The Toronto Raptors couldn’t afford to lose Game 3 of their first round playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers, but they did. So, now it’s an uphill climb to try and do something that no NBA team has ever done – come back and win a series after going down 3-0.
Teams are 0-143 when in this situation.
So, yeah, things are bleak.
The eternal optimist in me says, “just win one game” and go from there. If they get the series to 3-1, they’re one win away from forcing Game 6 back in Toronto, which would be a good thing. Win that game, you’re in Game 7 and that’s when anything can happen.
But you have to win Game 4, first, before you can worry about going back to Philadelphia and scraping out a win there.
Trust me, I know this is a difficult task the Raptors are facing – one they are not likely to overcome – but it’s sports. The impossible is possible, sometimes.
Game 3 went exactly how the Raptors needed it to go and they let it get away. The 76ers never had the lead until overtime, and that was enough. Joel Embiid hit the game-winning shot with less than a second to go.
Honestly, it’s a great redemption story for Embiid. The last time he was in Toronto for a playoff game, Kawhi did the thing, and Embiid walked off in tears.
As a Raptors fan, I hated it, but I can acknowledge that for him to do that was pretty cool.
There was a lot discussion-worthy topics before and after that play.
76ers head coach, Doc Rivers, raced all the way down to the other end of the court to call a timeout, which is something coaches are not allowed to do, without receiving a technical foul. They are not allowed to leave the coaches box on the sideline.
The referees did not call a technical foul; they called the timeout. The game was tied at this point, and the 76ers had 0.9 seconds left on the shot clock, so the Raptors not being awarded a free throw, was a huge deal.
Many, many, many Raptors fans were mad about this. Honestly, I knew as soon as it happened that it was illegal, that it should be a technical on Coach Rivers…and that the referees wouldn’t call it.
I’ve seen coaches race down the court to call timeout before. It’s not an anomaly. If you watch basketball, you’ll see it happen quite a bit. Raptors coach, Dwane Casey, did it a few years ago in the playoffs. No one was calling for him to get a technical foul.
The building is loud, the referees can’t hear the coach calling timeout, so they run to get the referee’s attention. I get it.
I wasn’t upset about the non-call.
It’s like getting mad about all the lane violations that happen while players are shooting free throws. The referee can call a lane violation every single time, but they don’t. It’s fine. It’s not a big deal.
The situation is what made the non-call a big deal.
And yet, the 76ers were still in the impossible position of having to inbound the ball and get a shot off with 0.9 seconds left. Surely, the Raptors would be able to defend it.
This is where another storm of conversation begins.
As the players were coming out of the timeout, I’m already going through things in my head. I tell myself that we should probably take out VanVleet – the shortest Raptor on the court – and insert Chris Boucher to guard the inbounder.
(Note: The Atlanta Hawks faced a similar situation last night and they took out Trae Young. Granted, he’s not as good of a defender as VanVleet, but they are similar in stature.)
Whenever we do a full-court press, Boucher is always the one applying pressure. He has the length and quickness to disrupt whoever is trying to inbound the ball.
So, while that was going through my mind, I also figured that Nick Nurse wouldn’t make any substitutions, especially one that took VanVleet out of the game. He just doesn’t seem to do that to his “main guys”, even though the situation, seemingly, called for it.
Danny Green is inbounding the ball and VanVleet is guarding him, until Nurse waves him off the ball. VanVleet retreats to the paint, to help double whoever was getting open.
That left no one to apply pressure on Green.
ALWAYS APPLY PRESSURE.
Sorry, I don’t mean to yell.
Danny Green had clear passing lanes to everyone on the floor. It was maddening. I just didn’t understand the decision. And by the sounds of it, Nurse regrets it too. He said yesterday that he’d probably do about three things differently on that play.
That being said, Embiid still hit an unbelievable shot. It was pretty much the same play the Raptors ran in 2001 when Vince Carter missed at the buzzer.
Breaking News: Scottie Barnes was just named NBA Rookie of the Year!
Double Breaking News: Scottie Barnes will play in Game 4 today!
Oh boy, here go!
For the first time all series, the Raptors will be as close to full-strength as they had hoped.
I am buzzing from the Barnes news. I said in my last post that if we went down 3-0, there was no way he’d play Game 4. You can’t risk further injury with him. And yet, here he is!
Getting the playoff experience is important for his development. Also, this gives the front office a chance to evaluate this group, as a whole, even if it’s only one game.
I’ll still be watching like a nervous parent(?), though.
The Raptors need to play Raptors Basketball today. Do that, and we’re going to Game 5.
They need to forget about being down 3-0 in the series. If they feel sorry for themselves, or have the mentality that this uphill battle isn’t worth fighting, then they might as well stay in the locker room.
I don’t think this team would succumb to that line of thinking, though. Plus, Barnes winning ROY and being available for this game should boost their spirits.
Gary Trent had the type of Game 3 that I said he’d need to have, in order for the Raptors to win. The team came short, but if Trent can put up another 20 points today and be a pest on the defensive end, that’s a great sign.
It’s weird that I feel so optimistic about the Raptors, as they head into what could be the final game of their season.
I guess that’s just who I am.
I forgot to mention that Embiid may have torn ligaments in his right thumb. By all accounts, he can still play at a high level. That’s fine, but thumbs can get banged up when playing basketball.
I’m not saying the Raptors are going to hack him on the thumb every time they foul him, but don’t be surprised if they’re extra physical with him. Embiid was grabbing his thumb a lot in Game 3, I’m sure we’ll see camera shots of him doing that again in Game 4.
And if he’s thinking about an injury, maybe he’s not as focussed on steamrolling through our undersized defence.
I can dream.
If the Raptors win Game 4, they fight for something more.
Let’s see if they can do it.