by A. Dorcely
Toronto– It’s a cool Monday evening out, not too far from “Jurassic Park.” Not sure if that means I’m in “Jurassic World.” Please get acquainted with Google if you’re unable to follow along so far.
Anyway, The Toronto Raptors are playing the Philadelphia 76ers in Scotiabank Arena. It’s the first time they’ve played Philadelphia since Kawhi Leonard hit his epic game 7 shot to send the Raptors into the Eastern Conference Finals and the 76ers on summer vacation. By the way if the playoffs were to start today these two teams would be seeded fourth and fifth respectively. Suffice it to say that this match up between these two Eastern Conference foes about a month into the sea-son is nothing to scoff at. Some coaches would see this as an opportunity to send a message early. The 76ers might see it as time to get a little get back.
Philadelphia comes in with a substantial size advantage and an overflow of star power due to the departure of Kawhi and the injuries to Lowry and Ibaka. With that noted the Raptors who have been dealing with these deficiencies get off to an 8-0 start. Philly doesn’t score until 8:37 left in the first quarter from a 3 pointer by Josh Richardson making the score 8-3. But it doesn’t take much after that for the 76ers to get their legs under them. By the 6:02 mark they were only down by 2, 15-13 because of a layup by Tobias Harris. You could tell early on that this was going to be a run and gun type of pace. No time to huddle for the play to get called in. Hurry up offense. Really!! I’m just checking to see if you’re paying attention. By the end of the first quarter the score was 34-28 in favor of Philly. Mostly due to a couple of lapses in defense as Gasol had to switch on to Richardson during pick and roll action.
For almost half the 2nd quarter the 76ers took the lead by as much as eight points. But there’s an old saying that speed kills. Toronto was able to use that in their favor to keep the game close. R. Hollis-Jefferson kept the game tied towards the middle of the second with some crowd pleasing aerodynamic finishes. His hustle and energy was a welcome boost and a necessary addition to that of the starters. 4:34 left in the second the score was 44-39 and Jefferson, VanVleet and Siakam were keeping Toronto in contention with 11 points each. As the quarter came to an end Siakam put up a couple of shots that just went awry. But he made up for it by going to the basket strong for an “and 1” opportunity with about a minute left in the half. The Raptors went into their locker room with a lead of 51-49.
The game continued to be that which most basketball games are which is a game of runs. Half-way through the 3rd the Raptors led 68-62 with 5:17 left. The build up for an exciting finish was here once again. Basically picking up from where they left off in last year’s playoffs. Except for the fact that this time around the 76ers were playing the reigning world champions.
The Raptors led 81-80 to start the 4th. The back and forth continued for a bit and Philly was able to get ahold of the lead early on. With 8:01 and the 76ers by 1 the crowd instigated by Hollis-Jefferson let their voices be heard as Richardson went to the free throw line and missed three free throws. The “claw biting” game dwindled down with every field goal attempt. Now there was a little over a minute left and the 76ers were up by 2, Pascal Siakam goes up at 1:01 in the fourth to tie the game as he floats a shot over Joel Embiid and also acquires a foul. He made the free throw which gave Toronto a one point lead that they did not relinquish as they added a couple of defen-sive stops and a few more free throws.
The final score: Philadelphia 76ers 96; Toronto 101.