That’s a Wrap – Observations from Sixers 104, Raptors 101 (OT/Game 3)

Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

That’ll do it. Series over. As Tony Bruno used to say, “we’d like to thank the Toronto Raptors for participating in the NBA playoffs.”

What a game it was. Holy cow. The Sixers clawed their way back, botched a couple of late sets, and then got a Joel Embiid dagger anyway. 1999 Aaron Sorkin couldn’t have written a better script.

It’s crazy when you consider how poorly the Sixers finished in most auxiliary categories on Wednesday night. They shot 12 fewer field goals as a result of 22 turnovers and nine offensive rebounds allowed. They only finished +2 in free throw attempts, which ended up being mostly a wash after significant protest from Nick Nurse and various talking heads in the media. And the Sixers did virtually nothing in transition after winning on both sides of that statistic in games one and two.

They wiped all of that out by making more shots, getting stops down the stretch, and executing when it mattered. Toronto missed some free throws late. One team looked ready for the crunch time and the other didn’t.

That said, let’s go sequentially through some of the key moments at the end of this game, beginning with this:

This was the crazy goaltending call at the end of the 4th quarter. The refs whistled it in order to go review, and they looked at replay and upheld the call. I’ve watched this clip at least 15 times and for the life of me can’t decide if the ball is still going up or coming down. It looks like just barely starts to fall when OG Anunoby touches it. (edit – someone pointed out that the ball is in the cylinder here, just can’t tell from that replay angle)

Then, to the final play of regulation:

A 27-foot step-back three isn’t ideal there. Keep in mind, James Harden had fouled out at this point. So they went back to closing through Embiid, an early season design here where they get a switch with Tobias Harris and have him throw the entry pass. Problem is that the entry is caught at the three-point line, and Embiid has to evade a Gary Trent dig. They just didn’t work this thing to the best of their ability.

The same happened at the end of overtime, with a key difference:

Same thing here initially, but they clear out entirely for Embiid and just throw him the entry with shooters spread out on the weak side. Embiid delays, loses the ball, and then Doc Rivers comes flying out of his area to go call a timeout and salvage the possession, which really was the key to setting up this:

It’s a great design. Nothing fancy, just run two guys off and have the third set a screen. Embiid doesn’t need much space to turn and fire because he’s 7′ to begin with, and Fred VanVleet isn’t going to foul there, so he just tries to get close and disrupt the shot while sidestepping at the end.

I just think the weird thing is that FVV starts on the inbounder, then peels off, so they don’t have anybody disrupting Danny Green, who throws that pass in quite easily:

I was watching all of this last night and thinking “oh shit, this is gonna be another Doc Rivers game,” with people complaining about those end of OT and end of regulation Embiid sets. Maybe you’ll still hear that criticism this morning, but Doc stepped in and saved that possession with the timeout, which set up the opportunity for the game winner.

Keep in mind, without Harden on the floor, they had to adjust, because he’s been doing so much directing that the Sixers really fall back on early season “who is the closer?” mode without him out there. Embiid can absolutely be that guy, but facilitating a look for him is so much different with Harden off the floor and Maxey having to organize.

But for real – Doc has been very good in this series. Nick Nurse has been really disappointing.

Other notes:

  • With Matisse Thybulle ineligible to play in Canada, Doc simply trimmed the rotation to eight. That’s a really good sign, because last year he was rolling 10 in the Atlanta series and didn’t seem to have a defined bench plan. The rotations have been spot on through three games so far.
  • Toronto fans were hardcore whining about Doc running onto the court to call the timeout. We’d probably be bitching about the same thing if Nurse did that, but what is there to say? The refs allowed it.
  • That “fuck Embiid!” chant was real classy. Bet you won’t hear about it in the fake news international media! (mostly sarcasm)
  • The Cure Auto Insurance commercial is terrible. It’s got to go.
  • Low key fantastic Tobias Harris game. Grabbing rebounds, playing solid defense, gluing it all together. Russ make the observation that it was one of those Lamar Odom Laker type of games.
  • We had dueling zone defense looks in the second half. Toronto did it to push back on the Harden/Embiid pick and roll, and then Philly showed a bit of it on the opposite end as well. Doc threw another good timeout in there during the third quarter.
  • VanVleet and Siakam combined to shoot 9 for 29 and that’s just as big as any other topic in this game. FVV had the foul trouble in game one, shot 30% in game 2, and then put up another underwhelming performance in game 3. Toronto just isn’t getting enough out of their main guys in this series.

Finally, since the win took place on 4/20, here’s your obligatory Half Baked clip: