The Raptors entered the postseason looking like one of the deepest, most well-rounded teams in the playoffs with a legitimate 8-man rotation. Kawhi Leonard returned to form, Pascal Siakam became a star overnight, Kyle Lowry made the All-Star team (albeit pretty questionably), Danny Green finished second in the league in three-point percentage, and the team acquired one of the league’s strongest defensive bigs in the league in Marc Gasol.
With Kawhi’s future in Toronto uncertain, this marked one of the most important seasons in franchise history and an early round loss could result in a complete organizational overhaul.
Well, Toronto has hit the playoff lull they seem to hit every year and now, midway through round two, they look like a one man army.
The thing about the Raptors in this series against Philly isn’t that their starters are costing the team games. Even though Kyle Lowry and Danny Green have provided hardly anything offensively, Kawhi and, to a lesser extent, Siakam have done enough to keep the starters afloat. According to The Athletic’s Derek Bodner, in starting lineup-vs-starting lineup matchups, the Raptors are outscoring the Sixers by 89-83 despite being down 2-1 in the series.
What has really hurt Toronto in this series is a total collapse in bench production. In the postseason, NBA teams do not need a bench that can take over a series (although it would certainly help). The bench’s main role is to bridge the starters’ minutes. Basically, just don’t blow it.
The Raptors’ bench is blowing it.
In three games against the Sixers in this series, the bench has scored a combined 30 points.
That is three points more than Kawhi Leonard scored in the first half of Game 1. That is four points less than James Ennis has scored this series in 29 more shots. That is 13 points more than Greg Monroe in 171 more minutes.
The Raptors bench AVERAGED 36.2 points PER GAME during the regular season.
They've scored a COMBINED 30 points this series vs. the Sixers.
— J.E. Skeets (@jeskeets) May 3, 2019
Serge Ibaka has been taken advantage of all series on both ends of the floor where he hasn’t scored the ball, hasn’t rebounded well, and has been abused by Embiid when matched up with him.
Fred VanVleet has scored just four points this series. That’s all.
Norman Powell provided solid, albeit inconsistent, scoring efforts off the bench in few minutes throughout the regular season, and even the last two games of the Orlando series, but has not been able to do anything in his minutes against Philly – averaging just 3 points in 14 minutes per game.
While the players could certainly play better, they just do not matchup well against length and there isn’t much they can do to combat it, especially when their shots aren’t falling. Nick Nurse has shown a tendency to put out lineups with Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, and Norman Powell at the same time which is a death wish against a Philly roster that has a tremendous amount of length on the floor at all times.
Fred VanVleet vs. Sixers:
3 points on 1-of-2 shooting in 23 minutes in Game 1
0 points on 0-of-2 shooting in 18 minutes in Game 2
1 point on 0-of-7 shooting in 21 minutes in Game 3
— Chris Walder (@WalderSports) May 3, 2019
This series is far from over. The Raptors have a ridiculous amount of talent and were a 58 win team and second in the East for a reason. With playoff Kawhi on your roster, you don’t even need to play well to win games. You truly just need to not go full Houdini on the court.
It looks like the magic carried over from Orlando.