By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer
The Philadelphia 76ers dropped Game 5 to the Toronto Raptors 103-88 on Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center. What was once a 3-0 series lead has now been cut to 3-2.
Joel Embiid finished with 20 points, 11 rebounds and four assists in the loss.
Pascal Siakam led the Raptors with 23 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. Toronto was without Fred VanVleet, who missed Game 5 with a left hip flexor strain.
The Sixers struggled in all facets of the game. Toronto dominated inside, scoring 56 points in the paint compared to 36 for the Sixers. Toronto also scored 24 fast-break points. The Sixers let Toronto play their gritty, defensive style of basketball to perfection in Game 5.
The series swings back up to Toronto for Game 6 on Thursday night. Here are three observations from the woeful Sixers' loss:
Stagnant offense, poor shooting lead to Sixers' worst game of series
Slow starts have plagued the Sixers both throughout this season and at times in this first-round series against the Raptors. The team committed nine turnovers, including seven in the first quarter. A lot of their turnovers were caused by sloppy play, and Toronto often took advantage. The Raptors scored 20 fast-break points in the first half alone as they utilized their ability to get out and run in transition to help them build up a 13-point lead at the half.
The Sixers' offense did not move the ball well. There was not a lot of off-ball movement, resulting in a ton of isolation-style basketball. The Sixers are not a team built to win in that fashion. James Harden was a great scorer in isolation earlier in his career, but he lacks the same explosive burst he once had. Embiid gets trapped with double or triple teams whenever he puts the ball down on the floor. Ball movement and clean basketball, especially against a team like the Raptors, is a crucial key to the Sixers' success this series.
Harden did not put together a good performance. He finished with 15 points on 4-of-11 shooting to go along with seven assists and five turnovers. He has not been a dominant scorer in this series, but he had done a good job spreading the ball around. In Game 5, he also struggled to efficiently run the offense. The Sixers simply need more from Harden on the offensive end in this series.
The Sixers, who came into Game 5 shooting 45.2 percent from three-point range in the series, could not buy a bucket from beyond the arc in Game 5. They shot 27.0 percent from deep. The lone exception to the team's outside shooting struggles was Danny Green, who knocked down four of his nine attempts from beyond the arc on his way to scoring 14 points. Some of Green's misses were airballs, but overall he had one of his better performances so far in this series.
The team's shooting problems were not limited to just three-point range. The Sixers shot a meager 38.3 percent from the field while turning the ball over 15 times. The Raptors, on the other hand, shot 51.2 percent from the field and an incredible 66.7 percent from shots inside the arc. The Sixers had some success when they got the ball inside the paint, but they relied far too much (37 attempts from beyond the arc) on settling for threes instead of pushing the ball inside against the Toronto defense.
Thybulle struggles in return from two-game absence
The Sixers' offensive struggles really showed up in the second quarter. There was a ton of indecisiveness amongst everyone on the floor. The team did not score its first points of the second quarter until Green hit a three with 6:58 remaining in the quarter. The Sixers scored just 14 points in the quarter, one of their worst offensive stretches of basketball this season.
One possession perfectly summing up their poor second quarter came with just over 10 minutes remaining. Matisse Thybulle, who had not played the previous two games because of being ineligible to play in Canada due to their Covid vaccination requirement, passed up a pair of open threes on the same possession before turning the ball over for an easy Scottie Barnes layup.
Thybulle struggled immensely, scoring two points on 1-of-6 shooting with two rebounds and a steal. He got into his own head after missing a pair of free throws and an open three, resulting in his hesitation in the possession described above. While he usually makes up for his lack of offense with a strong defensive performance, he did not really make an impact on that end of the floor.
After he struggled in his time on the court in the first half, it was shocking to see head coach Doc Rivers briefly go to him again off the bench in the second half. He will again be ineligible to play in Game 6 in Toronto.
Embiid's up-and-down night
In Game 4, Embiid struggled to control the ball and was often seen grabbing at his injured thumb. The injury did not seem to bother him as much in Game 5, although he still only put together a mediocre performance in the loss.
He took a few minutes to get involved in the game, scoring his first points of the game on a dunk off a Harden assist with 7:14 remaining in the first quarter. After that, he spent the rest of the first quarter terrorizing the Raptors by getting into deep post position. He scored 10 of his points in the opening quarter.
Embiid was at his best when he used his size advantage against a smaller Toronto roster to play a physical style of offense. He had a lot of success getting into good position in the first quarter, but he went away from it at times throughout the game. There were brief moments in the second half where he asserted his dominance in the paint, such as a pair of possessions midway through the third quarter resulting in a layup and a powerful dunk. The Sixers need to make a more concerted effort to take advantage of Embiid's size advantage going forward in this series.
On defense, Toronto came into the game with a game plan to draw Embiid away from the paint. Their game plan proved to be effective as Embiid repeatedly got sucked out to the perimeter where the Raptors were able to blow past him for some easy layups. They had a lot of success against Embiid especially late in the third quarter when both Siakam and Precious Achiuwa were able to drive by him and get to the paint. Embiid did not look engaged on that end of the floor and Toronto was able to take advantage.