they’re doing, what they’re saying. It seems to be a trend, that a lot of guys, they don’t have access. And if they do, they’re too worried to be around people or be exposed to too much. It’s going to be interesting to see what we’re all looking like once we come out of this.

This season, Thybulle’s rookie campaign, has perhaps been the most bizarre one in league history. On Opening Night, he guarded the Celtics' Kemba Walker and admitted it was “intimidating,” remarking that he’d played before as Walker in NBA2K. In late March, Thybulle was back playing virtual basketball, falling to the Suns’ Mikal Bridges in a 2K matchup both teams streamed on Twitch.   

“It’s not my area of experience,” he said with a smile. “You want to get a Rubik’s Cube-solving contest? I’m pretty sure I’ll win. I’ll take any NBA player, I’m pretty sure I can win that. But in terms of video games, I’ll do it socially to talk with my friends and hang out with my friends, but I’m not good.” 

While he hasn’t been entirely separate from his teammates during this time — the players have stayed in touch through a group chat and a couple of team Zoom calls, he said — Thybulle has mostly been isolated in an apartment with his cousin. The 23-year-old had plenty of time to meditate, do yoga, read, workout and consider life outside of basketball (see story). 

When he’s had a chance to play a miniature version of basketball, though, it hasn’t gone very well. 

 “I ordered a little mini hoop that I put on my door,” he said. “If you saw my TikTok, you’ll see that I’m not too good at shooting on it. I think I went 9 for 100. … Not my best day.”

In the time he’s not bricking mini hoop jumpers, Thybulle said he has thought some about how the NBA might change moving forward. As a rookie, it’s an especially odd position to be in — considering how all the rhythms and habits you’d finally become comfortable with could change.

“I think about it, but I’d just gotten used to the NBA,” he said. “I was just starting to figure it out and be good, and then everything gets changed and uprooted. I don’t know what could work. But I think it’s an interesting opportunity for the NBA to make some changes that maybe they’d wanted to make or been meaning to make and hadn’t had an opportunity. 

“There could be some changes that could stick for a while, or there could be some changes that we don’t like, and then we just go back to the regular thing. But I think it’s an interesting opportunity to just try out some different things, because we’ll have to, honestly.” 

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Sixers' Matisse Thybulle talks TikTok, reading, life in self-quarantine

Sixers' Matisse Thybulle talks TikTok, reading, life in self-quarantine

For Sixers rookie Matisse Thybulle, life during self-quarantine started out as it did many of us.

Reading books, including To Kill a Mockingbird and Freakonomics; workouts in which he did step-ups on his bed while holding a box (don’t worry, he’s since gotten his hands on some free weights!); yoga; meditating in the morning; walking outside when the weather was willing; and group chats and video calls with teammates, family and friends. He even built a Lego — a small Porsche, he said, that fits in his hand.

But unlike many of us, Thybulle decided not to spend his time binge-watching TV shows or movies.

“Because I want to do things that I don't (normally) have time to do, and I've always had time to find TV shows to binge-watch," he said in an interview Monday with NBC Sports Philadelphia. 

So, Thybulle did something that he says was completely out of his comfort zone, creating a TikTok account. It's something that he says still feels awkward for him, a guy who admits he's uncomfortable in front of the camera. 

“I know, it's pretty backwards,” Thybulle joked about his new hobby. “It's quite unfortunate.” 

And it takes a lot of time.

“The one where I was dribbling around in my jersey took all day — like, hours," he said with a laugh.

Thybulle has also gotten used to a new diet —he's eating gluten-free and dairy-free, thanks to his cousin that he’s been staying with — and figuring out a way to fill his competitive hunger without basketball games.

“For me, competition has always been largely an internal battle,” he explained. “Competing with myself, I find that a huge challenge and hugely rewarding if I can exceed expectations.

So how does he compete with himself while being isolated? He might pick an activity that he doesn’t necessarily enjoy doing, like stretching, tell himself he wants to reach a certain goal of being more flexible, and achieve it.

“Some days, it’s hard to motivate yourself to do something productive," he said. "I find it rewarding to actually not be a lazy bum and sit on the couch, and be productive. I find that's like competition.”

But along with making TikToks, reading books, practicing yoga, stretching and building legos, this time has given Thybulle even more opportunity to think.

Not just about basketball, though he’s been reflective of his rookie year.

As a whole, because you get so caught up in the day to day, preparing for each game, every micro-detail, you can lose sight of the big picture," he said. "To step back and embrace the fact that I made it to the NBA, I played in the NBA, I started an NBA game, I've scored, I've gotten steals, I've done all these things as a kid you dream of. ... For me, to be able to look back on a short season, but my first season, and see all the stuff that I achieved, it's cool. It helps put things in perspective.

He's also been thinking about life outside of basketball. 

“To think about what my life means, for me, and what I want to achieve, it has been eye-opening," he said, "and I think it will be cool once we can try to get back to a normal life, to see how people use what they have been able to learn about themselves during this time, and act on that once we are back out in the real world.

“I'm a strong believer that everything happens for a reason and that good or bad, there is something to be learned from it. I know that this has been a tragic time and really hard for a lot of people, but it has also given us a great opportunity to just remember the human aspect of life, that it is not just about your job or what your status is ... appreciating just what it is to be alive, be happy, be healthy, have friends, and people who you look after and who look after you. This has been a really difficult time for a lot of people, but this has also brought a lot of people together.”

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