Articles NBA Playoffs 2019

Playoffs Day 15: Denver Survive and Toronto Strive

Toronto Raptors (1-0) vs Philadelphia 76ers (0-1): 108 to 95

There has been a lot of talk about the greatness of Kawhi. Some have even dared to compare him to the greatest basketball player of all time. Averaging 27.8 points per game in round 1 and playing transcendent defence at the same time might even give some validity to those comparisons.

And so will a game like this.

Game 1 at home was a dominant outing for the Raps and Leonard. Leonard put up a smooth 45 point, 11 rebound performance on 16/23 shooting, with 27 of his points coming in the first half. It really looked like Butler couldn’t keep up with Leonard tonight defensively, which will doom the Sixers if that proves to be true for the whole series. Siakam also was impressive in the first half with 23 points and finished the game with 29 points total.

Looking at the performances that didn’t pop off the stat sheet for the Raptors, Marc Gasol rendered Boban obsolete in this game, leaving the Sixers with an interesting conundrum going forward in relation to how they will rest Embiid in this series. Gasol is too good of a shooter and passer from the perimeter for the big to sink too deep and not effectively close out on Gasol popping from a pick or handoff one of Leonard/Lowry/Green/VanVleet.

On the other side, the Sixers star studded starting unit was underwhelming to say the least. Simmons/Harris/Butler couldn’t find a way to get stops against Siakam and Leonard, but also couldn’t find ways to dominate on the offensive end. Embiid also struggled against an elite interior defence centring around Gasol, shooting just 5/18 for 16 points and 8 rebounds.

Reddick was the most impressive Sixer on the offensive end, posting a team high 17 points for the game with 14 coming in the third quarter to lead a run for the Sixers. However this can’t be the case in this series and at least two of the four stars in Philly will need to play at a high level on the offensive end for the Sixers to have a chance against the Raps.

However this is only game 1, and the potential use of more line-ups centred around Simmons playing the five when Embiid is off the floor could give the Sixers the kind of difference in offensive identity within the next few games to spur some elevated offensive production.

You also don’t anticipate too many Embiid 16 point games, nor do you anticipate the elite defenders on Philly to get dominated they way they were tonight. While it will be tough sledding against a centre position depth chart of Gasol and Ibaka in this series, Embiid should be better over the next few games or the Sixers will likely be heading home a round earlier than they would have expected.

Denver Nuggets (4-3) vs San Antonio Spurs (3-4): 90 to 86

Denver really played with fire in this one

Denver dominated in the first 8 minutes, as the Spurs struggled to score. Jokic had 9 points and 8 rebounds in the first quarter, featuring great ball movement by Denver and a litany of missed mid-range jump shots by the Spurs.

Denver really should have built a substantial, 20+ point lead. But they didn’t.

In particular, the Nuggets tempting fate in second quarter, allowing spurs to stay only 13 behind at halftime. DeRozan and Aldridge struggled in first half, but Denver also had a lax performances from everyone not named Jokic, keeping the game nerve racking within range for a veteran laden Spurs team.

The Spurs were able to make it a real game down the stretch, despite the unreal performance of Jokic, who finished with 21, 15 and 10. But the help of a Jamal Murray 23 point performance (which is in line with Murray rule of this series), was able to maintain the Nuggets lead and get over a Spurs team that disappointed in the biggest moments.

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