Joel Embiid says Philadelphia 76ers ‘doing well’ after Game 5 loss to Toronto Raptors, wants James Harden to take more shots
PHILADELPHIA — After the Raptors defeated the 76ers 103-88 in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference first-round series on Monday night — taking Toronto two wins away from becoming the first team to erase a 3-game deficit -0 in NBA history — Philadelphia superstar Joel Embiid remained confident his team has what it takes to close this streak.
“We’re doing well,” Embiid said after finishing with 20 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists in 39 minutes. “I mean, it’s the same recipe. Don’t turn the ball over, offensive rebound. We definitely need to be better defensively, more connected. Defensively, I felt like there were a few games where we didn’t weren’t on point and we didn’t have each other’s backs.
“But we’re fine. There’s a reason why we’ve won three games in a row. Offensively, we clearly haven’t been ourselves and that’s really the reason why we’ve given up the last two games. So we have to do better.”
This Embiid, who said the torn ligament in his right thumb didn’t feel any different after Game 5, even had to send a reassuring message to the team and his fan base shows how much things have changed since he dumped the game – earning 3 points in overtime in Game 3 to push Philadelphia close to advancing to the second round for the fourth time in the last five years.
Now, however, the 76ers find themselves in an absolute dogfight with a Raptors team that — despite the absence of All-Star point guard Fred VanVleet, who sat with a left hip flexor strain — controlled the Monday’s game virtually from start to finish to become the 14th team to win two games after falling 3-0 in a best-of-seven series, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. If Toronto can win at home on Thursday, the Raptors would become the fourth team to force a Game 7 in this situation – and the first since the Portland Trail Blazers against the Dallas Mavericks in 2003.
Philadelphia led for 21 seconds – from when James Harden buried a midrange jumper to open the scoring 18 seconds into the game, to when Raptors forward OG Anunoby made a long 2 point jumper. The Raptors scored the next five points and never looked back, opening the game after a tight first quarter by scoring the first 12 points of the second quarter to open a lead they would never relinquish.
“They got everything they wanted,” 76ers coach Doc Rivers said, “and not only did they get it, but they used 23 seconds near every possession. They turned the game into a slow paced fight but every time they could run they ran so they had both like they beat us in transition when they had no transition they backed up used the ‘clock, got the iso they wanted and scored on us.
“We’re going to have to do something better to help our guys defend better.”
With VanVleet sidelined, Toronto turned to rookie of the year Scottie Barnes at point guard, deploying long, athletic defenders in every position, with no player under 6ft 6in touching the ground until garbage time. The result was a stifling defensive display, which held Philadelphia to 38 percent shooting from the field, 10-for-37 from 3-point range, and forced 16 turnovers from the 76ers that became 20-point Raptors.
“They were working really hard and just being active,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “My goal is not necessarily to turn them over, it’s that we ran hard against shooters and things like that. I think for the most part we did, especially early on and I think that’s important. … But yeah, we played hard for the whole game defensively.”
Harden, in particular, was not involved. After scoring the first four points of the game for Philadelphia on that jumper and a quick dunk, Harden went just 2-for-9 in the final 46 minutes, going 4-for-11 from the field and 2-for-6 from 3-point range. to accumulate 15 points, 7 assists and 5 turnovers in 39 minutes.
When asked if Toronto was doing anything to force him to miss shots, however, Harden dismissed the question.
“I took 11 shots,” he said.
Embiid, meanwhile, said it’s up to Harden to be more aggressive offensively – something he’s said repeatedly since Harden was acquired for Ben Simmons at the trade deadline. NBA – and that it’s up to Rivers to make it happen.
“I’ve been saying all season since he got here, he has to be aggressive and he has to be himself,” Embiid said. “It’s not really my job. It’s probably up to Coach to talk to him and tell him to take more shots, especially if they’re going to keep me like they did. But it’s really not my work.
“But we all have to be better offensively. We missed a bunch of wide open shots. Sometimes I just felt like we just invited, when I was getting doubled we weren’t aggressive in attacking the ball. We just kept moving the ball around the perimeter, and that gave them time to recover, and that’s why they couldn’t get anything out of it.
“So if that’s what they want to keep doing, we have to take advantage of it.”
The mood inside the Wells Fargo Center was tense from the start, with the memory of last season’s 3-1 collapse at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference semi-finals – crowned by Simmons who missed a dunk late in the fourth quarter. of match 7 – which clearly weighs in on the proceedings.
The crowd booed early and often, and after an Anunoby dunk put Toronto in the lead 14 with 2:18 to go, fans started streaming to the exits.
“Sometimes Philadelphia fans are tough,” said Raptors forward Thaddeus Young, who spent seven seasons with the 76ers to start his career. “I think that’s one of the reasons I’ve loved being here for the seven years I’ve been here, it’s a tough crowd.
“They’re going to let you know when you’re doing well, they’re going to let you know when you’re doing poorly, and they want to see their guys play hard. It’s a blue-collar town and that’s what they believe in hard work. blue-collar workers and make sure you put in your 100% maximum effort every night.”
The crowd didn’t like everything they saw on Monday night. The question now, however, is whether this team will be back here for Game 7 on Saturday – a game with all sorts of stories at play – or if they will close this series in Toronto on Thursday instead.
“Maybe there is [momentum] but it doesn’t really matter,” Nurse said. “The ball is going up on Thursday, everybody has to play like hell.”