Kawhi Ends The Curse!!!!
The Raptors have ended their curse! After two years of suffering second-round exits to Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Raptors have finally redeemed themselves. The Philadelphia 76ers put up a hard, well-fought battle against the Raptors however had no chance against Kawhi Leonard's 41 point performance. The game-winning shot Kawhi made reminded the NBA as to why he was an MVP nominee two years ago. All-Star Center Joel Embiid took that reminder to heart as he left the court with tears.
The Raptors deserved this win as they have been struggling to make it past the second round for the past three seasons. Before the season began, the San Antonio Spurs and the Toronto Raptors made a trade sending Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to Toronto in exchange for Demar Derozen and Jakob Poeltl. This is significant to this series victory due to, the drastic difference between the performances of Kawhi Leonard and Demar Derozen. Raptor fans loved Demar Derozen however, the unfortunate reality for Derozen was that he could never take the Raptors to the next level. Kawhi, on the other hand, managed to play productively in these playoffs and sealed the Semi-Conference series by nailing home the game-winner. Kawhi Leonard played his role for the Raptors however, what about the rest of the team?
Some players on the roster played valuable minutes such as, Serge Ibaka who played in this series a respectable 23 minutes per game while putting up respectable sixth man stats of 8.7 points, and 4.9 rebounds. However, the standout game for Ibaka was game seven as he scored 17 points, eight rebounds, and an overall 60% from the field with only playing under 30 minutes. Pascal Siakam was also a huge contribution to this series as he averaged, 19.4 points, five rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Siakam was overall a reliable player for the Raptors however that is old news as we have seen his performance all year with the incredible jump he made. From nailing shots everywhere on the court with averaging a respectable 48% from the field, It is safe to say that Pascal Siakam is the most improved player for not only in the regular season but in the playoffs. Compared to his last year performance in the playoffs on only averaging, 6.6 points and 3 rebounds to now a staggering 20.7 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.2 steals, Siakam easily took the mantel of becoming the second best player on the Toronto Raptors. Although Ibaka and Siakam overall played amazing given their roles, the rest of the roster could not match their performance.
Players such as Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, and Danny Green failed to show consistency and reliability. From Gasol not hitting any shots from the three-point line until game 7 too, Lowry’s inconsistency in the scoring department, someone had to step up for their disappointing performances. Kawhi Leonard was that spark plug for the Raptors with incredible averages of, 34.7 points, 9.9 rebounds, four assists, and 1.3 steals, it felt as if Kawhi was everywhere on the court. Notoriously though, Kyle Lowry failed to stay consistent in this round as he would score 20 points in one game to scoring only 7 points with poor shooting percentages. If the Raptors want to make it to the finals, their All-Star point guard needs to start playing the All-Star role properly.
When it comes to Gasol however, he produced, 8.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, three assists, and 1.3 blocks. Overall in this series, there would be instances where Gasol looked lost on the court and other times where he would find his strive. Game 7 was the game that Gasol stepped up the most as he managed to do his main objective which was, to slow down Joel Embiid on the offensive side.
The performance that was evident in this series, more importantly, game 7 for the Raptors was their defensive strides. In game 7, Nick Nurse only put 7 players in the rotation due to, the heavy emphasis of what type of basketball Nick Nurse wanted to execute. The defense that the Raptors displayed in this game was a very tall lineup with lots of double team plays. The Raptors were the clear force of dominance throughout this entire game.
With the emotional defeat for the Philadelphia 76ers, some factors come into play. When someone thinks of the current Philadelphia 76ers, most people think of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. However, the real production of dominance in this series was, Jimmy Butler. With averages of 22 points, seven rebounds, 5.6 assists, and one steal, Butler was not only the leading scorer for the 76ers but also showed the most consistency. There were moments in this series where Philadelphia should have lost however due to Butler’s dominance on the court, they managed to prolong the series to 7 games. Players such as Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid were at times absent in games. Although Embiid still averaged 17.5 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists, with two blocks for the series, Embiid's title for being the franchise player was not present in this series. This series has been the worst for Embiids playoff career as he produced career lows in every statistical category against the Raptors. From horrible shooting averages to looking slow at times, Embiid did not perform well to expectations. Ben Simmons, on the other hand, was not present in this series. With averages of 11.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, 4.9 assists, with 1.3 steals, Simmons let all expectations fall apart. Simmons has never been that volume scorer for Philidelphia however, has been known for his performance everywhere else on the court. When it comes down to this series, for the most part, Simmons did not perform as well as he would have hoped for compared to the regular season. With a near triple-double average in the regular season, Simmons failed to produce the same level of production.
However, the production of Tobias Harris where he averaged, 14 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and one steal and JJ Redick averaging 13.3 points, two rebounds, and 1.9 assists, gave the 76ers more dominant shooting from behind the three-point line. Both Tobias Harris and JJ Redick have been volume shooters throughout their careers which is what elevated the 76ers. However, consistency is what brought the downfall of the Philadelphia 76ers. When looking at the surface, all the starters for Philadelphia averaged above 10 points per game. However, the only starter that was consistent in understanding their role was, Jimmy Butler. The rest of the starters seemed to be either dominate or forgotten in this series. Also, role players such as Mike Scott and James Ennis contributed very well when it came to defending the basketball or making clutch three-point shots.
On paper the 76ers were the better team however failed to find consistent momentum on the court whether it was shooting or defending the basketball.
What Does This Series Dictate For The Future Of The Philadelphia 76ers?
This series loss opened up various doors for the Philadelphia 76ers. Their main pieces being Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are both under the age of 25 with countless years to improve. The 76ers are in no rush to win a championship right now as they are still a growing team. The only factor that comes to losing this series was, to ensure that both Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler resign. Even if they do not resign, the future for this team still looks bright. Last year the 76ers managed to make it to the same position they were in this year without Jimmy Butler or Tobias Harris.
This series defeat is a scary one for Philadelphia as they now have revenge on their shoulders and something to prove. The 76ers are going to go into this season with the same mentality as the Milwaukee Bucks did this year. The Bucks used their first-round exit last year as fuel for them to ensure wins and dominance.
The future looks bright for Philadelphia and it's going to look brighter for them in the upcoming years due to this series. Although Embiid and Simmons played poorly in this series, the positive take on their performance is that they are only going to get better. The only question that has no guaranteed answer for Philadelphia for now is, will Jimmy Butler resign?