Pros and Cons: Sixers vs. Raptors Game 2
Instant takeaways after Game 2.
Adam Aaronson, whose legal name is Sixers Adam (@SixersAdam on Twitter), covers the Sixers for The Rights To Ricky Sanchez. He believes cantaloupe is the best food in existence, and is brought to you by the Official Realtor of The Process, Adam Ksebe.
Coming off an excellent win in their playoff debut, the Sixers once again hosted the Toronto Raptors, seeking a 2-0 advantage in the first round series. Here’s what stood out to me tonight:
Pro: LEAN INTO THE GRIFT!
After the Sixers drew a whole bunch of fouls in Game 1 on Saturday, Raptors coach Nick Nurse complained in his postgame media availability about the calls that Joel Embiid specifically was receiving. And then, in his pregame media availability before tonight’s game, Nurse reiterated his gripes with officiating.
Nurse’s public comments were clearly aimed towards pressuring the officials to give the Raptors some more margin for error. Unfortunately for Toronto, the Sixers continued to impose their will, their size and their strength on a Raptors team lacking true bigs who can bang down low.
As a result, the Sixers once again drew a massive amount of fouls -- most of them very much warranted.
It began with Embiid, who shot 12 free throws in the first quarter alone. But it didn’t stop there -- the entire Sixers team played with an impressive and commendable level of intensity that matched the extreme physicality we all anticipated seeing from Toronto.
We can talk about X’s and O’s all night long. But as the series heads to Toronto, the Sixers need to bring this level of intensity and physicality, and in turn deny Toronto’s attempts to set the tone of the series.
Pro: Danny Green steps up
Green had a mostly disappointing season that saw him be riddled with injuries and replaced in the starting lineup by Matisse Thybulle. But late in the year, the three-time champion is rounding into his proper form.
Green has reclaimed the fifth starting spot from Thybulle, and it is absolutely deserved. In fact, in his final 16 games of the regular season -- after returning from his last injury -- he is shooting 39.4 percent from beyond the arc on more than four attempts per game.
Green hit three triples in the first half alone to counter Toronto’s hot shooting start, which helped keep the Sixers afloat before they eventually made their big run. Additionally, Green made a few savvy plays on defense and the offensive glass.
Best of all, of course, was his massive dunk against Pascal Siakam in the fourth quarter that helped put the game away.
With Thybulle ineligible to play in Toronto due to his vaccination status, the importance of Green’s play is about to rise significantly. I would guess we see Furkan Korkmaz reenter the rotation in a very limited role, but it stands to reason that Green will see even more minutes in the next two games.
Pro: Tobias Harris, two-way worker
There has perhaps been no bigger critic of Harris’ play this season than me. But over the last month and change, his transformation has been excellent and worthy of heavy praise.
The most important tweak Harris has made is becoming a less timid spot-up shooter. When he catches bullet passes from James Harden, he is ready to go right up with it, and recently, he’s been knocking those shots down at a very high clip. He’s also been better as a one-on-one scorer, leveraging his strength to create lightly-contested jumpers that he is also knocking down at a high rate.
But it didn’t stop there. Harris has also become a much more formidable defensive player of late, and has stepped up in a major way during this series, helping contain Siakam.
Only time will tell if Harris can keep this up for an entire deep playoff run. But the early returns are looking awfully good for the Sixers.