TORONTO – Can a team make a defiant, courageous statement without scoring points in the N.B.A? In 2019? The Philadelphia 76ers, a team that seemed far outclassed by the Toronto Raptors in the first game of the Eastern Conference semi-finals, would like a word and possibly a time machine to consult yesterday's basketball deities. And that word they would like to have might be "outlast ".
The Sixers staged a victory at the Scotiabank Arena (94-89) on Monday night, and only one of their stars played well. An arena in which Philadelphia had not won since 201
"When you downsize your rotations, it's naive for us to think you would play a game like a track meeting is a fist fight. It's a joke throughout the game, "said Brett Brown, the coach of the Sixers, after the game.
Grind? Sure. Pugilist? Get on with it. But this was a draw. The Sixers played as if they were holding Game 2 could have nostalgically satisfied fans for the NBA in the 2000s, when the turtle was brought forward to the hare and the highlights of the "SportsCenter" were full of Tim Duncan's 18-foot bank shots Philadelphia Although he scored less than 40 percent, but this style of play could also be the way to the next round: pure survival.The Raptors are on the paper a deeper, more talented team For the Sixers: Slowly and steadily wins Race.
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Of course, in the playoffs, the bankers stay more on de r Bank games slow down. Teams ask elite players who are conserved during the regular season to play for more minutes against the better defenses of the best units.
But Philadelphia's best star was limited in Game 2: Joel Embiid, the franchise center, was a game – timing for gastroenteritis (He described it more colloquially in the Postgame press conference, but added that there was never any doubt that he was playing.). Embiid fought most of the game, scoring 2 for 7 out of the field with six tournaments, scoring just 12 points. (One of those two shots sealed the victory for Philadelphia: a great turn and fake under the basket that took third place in fourth position.)
But another setback helped Embiid make up for the breakthrough: the cumbersome support of Greg Monroe. Conventional wisdom tells us that the game passed him by and that Monroe belongs in the 2000s. He is sluggish, a typically poor defender and thrives on color instead of stretching the ground throughout the shoot. There is a reason why he plays for his third team this season (all three are playing in the semifinals of the Eastern Conference, including the Raptors and Boston Celtics).
He is nicknamed "Moose" and is from Surefire N.B.A. Starter to journeyman with uncertain home. Monroe came in and scored 10 points in seven strokes and took five rebounds in 12 minutes. Many of his points were simply bullying defenders near the basket. The Raptors repeatedly tried to defensively attack him with more defensive guards like Danny Green and Kyle Lowry. They failed. Monroe moved his feet just enough to disrupt her movement and helped Philadelphia gain a 19-point lead in the first half. It was the rare night in which Monroe was the best center of the team.
"Greg, who came in, would be some kind of gut feeling I had and I thought he was great," Brown said.
But the birds of prey would not go down without a fight. It's not unusual, of course: Toronto has Kawhi Leonard, probably the best player in the Eastern Conference.
In a post-season when Damian Lillard of the Portland Trailblazers has taken a breathtaking step and blown the Oklahoma City Thunder off the ground and Kevin "You know who I am" Durant is on his own, stormy escape, Leonard has his opponents methodically and quietly destroyed. The 76ers had no answer for the reserved Leonard, while their own pronounced blue shredders were collectively no match for him.
The N.B.A. has become more popular in the last decade, also because of the virality: Posterdunk and ankle-breaking highlights spread in no time. Trainers and players do everything they can to keep their colleagues on the social media. But not Leonard, who ignores the spotlight so much that in itself it has become a memorable part of message boards.
In Game 2, Leonard lost 35 points in 24 strokes and saved Toronto almost alone from losing. His output was only slightly less dominant than in the first game of the series, as the Sixers might not be better off defending him: 45 points in 23 strokes. Monday was the 11th time that Leonard scored 30 or more points in a playoff game.
But Philadelphia continued to hold, even after the Raptors cut the ball down in the fourth quarter, thanks to a performance from a star: Jimmy Butler, a ferocious guy A player who is also a step backwards, who usually gets up beating the batting and the hard defense instead of grabbing the first available 3-pointer after starting only a 2.7 game for his career.
To put this in perspective, James Harden of Houston Rockets, who led the league this year, scored more than 13 three-point attempts per game on average. On Monday night, Butler scored in the 43rd minute 30 points and struck four from a distance. He added 11 rebounds and five assists.
"Jimmy Butler is a player," said coach Nick Nurse of the Raptors. "He would not be quiet this whole series. Law? This guy can play. We know that. "
Or, as Brown put it," This was James Butler. That was the adult in the gym. "(Butler later clarified that his name was actually Jimmy, and made it clear that this was always the case.)
Now the series is relocating to Philadelphia, and maybe the Sixers have found a way to fight popular team with more weapons: slow down the game and use the old sports cliché to grind it. You certainly have the tools to do so, with Embiid and a reappearing Monroe in their run. Embiid, usually a massive whirlwind of brilliant footwork in the post, is likely to have to overcome his knee (and stomach) problems so Philadelphia has a chance for a puncher.
But so far, the Sixers, split the first two games on the street, did what they needed: they survived.