The 76ers led by as much as 19 in the first half but needed several huge plays down the stretch of Game 2 to hold off the Raptors.
The 76ers came out determined to give a better showing than they did in their double-digit Game 1 loss. A key defensive adjustment (more on that below), helped slow down Toronto’s offense and Philadelphia was scorching hot from the outside, hitting eight first-half 3-pointers. They led by as much as 19 and took a 13-point advantage in halftime.
But the shots stopped falling in the second half, the turnovers began piling up and the Raptors crept back into the game. A Kyle Lowry 3-pointer cut the 76ers lead to four at the 2:00 mark of the fourth quarter. But the 76ers made the plays they needed, including a clutch, driving bank-shot by Joel Embiid with 24.3 seconds left. Danny Green had a shot at a game-tying 3-pointer but couldn’t hit and Tobias Harris secured the rebound to finish the Raptors.
The matchup chess match begins. The 76ers made a major defensive change in Game 2, putting Joel Embiid on Pascal Siakam and moving Tobias Harris onto Marc Gasol. In Game 1, Gasol’s shooting had frequently pulled Embiid away from the basket and opened driving lanes for Siakam and Kawhi Leonard. Putting Embiid on Siakam let him stay closer to the basket and encouraged Siakam to try to beat Philadelphia with his shooting, which is decent but not nearly as dangerous as his playmaking and finishing off the dribble. The adjustment was mostly a win for the 76ers. Gasol wasn’t able to punish Harris in the post, Siakam took seven 3-pointers (tying a season-high) and made just two, and had a much harder time scoring in the paint. We’ll see what counters the Raptors can cook up for Game 3.
Ben Simmons is playing some defense. Kawhi Leonard has been fantastic but he’s been much quieter when Simmons is front of him. In Game 1, Leonard scored just six points on the 35 possessions in which Simmons was his primary defender. Those stats weren’t immediately available for Game 2, but the Simmons appeared to repeatedly harass Leonard away from his preferred spots on the floor and make sure nothing came easy. Simmons had a quiet offensive game but came up with 7 defensive rebounds, 2 steals and a block. He did an excellent job on D’Angelo Russell in the first round and he’s making a difference in this round as well.
Philadelphia’s offense is struggling. The 76ers are thrilled to get a split on the road but they should absolutely be worried about their offense. After a major clunker in Game 1, they 19 turnovers and once again shot under 40 percent from the field and 30 percent on 3-pointers. Jimmy Butler hit some big shots and both James Ennis and Greg Monroe gave them a boost off the bench. But they aren’t generating many easy looks and they aren’t making many of the ones they do create. They can’t just count on making enough difficult shots to beat the Raptors three more times.