2019 NBA Playoffs: 76ers’ protection labored in Recreation 2, however is it sustainable towards Kawhi Leonard’s Raptors?


The Philadelphia 76ers evened their second-round sequence on Monday with protection. After a discouraging Recreation 1 effort by which Toronto Raptors forwards Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam scored 45 and 29 factors, respectively, capturing a mixed 74 p.c and outscoring the Sixers’ starters by themselves, coach Brett Brown made daring changes: Joel Embiid guarded Siakam, Ben Simmons guarded Leonard and ahead Tobias Harris guarded Raptors heart Marc Gasol. 

Toronto scored a depressing 93.7 factors per 100 possessions, its worst offensive efficiency since its Jan. 31 loss in Milwaukee. Siakam regarded uncomfortable for the primary time within the playoffs, capturing 9-for-25 and lacking 5 of his seven 3-point makes an attempt en path to 21 factors. Leonard was terrific once more, with 35 on 13-for-24 capturing, however his factors did not come simply and his teammates shot 20-for-67 (30 p.c). 

The Sixers did not shoot properly, both, however Jimmy Butler and Embiid made clutch performs and Raptors wing Danny Inexperienced, who was second within the league in 3-point proportion within the common season, missed a wide-open Three on a damaged play that may have tied the sport with 10 seconds left. This was sufficient for Philadelphia to earn a gutsy 94-89 win on the street by which Embiid performed by means of knee soreness and a abdomen bag that necessitated an infusion of intravenous fluids earlier than the sport.

This victory was without delay spectacular and an instance of a group enjoying with fireplace and narrowly avoiding getting burned. After Recreation 1, and once more simply earlier than Recreation 2, Brown famous that Toronto shot a league-best 41 p.c from 3-point vary after it acquired Gasol with 26 video games left within the common season, which made him cautious of sending assist to Leonard and forcing his group to rotate. The Sixers proceeded to ship tons of assist. 

The Sixers constructed a 19-point lead within the first half regardless of surrendering photographs like this wide-open Gasol 3, a results of three defenders converging on Leonard:

And this Gasol nook 3, by which Butler utterly ignores Siakam, who screens Gasol’s man, Greg Monroe:

Within the second half, nevertheless, the Sixers’ protection was not practically as efficient. Toronto scored 113.Three factors per 100 possessions — virtually precisely what it averaged in its 5 consecutive wins previous this sport — and that quantity would have been considerably greater if not for a disastrous stretch with reserves on the ground that spanned the top of the third quarter and the start of the fourth. 

Take a look at how Philadelphia defended the Raptors when Leonard was on the market with 4 bench gamers:

Yikes, Jodie Meeks. Anyway, Toronto may have overcome its tough begin if its bench had scored greater than 5 factors or one other jumper or two went in down the stretch. Listed below are Inexperienced and Kyle Lowry lacking wide-open 3s after the protection collapsed on Leonard within the fourth quarter:

Good shooters shouldn’t be anticipated to make each clear look they get, and the takeaway right here is just not that the Sixers merely obtained fortunate or Brown’s changes had been secretly dangerous. Some coaches imagine that getting gamers in rotation defensively can provoke them — the thought is that they’ll play tougher and with extra focus as a result of the sport plan calls for it. In between the 2 video games, each Embiid and Simmons publicly mentioned that they wanted to get the ball out of Leonard’s arms. Realizing that he wasn’t utterly on an island towards Leonard, Simmons performed the most effective defensive video games of his life. Butler was clearly energized, too. 

Brown’s aim was to disrupt the move of a group that had been rolling. The technique labored: The Raptors had been uncharacteristically discombobulated for a lot of the primary half, giving Philadelphia a cushion once they stormed again. Over the following couple of days, although, I am going to guess that Brown will probably be interested by the late-game possessions that validated his worry of abandoning Toronto’s shooters:

The Sixers deserve credit score for altering issues up and bouncing again. There isn’t a assure, nevertheless, that this technique will probably be profitable once more. All of the clips above illustrate why Brown was hesitant to start out the sequence this manner, and the second half of Recreation 2 urged that may not be sustainable. The fantastic thing about the playoffs is that Recreation Three will inform us extra. 


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