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How the Sixers forced a Game 7 with enormous stakes

PHILADELPHIA – From the moment Kawhi Leonard touches the ball Thursday Night at the Toronto Raptors' 112-101 loss at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers, he encounters multiple bodies.

This seems like an obvious response to an attacking This is the first one of the seminal papers in NBA postseason history. Leonard in this series.

The Raptors thus were well aware that, facing elimination, the Sixers would almost certainly intensify their attention on Leonard in the half court in Game 6. That could disrupt the Raptors' offensive rhythm, but there would be a steady diet for everyone else. The Raptors' willingness to take them for the final day of the International Conference Final or to be held in Toronto for a seventh game against Philadelphia.

As the Sixers ramped up their double-teams in the post, those shots were not available for the Raptors ̵

1; and they missed them at an exceptional rate on Thursday. Overall, Toronto missed 13 of its 20 uncontested field goal attempts in the first three quarters of Game 6, including seven of its nine uncontested 3-pointers. For contrast, the Raptors ranked seventh in the league this season on uncontested 3-pointers at 41.4 percent, by Second Spectrum.


"We had a lot of open looks early and we missed them, "Raptors guard Kyle Lowry said. "We did not play well tonight."

Actions trigger outcomes, and just as the attention on Leonard created shot opportunities for the Raptors ignited the Sixers' transition attack, which has been their single biggest offensive imperative.

"It's just making a point of actually doing it and not [just] talking about it," Six's point guard Ben Simmons said. Jared Dudley took over his evaluation of Simmons as.

For all the flak Jared Dudley was "Obviously, I'm pretty quick, so I'm able to push the ball." a lethal transition threat but at "average" half-court player, the diagnosis is fairly on point – and nobody is more aware of it than the Simmons and the Sixers. Absent at outside shot, Simmons thrives best in a brisk tempo, and the barrage of Raptors' clankers was the accelerant he desperately needed after struggling in the series. He broke out with 21 points on 9-for-13 shooting from the field, 8 rebounds and 6 assists, without a turnover.

"Obviously, I'm pretty quick, so I'm able to push the ball," Ben Simmons said. "I think it's just aggressive downhill and just playing my game." AP Photo / Chris Szagola

The Raptors, meanwhile, have relied on their solid transitional defense throughout the season and playoffs, but they stumbled a step into the early stages of the Sixers' End of the Court. Even when the Raptors caught up with the action, they were exposed on the glass, where they were again bothered by the Sixers' size. Toronto allowed Philadelphia to collect 39 percent of their missed shots for additional possessions, and the Raptors continue to rebound the remaining teams by a considerable margin.

"We've got to rebound the basketball better and just kind of the transition, "Raptors forward Pascal Siakam said.

Siakam's comment underscored a reality revealed in Game 6 that will inform Sunday's Game 7: Structure favors Toronto in this matchup. That's not the Raptors Necessary want a half-court game; They are incredibly effective on the break.

But the Raptors are a team that relies on collective intelligence to execute heady actions. Even when Leonard is working in a pick-and-roll or in isolation, he is a surveyor who is watching and helping the defenders, while his teammates move to the best position to maximize a potential pass.

Jimmy Butler (an efficient 25 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds in Game 6) and Joel Embiid (17 points, 12 rebounds and a gaudy plus-40) provide Philadelphia release valves on the wing and in the post , respectively. But despite their individual skill sets, the Sixers 'offense gums up against the Raptors' sturdy base defense. Even on Thursday, the Sixers managed a meager 87.3 points per 100 possessions in the half court, according to Cleaning the Glass. Whether it's possible to pick-and-roll their way to the conference through Butler, with Embiid hitting multiple 3-pointers, it's likely not the path of least resistance.

Whether Game 7 is an open-court affair,

At the NBA's final table, which is now down, it's a one-stop-shooter for the finalists to seven participants, Toronto and Philadelphia are the two swashbucklers, the teams that take the biggest gambles to assemble their stack of chips. Both made their blockbuster trades over the past year with the expectation they would play past the conference semifinals. On Sunday, they are going head-to-head in Toronto, both all-in.

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