What To Expect From Game 3 In Philly

David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

The Toronto Raptors are in an interesting position in their second-round series. By splitting the first two contests at home it effectively gifts Philadelphia the home court advantage, particularly an advantage for the next two games that are taking place in Philly. If the Sixers manage to win both games at home, it would put Toronto in an unprecedented situation. Being down 3-1 and going back home with little to no shot of turning the series around. So the obvious notion is that the Raptors need a win on the road. Therefore the question remains, which game is more important? Whenever there is a stalemate in an NBA series, whether its 1-1, 2-2 or 3-3, the winner of the next game often goes on to win the series. Game 3 is going to be the break of the first stalemate in the series. However, there are some key factors that make game 3 incredibly significant.

When a series is tied for the first time its crucial to do everything you can to win the tie-breaker not just to go ahead a game, but it also acts as a mental motivator for the winners and as a mental hurdle for the opponents should they come upon another stalemate. The team that wins game 3 will have the confidence and momentum on their side if it's tied going into game 5 no matter where it occurs. This is why it’s crucial the Raptors respond with a great game, starting on fire early and keeping that pace throughout the game. The combination of run-and-gun offence and hard-nosed defence has been the primary ingredients to the Raptors success this season. With Philadelphia boasting an incredible game 2 with key performances by Jimmy Butler and an under the weather Joel Embiid, was enough to beat a depleted Raptors team that produced one of the worst first halves in franchise history. Not to use any excuses but we clearly had a historically bad game, and although we have not dealt too well with pressure in the past, we have Kawhi Leonard now. He is a winner and a champion as well as one of Philadelphia’s greatest adversaries. Ben Simmons has fared well this series but for the most part, he has just been cooked by Kawhi for both games. Siakam had a relatively quiet game, Lowry was having an above average game all the way until he tried to nutmeg the defender while down 3 with 14 seconds to go. Danny Green was 1/8 from the 3-point range including that disappointing miss at the end while Serge Ibaka essentially contributed to the Sixers win with consistently fouling Embiid on every possession. We scored less than 40 points at half time and although the response was better in the 2nd half, it was ultimately not enough as Philly were able to hold on for the win. The lucky only get rewarded once in a blue moon but we all know the Raptors should beat Philly in this series. We let game 2 slip away. The lack of offensive prowess caused the Sixers to continue to exploit what was working and have enough time to fix their problems and continue to execute. The Raptors came back with a strong 3rd quarter but the end of the period was underwhelming. Every time the starters made a run, the bench would come in the lead would slowly diminish.

I expect Philadelphia to come out with great energy, looking to capitalize on their momentum similar to the Brooklyn series. The Sixers boast an incredibly talent-filled starting five that consists of 5 individuals that can create their own shot. This will be a problem for Toronto especially with the energy and support of the crowd and the motivation coming off a win in the six. Even though Joel Embiid is the star of this team and Ben Simmons is a young Jason Kidd in the making, but J-Kidd shot jumpers from time to time. In the shooting era and in a time where shooting teams exist more than not, Ben Simmons decides he does not need to shoot. Great luck with that. Simmons and Embiid have been lacklustre in this series mostly due to the defending of Kawhi and Marc Gasol. However, with Serge commanding minutes off the bench, Joel is able to assert himself in the offence once Gasol is benched. Simmons has to deal with being guarded by statistically his greatest adversary while trying to contain him on the other end as well. However, the real key to this series would be Jimmy Butler. The experience and multi-skill array if talents he brings is particularly why Jimmy is crucial to Philly’s playoff success. If Philadelphia win game 3 and potentially game 4, it will be because Jimmy led them there. Moving into this next game it's going to be interesting to see what type of performance he displays. I expect Jimmy to be at his best and coach Brown to push the offence through his skill set. My belief is ultimately in this series, Jimmy is going to be the what could or could not put Philly over the top, only time will tell.

Toronto, on the other hand, did not amount to much in that second game. However like previously mentioned, the Raptors were historically bad in Game 2, which means the chances of a repeat offence occurring would be very slim, especially with the quality and experience we boast on our team. In my impartial opinion, the Raptors are the best team in the Eastern Conference. However, that is only the truth once we’re all able to click on all cylinders. It doesn’t bode well for only two or three of our best players to show up and nobody else. The Raptors need to dig deep and create a tactically genius plan in order to free space and get role players in their respective spots to knock down their shots. If Jimmy is the benchmark for Philly, our supporting cast is definitely our backbone. Game 3 is where the Raptors need to make their greatest adjustments. Long and strong lineups that are able to keep up with the size of Philly. Playing Gasol and Kawhi extended minutes would be a positive considering the magnitude of this game. Having those two players active neutralizes the efforts of Embiid and Simmons. If we are able to play a solid but of defence every time up to the court and our role players gel in-form and begin to drain baskets, I don’t see Toronto losing game 3. The experience, the adjustments and the depth should be too much for Philly even with a rabid atmosphere and a team of great individual stars. Expect the Raptors to come out of the gate quickly and put the pressure on Philadelphia, on their home floor. It's important to play freely and with no pressure when on the road, this effectively transfers any distress and expectations to the home team. A quick start with shots going down would be the ideal scenario for Toronto. Similar to how they came out in the second half of game 2, they need to attack quickly on the slow and calculated Sixers. I fully expected Siakam and Kawhi to facilitate their usual contributions and lead the team, however, it is the role players that will be the reason we win or lose this game. No game nor championship is ever won without the “others” and in game 2 it was Philly’s bench that came clutch and outplayed the Raptors support group. However every game is a new story, so what classic tale will game 3 produce? Perhaps an overtime thriller, a back and forth showdown between Jimmy and Kawhi or even a battle of the benches as both groups have been criticized in these playoffs. Will it be the tenacious and talent-filled Sixers that make quick work of Toronto, or will the Raptors use their experience, togetherness and discipline to take and make their shots when they count most. I would bet on a fantastic game where neither team is ever truly out of it. I predict two teams that essentially will give it their all, producing what could potentially be one of the best games of the year.