What once looked like a potential sweep is now an intriguing series as the Toronto Raptors bested the Philadelphia 76ers 103-88 in Game 5 on Monday night. The win was the second straight for Toronto, and a series that was started off 3-0 in Philadelphia’s favor is now 3-2 with Game 6 set to be played in Toronto on Thursday night.
The Raptors were without All-Star guard Fred VanVleet due to a hip injury he suffered in Game 4, but they got plenty of other contributions. Pascal Siakam led the way for Toronto with a near triple-double — 23 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. Precious Achiuwa scored 17 points and grabbed seven rebounds off of the bench, and Gary Trent Jr. and OG Anunoby added 16 points apiece. Toronto shot 50 percent from the floor and turned the ball over just nine times.
On the other side, all five of the Sixers starters scored in double figures — led by Joel Embiid (20 points, 11 rebounds) — but none of them played particularly well, and Philadelphia’s bench was outscored 29-11 over the course of the contest.
It was a concerning overall performance from Philly, as they certainly didn’t come out with the energy, effort and focus that one would have expected them to with a chance to close out the series in front of their home fans sitting in front of them. More concerning is the fact that this is the second straight poor performance from Philly. Instead of closing the Raptors out, they’ve allowed them to hang around and gain confidence, and they will be a tougher team to eliminate because of it.
Here are three key takeaways from Toronto’s Game 5 victory over Philadelphia.
1. Toronto’s size was a problem for Philly
Fred VanVleet missing the game might have been a blessing in disguise for the Raptors. He was crucial to Toronto’s success all season, but the Sixers were having some serious success going at him defensively early in the series. With him sidelined, Nick Nurse and the Raptors went big, opting for a starting lineup of Siakam, Onunoby, Trent Jr., Birch and Barnes. Trent Jr. is the shortest out of those players at 6’5″. Off the bench, Toronto only played three guys (not including the final minute of garbage time) — Thaddeus Young, Chris Boucher and Achiuwa. Those guys are all at least 6’8′.
In other words, Toronto had an extremely large lineup out there for the entirety of the game, and it flustered Philadelphia. The Sixers struggled to penetrate into the paint as they did earlier in the series, and they also had a hard time getting off clean looks. This is reflected by the fact that they shot just 38 percent from the field and 27 percent from long range. Toronto’s size also led to turnovers — 15 of them by the Sixers.
This isn’t meant as a knock on VanVleet, but in this series, his absence might be an addition by subtraction scenario for the Raptors. His status for Game 6 is still a question at this point, but regardless of whether he plays or not, the Sixers need to figure out a way to better contend with Toronto’s size.
2. An abysmal second quarter for Philadelphia
An argument could be made that this game was lost in the second quarter. Trailing by one after 12 minutes of action, the Sixers were then outscored 25-14 in the second, and they were never quite able to climb back into the game after that. They shot just five of 22 from the floor in the quarter, and they had as many turnovers as assists (three). Look how ugly this shot chart looks:
There’s simply no excuse for scoring just 14 points in an entire quarter, especially when your heavy hitters are playing major minutes. Embiid played over eight minutes in the quarter. Harden played 10. Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey both played the entire quarter. Those guys should be able to muster more than what amounts to barely over a point a minute, and Doc Rivers should be able to put them in a position to be more productive when the offense is stalling, as it clearly was.
Finishing off this series and putting Toronto away will require a full 48-minute effort from the Sixers. They can’t afford any more quarters as bad as that one.
3. Toronto dominated the paint
You would think that the team with the dominant center would win the battle of points in the paint, but that wasn’t the case in Game 5. Despite Embiid’s presence on the floor, Toronto outscored Philadelphia by 20 (56-36) in the paint. The Raptors consistently got to the rim, and once there, they finished. According to Cleaning the Glass, the Raptors converted 24 of their 28 attempts within four feet of the basket. The Sixers had 29 such attempts but converted only 18 of them. Moving forward, the Sixers will want to do a better job of protecting the rim, while also converting more easy attempts at the other end.