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 – Sunday, May 5, 2019
For Game 4, Round 2 of the Eastern Conference Playoffs, the 3rd seeded Sixers took on the 2nd seeded Raptors. The Sixers lost 96-101, dropping to a 2-2 tie in the best-of-seven-games series.
I guess the 3rd time – but not the 4th time – is a charm. For the 4th time in a row, I wore the same outfit (and will no longer continue to do so), bought the same beer at PJ Whelihan’s (and will no longer continue to do so) and made the same dumb jokes all game to RJ (I’ll probably still do this because I’m a moron). Everything every fan does matters and, now that my winning formula has finally been beaten, it’s time for me to find a new one moving forward.
The Sixers, however, might not need to find a new winning formula. They played great defense for the third game in a row and generally got what they wanted on offense. The only problem was their failure to score off of good looks, and the Raptors (a much better team than the Nets last round) made them pay for a sloppy Game 4. Blown layups and missed free throws are not the plays that will get you into the Eastern Conference Finals. If the Sixers are interested in getting there, they’ll need to tighten up for Game 5.
Anyway, I met RJ on a rainy day in Philadelphia to head down to the stadium. We parked in the Jetro lot and walked over to the Center, full expecting that the ailing Pascal Siakim would play (he did, but pretty poorly: 2-9 from the field including 0-4 from 3, clearly still recovering from the calf injury suffered in Game 3).
The Sixers dug themselves into a quick hole early, giving the Raptors their first lead since midway through the first quarter of Game 2, but then clawed back to only be down 3 (21-24) by the quarter’s end. The Raptors seemed to be committing to the fast break, peeling out whenever the Sixers shots would go up. It also felt like a pretty tight whistle both ways this game (the teams would end about even in fouls, 24 for the Raptors and 23 for the Sixers). Of course, this means the refs are against us.
Other 1st quarter observations:
- The first gimmick was the thing where a fan is put in a phone booth to grab as much floating money as they can. The fan participant had mild success.
- The Sixers found the Tobias Harris / Kyle Lowry mismatch early, but struggled to return to it throughout the game. Harris would end the game 7-23 from the field, including 2-12 from 3. Not great!
- The Sixers also kept a short bench – only Mike Scott, James Ennis, and Greg Monroe got meaningful time, with Ennis getting the lion’s share of the 6th man minutes (26, to Scott’s 13 and Monroe’s 11).
- The Raptors had a starter-heavy rotation as well, relying on really only Serge Ibaka as their 6th man (32 minutes). Norman Powell, Fred VanVleet, and Pat McCaw were used in under-7-minute-roles each, essentially to let the starters catch their breath for a few moments at time.
- While the short-bench trend bodes well for the Raptors (since they have a bad bench and this keeps them off the floor), I think it may actually play better for the Sixers (who have 4 of the top 5 players when all the starters are on the floor). We have at least two more games to find out!
- The giant skee ball gimmick occurred between quarters, and the fan actually made the shot! Gotta love it.
The Sixers slightly won this quarter (24-23) and took a two-point deficit into halftime. While I was glad to see the defensive intensity remain, the Sixers failed to make the Raptors pay while Kawhi Leonard sat in the opening minutes. There were also some missed layups, bad fouls, and bad turnovers this quarter, preventing the Sixers from taking the lead.
- The always-fun 76ers Showdown (where fans try to dance like some of the players…mostly Joel Embiid) happened this quarter and didn’t disappoint.
- A strange moment happened towards the end of the quarter, where Kyle Lowry got into an argument with super-fan Alan Horwitz. Even casual fans will know him as “the old guy who is courtside every game, even in Toronto,” and he’s been a season-ticket holder for 40+ years. He’s a treasure and Kyle Lowry is annoying as hell, so I was glad to see them get into a spat.
- The halftime show was Christian & Scooby, a human / dog pair that both did plenty of cool tricks.
The Sixers won this quarter just slightly 30-28 to tie the game at 75 apiece entering the 4th. They built a small lead with Embiid in and unfortunately gave it right back with Greg Monroe on the floor. These things will happen with Monroe as the backup (and happen more with Boban) so win, lose, or championship, the Sixers need to look into finding a defensively-minded backup center for Embiid this summer.
Other 3rd quarter observations:
Kyle Lowry pretended to get hit in the face during this quarter and then laid down on the ground for most of the possession, allowing the Sixers to score. The refs weren’t fooled by this nonsense, which I very much appreciated.
- Two bad cam-gimmicks this quarter. The beard cam (there is nothing special about having a beard, sorry!) and the Fortnite cam, which continues to ruin the Carlton cam via subdivision. Let’s move on.
- As the quarter came to a close, RJ & I set the “first to X wins” score at 100. Unfortunately, we were correct.
The Sixers lost the 4th quarter 21-26. It was a very tight game and an even tighter crowd. At times, it felt like you could hear a pin-drop in the stadium. The collective nervousness of our fan-base was out in force as Joel Embiid (who didn’t look right most of the game) missed 2 free throws down 84-85 with 5:31 to go.
From there, more missed layups, bad turnovers, and generally poor offensive execution followed, keeping the Raptors up 1 with about a minute to play. Then, sadly, Kawhi Leonard drained a 3 and Tobias Harris couldn’t answer with a wide-open look from beyond-the-arc on the other end. The desperation fouling began, and that was basically it. The Raptors took advantage of the Sixers’ collective miscues throughout the game to eek out a win and even the series.
Even free frosties couldn’t cheer me up.
Sixers lose 96-101. No Fresh water. No $1 pretzels.
The Sixers are now tied with the Raptors in the Eastern Conference semifinals 2-2 and play again on Tuesday in Toronto. I’m hoping for a win to force a close-out at home for Game 6 on Thursday.
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 18-6 (including 3-2 in the playoffs) while Eric Marturano has attended games this season. Everything every fan does matters – don’t let anyone ever tell you differently.