NBA Playoffs, Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors

Kawhi Leonard refused to let the Raptors lose to the 76ers in Game 4

With their backs to the wall, the Raptors delivered some help for Kawhi Leonard and he made the big plays to a deliver a Game 4 win over the 76ers.

Pascal Siakam was questionable with a leg contusion, throwing even more pressure onto the Raptors in Game 4. But the supporting cast finally stepped up, Kawhi Leonard was superb, as usual, and the Raptors were able to even the series as things shift back to Toronto.

Neither side led by more than 11 points in this game and the biggest single quarter margin was Toronto winning the fourth by five points. There is still plenty for the Raptors to work on, and plenty more adjustments for the 76ers to make. But Toronto did what they had to do, evening the series and making a statement to Kawhi about the kind of team they are.

Takeaways

Kawhi Leonard refused to let the Raptors lose. It seems obvious that his future with the team is very much tied up in the outcome of this series and in Game 4, he gave the Raptors everything he had. Leonard finished with 39 points and 14 rebounds on 13-of-20 from the field, carrying Toronto’s offense in the second half. He can be a difficult player to read but it seemed obvious that he was disappointed in his teammates after their Game 3 loss. He didn’t respond by sulking or freezing anyone out. He lifted his game and helped them lift theirs too.

Kawhi Leonard got some help. To various degrees, Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka have been disappointing in this series. Given that their immediate future is about convincing Kawhi to stay, suffering losses because the rest of the supporting cast isn’t delivering is deeply problematic. That was not the case in Game 4. Lowry, Gasol and Ibaka combined for 42 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists, shooting 19-of-38 from the field. That trio still struggled to hit 3-pointers and didn’t play anywhere close to their individual or collective ceilings. But they showed up in meaningful ways and helped Toronto get the win, which matters for their present and future.

Next: Is it time to accept playoff James Harden is just a 30 percent 3 point shooter?

The 76ers need Joel Embiid on the floor. Coming into this game, they had outscored the Raptors by 20.8 points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor, and been outscored by 19.0 points per 100 possessions when he was on the bench. The 76ers were +17 tonight in the 35 minutes Embiid played, and -21 in the 13 minutes he was on the bench. The 76ers had a three-point lead with 7:36 left in the fourth quarter when Embiid went to the bench. When he returned two minutes later, they were down by one and would never lead again. There are limits to how much they can lean on him, but Philadelphia needs to figure out how to win his minutes by a bigger margin, or keep things closer when he’s resting.

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