Welcome to Views from 116. In case you forgot, this column is a perspective from the stands for the fans. Let’s get to it.
Sixers vs. Raptors – Thursday, May 2, 2019
For Game 3, Round 2 of the Eastern Conference Playoffs, the 3rd seeded Sixers took on the 2nd seeded Raptors. The Sixers won 116-95, taking a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven-games series.
For the 3rd time in a row, I feel like I just wrote this. The last home game I attended was a blowout and this game was no different. For the 3rd time in a row, I even wore the same outfit (and will continue to do so), bought the same beer at PJ Whelihan’s (and will continue to do so), and made the same dumb jokes all game to RJ (yes, I will absolutely continue to do so). Every thing every fan does matters, and I’m certainly not about to mess with a winning formula!
My routine may be the same, but this series certainly is different than last series. As much as I like to troll noted quitter Kawhi Leonard, he’s been an absolute force for the Raptors in every game this series (45 points in Game 1, 35 in Game 2, and 33 in Game 3). The trouble? His teammates aren’t as good at basketball as Joel Embiid’s teammates. Could the rest of the Raptors’ generally uninspired play be due to Kawhi potentially leaving Toronto for the LA Clippers? Only time will tell!
As in-arena announcer Matt Cord put it pre-game, “there are no injuries tonight”, which is really what you hope for the playoffs.
On the way into the stadium, we heard the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme” from two separate sources within a span of two minutes, which prompted me to put a poll out on Philadelphia-related songs – feel free to vote if you still can:
Pregame, Raptors coach Nick Nurse decided to offend one of the best crowds in the league. It was at this moment I knew the Sixers would win:
Jessy Kyle belted out the Canadian anthem, Ron Brooks belted out the national anthem, and the Philly-sports trio of Carson Wentz, James van Riemsdyk, and Rhys Hoskins rang the bell.
The Sixers came out strong to start and won the quarter 32-29. What really stood out to me was the crowd. It was LOUD in there. Sorry Nick Nurse – you’re not in Orlando anymore!
Philadelphia remains the greatest place on planet Earth.
Other 1st quarter observations:
- The Sixers got off to a great start behind some good defense and good Embiid shooting (he’d finish 9-18 on the night, including 3-4 from three for 33 points, 10 rebounds, and a crazy +31 plus-minus in only 28 minutes). Embiid rose to the occasion this night and looked wholly “back” from nagging injuries and sickness. If he can play like he did in Game 3 for the remaining 10 needed wins in the playoffs, the Sixers will be NBA champs.
- The first gimmick was the the time-honored Chik-Fil-A Challenge, where a fan shoots a lay-up, free-throw, three-pointer, and half-court shot for various prizes. Eerily similar to last time I was in the building, the fan quickly made the first three shots but couldn’t sink the half-court shot. The crowd rightfully applauded his efforts. Repeating routines is really paying off in strange ways!
- Greg Monroe and James Ennis were first off the bench, shortly followed by the suddenly healthy Mike Scott. Monroe & Ennis have been difference makers thus far, and the addition of Scott allowed the Sixers to play more confidently on both ends. It’s good to have Mike back:
- #NBATwitter darling Pascal Siakim got a lot of touch fouls early. I guess the accidental viral critical consensus (shout out Art of the Take Podcast) has infected the minds of NBA officials as well.
- RJ made a very astute observation as the Sixers closed the quarter:
The Sixers kept their defensive intensity up in the 2nd quarter and won 32-24, taking an 11-point lead (64-53) into halftime. I was struck by the poise the Sixers displayed this quarter. They’re still a team that is just getting to know each other and figuring things out…but they played like seasoned vets. Give a lot of credit to Brett Brown for keeping everyone on-point. I mean…look at this cohesion:
- There was this big silly bobble-head cam where a big-head Franklin ran around. It’s terrifying, actually:
- No gimmicks this quarter – just the always good Sixers Stixers drumline.
- There was a very cute moment where James Ennis scored right before a timeout and Matt Cord announced it as Embiid. Embiid and other teammates kept pointing at Ennis, indicating that he was indeed the one who scored. It’s hard not to love this team.
- The Sixers simply had too many ways to score this quarter. The Raptors played long minutes without Marc Gasol (who had success defending Embiid in the first two games) but paid for it all over the court – particularly with the Kyle Lowry-Tobias Harris mismatch:
I was very proud of our home crowd this game. They kept the intensity up, even as the Sixers started to break away. Not every fan-base is so Passionate, Intense, or Proud:
- The halftime show was the amazing Sladek, the guy who stacks many chairs very high and climbs on them. Really, it’s a thing, I promise:
The Sixers lost this quarter just slightly 25-28, entering the 4th with a 7 point lead (89-81). Despite losing the quarter, they actually looked pretty good – particularly JJ Redick. I like to chide Redick, but he showed up tonight, to the tune of 50% from three-point land and a +22 plus-minus:
Redick also showed some heart – hit a flurry of threes this quarter, got hurt, and then came back in. Gotta love that!
Other 3rd quarter observations:
- There was a new gimmick this quarter! “Sixers Trivia”, which is a thing where the in-arena host Christian Crosby goes around asking fans questions and rewarding them with Sixers jerseys if they answer correctly. Pretty entertaining! There was also the big head race (self-explanatory) and skills challenge (the fans did not have the skills tonight, folks).
- In lesser gimmick news, the Fortnite cam continues to ruin the Carlton cam. Damn teens!
- Brett Brown coached another masterful game. One thing he’s really done well this series is call timeouts at the right time. For example:
- Another thing Brett has down well is run the pick-and-roll more in the playoffs. Maybe he’s #LightYearsAhead of the competition by depriving them of regular season pick-and-roll footage? I’ll choose to believe it because it helps me sleep at night.
The Sixers won the 4th quarter 27-14, allowing the benches to clear with about 5 minutes left. The kiss of death for Toronto came by way of Kawhi Leonard sitting on the bench to start the quarter, which led to an 11-1 Sixer run to open the quarter. They (specifically, Embiid & Butler) put the defensive clamps on, threw down dunks at will, and never looked back. The lasting image? Embiid windmilling and doing the Jason Terry airplane celebration
Sixers WIN 116-95. Say it with me: “Fresh water. $1 pretzels.”
The Sixers now lead the Eastern Conference semifinals 2-1 and play again on Sunday at home in Philly. I’ll be there, dressed for success. Let’s take a 3-1 lead and make Kawhi quit:
Next time I’m in 116, I’ll share some more views. Until then: 1-2-3-4-5-Sixers!
Note: The Sixers are now 18-5 (including 3-1 in the playoffs) while Eric Marturano has attended games this season. Every thing every fan does matters – don’t let anyone ever tell you differently.