Game 1 Curse Doesn’t Phase Kawhi Leonard, Raptors Roll Past Sixers
On Saturday night, Kawhi Leonard could not be stopped.
Improving to 14-0 for his career against the Philadelphia 76ers, Leonard put together a statement performance, amassing a career playoff-high 45 points, including 27 points in first half. Pascal Siakam added 29 points of his own as the Raptors fought off their Game 1 demons to take a 1-0 series lead with a 108-95 victory.
“I’m more of a guy that’s looking for team success, reaching that ultimate goal for my team,” said Leonard following the win. “I was trying to get out of the game before it got to that point. We were up 20 points with probably like five minutes left and I was already looking at the bench, trying to get them to take me out of the game.”
An impressive performance by the duo of Leonard and Siakam was nothing new, but neither was the Raptors formidable defense, which rose to the occasion, limiting the Sixers to 14-fourth quarter points.
Game 2: Monday (4/29), 8pm/et, TNT pic.twitter.com/C2Vn2cATmJ
— NBA (@NBA) April 28, 2019
After falling behind 7-2 in the first quarter, the Raptors began to wake uup, overtaking the lead from the Sixers and controlling the entire pace of the game until the final buzzer. Each time the Sixers crept closer, the Raptors pushed further, handing their second round opponents gut punch after gut punch down the stretch.
A game that could not have gone any better for the Raptors, the Leonard-led squad was able to take all four of the Sixers stars completely out of the game.
The combination of Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, along with the team’s effective weak side defense negated Joel Embiid’s effectiveness. Embiid finished the night with just 16 points on a putrid 28-percent shooting from the field. Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris each finished the night with net ratings of -23 after the two were held to a combined 24 points, while Ben Simmons scored 14 points on 87.5-percent shooting from the field, but his lack of aggressiveness did not allow the Sixers to create any sort of offensive flow throughout the evening.
Meanwhile, Kyle Lowry was his typical self for the Raptors. He didn’t score a lot, but the Swiss Army Knife was instrumental in establishing the pace of the game, pushing the tempo, taking charges, and playing lockdown defense on the Sixers.
It will be a quick turnaround, as Game 2 is slated for Monday night, but the Raptors were able to assert their dominance in Game 1 and it will now be up to the Sixers to find their aggressiveness and nod up the series.
Will the Sixers be able to solve the combination of Siakam and Leonard? Or will they struggle similarly to how the Magic did in Round 1?