Can’t Lose Game 3

Well, it’s not going well for the Toronto Raptors in their first round playoff series with the Philadelphia 76ers. The Raptors are down 2-0 as they come home for Game 3 and Game 4. Thus far, it has been an unmitigated disaster.

They rolled into Game 1 with no one on the injury report and left the game with three ailing rotation players.

Scottie Barnes, who should be the Rookie of the Year, had his ankle stepped on by the largest man on the floor, Joel Embiid. It wasn’t intentional, it was just unfortunate.

Gary Trent Jr. has been fighting a non-COVID illness for a week and has not been himself. He only played 10 minutes in Game 2. After the game, Nick Nurse said he probably shouldn’t have played.

We didn’t know what was up with Trent in Game 1, except that he looked off. The Raptors commentators speculated that maybe he was sick. Personally, I think someone probably tipped off the commentators at some point, while also telling them not to make any official declaration. I could be wrong.

Thaddeus Young sprained his thumb, on his shooting hand, in Game 1 and has played 14 minutes all series.

As much as I hyped up the Raptors the other day as having a legitimate shot to win this series, I’ll admit that the margin for error was always extremely small. The Raptors needed everyone to stay healthy and play to their potential.

I talked about their supporting cast and, in my head, put Trent and Barnes in that category to counteract Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris on the 76ers. I’m probably short-changing all of those players by labelling them as “supporting cast”, but that’s not my intention.

Barnes did his part in Game 1, before getting injured, as he was only 2 assists away from a triple-double. I cannot stress enough how important he is to this team.

Barnes is a starter, but he is also the backup point guard. He is also someone we use to guard every position on the floor. He is a morale booster and energy player, who can score easy baskets.

Trent, meanwhile, has been one of the reasons why we’re the 5th seed in the East. From the very first game of the season, his defensive intensity was at a new level. His shot-making from behind the three point line has been crucial all season. He has been someone who can score 30 in a game, no questions asked.

And now, in the biggest games of his career, he’s sick. From my perspective, he looked wrung out and as if he has lost weight since the end of the season. Doing day-to-day activities when you’re sick can be challenging, but to try and play NBA playoff games, that is incredibly difficult.

I admire his courage and his desire to be out there with his teammates. That’s the type of person he is.

Young has been a great asset off the bench, since coming over from San Antonio at the trade deadline. Now, all of a sudden, he has to play through a thumb injury.

Just one thing after another. Meanwhile, Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby were the ones we thought we’d have to worry about, since both of them have been nursing injuries for a while now.

Instead, they have to play even more minutes than intended because there are no other options.

The Raptors backup shooting guard is, technically, Svi Mykhailiuk, who has been out of the rotation for months. Trent’s minutes have not gone to him.

Instead, we’re playing with a jumbo lineup, where OG Anunoby is the shooting guard, which is what we’ve done on many occasions. However, with Trent out, VanVleet is the only pure three-point shooter we have.

Everyone on the team can shoot the three, yes, but that’s not necessarily the focal point of their respective games.

It’s just been tough.

On top of the health issues with the Raptors, the 76ers have been lights out. They’ve been playing at a level I didn’t fully expect.

Joel Embiid has been absolutely dominant. The Raptors have no one who can guard him, without getting into foul trouble within five minutes. The “others” on the 76ers have been outstanding. Harris has been really good. Maxey is playing out of his mind. Danny Green is dunking now. I haven’t even mentioned James Harden yet.

And we can’t stop any of them.

Even if the Raptors were 100% for the first two games, I don’t know if we win either one. But we won’t fully know the answer to that and that’s what is disappointing.

If there was one thing I was sure of going into this series, it was that the Raptors coaching staff would implement a plan that would minimize the impact of Embiid and/or Harden, and then we’d take a gamble on the “others” beating us.

Well, the “others” did beat us, and Embiid and Harden have gotten theirs, as well.

I’m not even going to discuss the whole foul disparity and how Embiid trucks through the Toronto defence, and somehow it’s a Raptor getting the foul call. It’s pointless. It’s also frustrating.

At the same time, the Raptors aren’t exactly attacking the rim on the offensive end. They aren’t drawing fouls. If anything, when we get in the lane, we get scared of Embiid’s size and just throw up a shot, or dribble back out.

So, we, as fans can complain all we want about the 76ers getting all the calls, but we’re not doing much to get calls, either.

The 76ers have blown us out in two games and if we lose tonight, the series is as good as over.

Gary Trent is, apparently, feeling better and will start tonight. Honestly, I don’t know what to expect from him. In reality, we probably need about 20 points and a great defensive effort, in order to have a shot at winning. I don’t know if he’s healthy enough to provide that, but we’ll see.

Barnes is out of his walking boot and Nick Nurse said “maybe” when asked today if he’ll be ready to play tonight.

I don’t know if this is just gamesmanship, where the Raptors know that Barnes isn’t playing and they just want to give the 76ers something to prepare for, or if Nurse is employing a “Story of the Chinese farmer” tactic and just saying “maybe” to everything, of if there is actually a legitimate shot that Barnes plays.

I’m sure the organization has had “is it worth it?” conversations, in regards to Barnes returning in this series. If he can’t play tonight and the Raptors go down 3-0, he’s definitely not coming back for Game 4.

His development in the off-season is too important to jeopardize further injury in games that don’t matter.

Tonight, the Raptors crowd needs to be louder, and more present, than they’ve ever been. It’s the first home playoff game in 1045 days and the first one since the NBA Finals in 2019.

I’m curious to see what changes the coaching staff will implement, in order to try and slow down the 76ers offence. Do we see Yuta Watanabe off the bench to add some energy on defence? Do we see Dalano Banton for a couple of minutes and see if his size hinders the 76ers guards?

I don’t know what the answers are going to be. We’ve definitely put up enough points to win games; the probably is we’ve given up a lot more.

Whatever we have in our bag of tricks needs to come out tonight.

The Raptors cannot afford to lose Game 3.

We’ll see what happens.

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4 Responses to Can’t Lose Game 3

  1. I was thinking about this and you the other night! The news said they were down 2-0 and I knew how excited you were for their playoff spot. I hope they can turn it around and get through to the next round!!

    Like

  2. Dutch Lion says:

    A tough loss for Toronto. Sorry Paulie. That game could’ve gone either way obviously. You were right about Trent. He had 24 points. What’s up with Boucher? And Siakam didn’t play well either. Looking over the box score, a few things stand out: Rebounds, Turnovers, and Free Throws. Philadelphia dominated the boards 46-32. The Sixers turned the ball over 22 times to just 10 for the Raptors. As for FT’s, the 76ers went 15-20 while the Raptors went only 12-18 from the line. That hurts. Some of those missed FT’s were late in crunch time too. Nevertheless, it was an awesome game.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      I think 8 or 9 of those 76er turnovers came in the first quarter which got us a nice lead. Rebounds – we were the 2nd best offensive rebounding team in the league this season and a lot of it had to do with Barnes and Boucher. Our TV analyst made a comment with a couple minutes left that he’d put Boucher in the game over Achiuwa since he was a better rebounder but I guess we were afraid of Boucher being thrown around by Embiid at the defensive end. We haven’t had a true centre all year. Everyone is 6’9 and I can see us trading Siakam in the offseason because I don’t know how we fit him, OG, and Barnes into a starting lineup long term. It’s too much redundancy. As for free throws, they’ve been a problem all year. Achiuwa has improved so much since the start of the season – he wasn’t a good shooter and now he’s hitting threes. However, his free throws need work and my gut knew he was going to miss both at the end of the 4th quarter before he even got to the line.

      Anyway, thanks for the comment. Very happy for your Bulls and DeRozan tonight!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dutch Lion says:

        DeRozan is fantastic! I always liked him over the years but now I love him! He’s a master at this midrange game. He has moves to get open like Jordan and Kobe. I’m loving these NBA Playoffs so far. Very exciting action.

        Like

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