It’s Put Up or Shut Up Time

Raptors Blown Out by Sixers

Raptors get Dismantled by the Sixers, get Blown Out in Game 3

Ugh, it was supposed to be different this year! The Raptors have a superstar, a new coach, a reliable supporting cast, yet here we are, seeing much of the same from previous years.

Last night, in a pivotal Game 3, the Raptors were annihilated by the 76ers, 116-95. It is hard to sum up what went wrong for the Raptors and pinpoint a few key areas, when literally it seemed as though they did very little right. Simply put, they were outplayed in all facets of the game.

One serious concern is Nick Nurse’s (in)ability to adjust. After Game 1, Brett Brown shook up his rotations, staggering his starters minutes so that at least 3 are on the court at the same time. Among other things, he also switched up some matchups, including putting Joel Embiid on Pascal Siakam, severely limiting his ability to get to the paint.

What did Nick Nurse do after Game 2? Absolutely nothing. And if he does nothing again after last night’s debacle, well then this series will be over sooner rather than later.  With that said, to put the majority of the blame on Nick Nurse would be unfair when so many players are underperforming.

Can somebody please help Kawhi Leonard! Aside from a decent performance from Pascal Siakam and a half-decent output from Danny Green, the rest of the Raptors were absolute no-shows! Yet again, Kyle Lowry is a ghost, come playoff time. In terms of Marc Gasol, not only did he not score but he didn’t defend or facilitate either. The Raptors were expected to have a significant advantage with their bench unit, yet among their bench threesome of Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell and Serge Ibaka, they have gotten a total of 16 meagre points in the last 2 games! That just isn’t good enough.

“We’ve got to help him, myself especially,” Lowry said after the game. “I’ve got to help him score more. I’ve got to help him on the floor. We’ve all got to help him. He’s playing unbelievable right now. We’re not giving him any help. Me’ I’m not giving him any help. We’ve got the help him.”

“It felt like there was a lot of guys passing up shots,” said Nick Nurse. “There were a couple of possessions where I was like, ‘there it goes up’ and four more passes would go by. It seemed like every guy that had it was open and he’d move it to the next guy.” Nurse went on to say that, “I think really good teams, offensively anyway, usually need a lead guy, and then obviously a second guy, but the third guy is also important.” We’ve got Kawhi, Pascal and Kyle can be that guy, but I think Marc needs to inch his way into the discussion. He’s just too talented of a scorer to not put up a few more points.”

During the post-game interview, Kawhi’s body language didn’t look great and all he had to say was that the Raptors “aren’t scoring enough” and that it has to “start with the defence. “They had two 30-point quarters in the first half. We’re not going to win like that. They had 115 points tonight. They shot 50% from the field, 40% from three. We just got to play better defence,” Leonard said.

As horrible as things seem at the moment, not all hope is lost, however, it is hard not to overstate the importance of Game 4. It may be the biggest game in Raptors franchise history. Lose, and you go down 3-1. History has shown that it is very rare for a team to come back from a 3-1 deficit. Moreover, a loss would almost certainly result in the breakup of the most talented Raptor team to ever be assembled, and the beginning of a rebuild.

Win, and you level the series 2-2, regain home-court advantage and keep the hope alive of at least making the NBA finals and keeping this core group together for the medium-long term future. Strap up Raptor fans, Game 4 on Sunday will be a wild ride.


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25 May 2020


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