As TSN and Sportsnet continue to air every Raptors game from last year's road to the NBA title, we'll be featuring game recaps and other written content to transport you back in time for a complete experience of reliving the most memorable stretch of basketball in Toronto's history.
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This story was originally published on April 29, 2019.
The Toronto Raptors cruised to a victory in Game 1 of their first-round series with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Led by Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors jumped out to a double digit lead at the half and held on to it the rest of the way to beat the 76ers by a final score of 108-95.
Leonard got plenty of help from his teammates in the win, from Pascal Siakam scoring 29 points on 12-for-15 shooting from the field to the likes of Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol and Danny Green containing Philadelphia's All-Stars on the other end of the court.
MORE: Takeaways from Game 1
Can the Raptors do the same again on Monday or will the 76ers steal a game before the series shifts to Philadelphia for Games 3 and 4? Here are five things to watch in Game 2...
Second chance opportunities made up a decent portion of Philadelphia's offence in the first half of Game 1. The 76ers pulled down almost as many offensive rebounds (10) as defensive rebounds (15) through two quarters, and turned them into nine points.
The Raptors, for comparison, had two offensive rebounds and two second chance points in the first half.
It wasn't even Joel Embiid who punished the Raptors the most. While he had two, Tobias Harris and Ben Simmons had three offensive rebounds each to lead the way for the 76ers.
Some of those were more fortunate bounces than mistakes made by the Raptors, but there were a couple in which one of Harris or Simmons slipped past their defender and beat them to the ball.
The Raptors did a much better job of keeping the 76ers off the offensive glass in the second half, holding them to three boards and five second chance points.
With the 76ers finishing the regular season in the top half of the league in offensive rebounding percentage and the Raptors finishing in the bottom of in defensive rebounding percentage, the battle of the boards is going to be something to watch for the remainder of this series.
The Joel Embiid matchup
Game 1 was a struggle for Embiid. In 29 minutes of play, Philadelphia's leading scorer was limited to 16 points on 5-for-18 shooting from the field.
According to Basketball-Reference, it was only the eighth time in Embiid's NBA career - playoffs included - that he's scored less than 20 points while making less than 30.0 percent of his shot attempts.
As expected, it was Marc Gasol who drew the primary assignment of slowing Embiid down, and he was as good as advertised. Embiid scored only three points in the minutes he was matched up with Gasol and missed seven of his eight shot attempts, per NBA.com.
Not only was Gasol physical with him whenever he caught the ball in the post...
...he used his length well to make Embiid's shot attempts around the basket as difficult as humanly possible.
Gasol and the Raptors even did all of that without fouling Embiid much, as he attempted only six free throws in the game.
That was less than the 8.8 he averaged in limited minutes in the first round and the 10.1 he averaged in the regular season.
For the 76ers to have a chance in this series, they'll have to find a way to get Embiid going. It might be difficult against Gasol, but Embiid had more success in Game 1 when he was defended by Serge Ibaka, scoring 13 of his 16 points against Toronto's backup centre.
The Kawhi Leonard matchup
Whereas the Raptors were able to contain Embiid in Game 1, the 76ers saw Leonard light them up for a playoff career-high 45 points.
Leonard did most of that damage against Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris. According to NBA.com, he scored 27 of his points against Philadelphia's wings on an almost perfect 10-for-11 shooting from the field.
It's not a huge surprise that Harris had no answer for Leonard, but Butler - a two-time member of the All-Defensive Second Team - has long been one of the league's best perimeter defenders.
"I think our scouting report on him was well," Butler said the game. "He made some tough shots, he's going to do that - that's what all great players do. Just playing him the same way."
Ben Simmons was the only member of the 76ers who was able to put up any sort of resistance against Leonard in Game 1, limiting him to 10 points on 4-for-9 shooting from the field. With his size, length and athleticism, he might be their best shot at keeping Leonard in check in this series.
It won't be all on Simmons to prevent Leonard from going off again, though.
After Game 1, Simmons told reporters that the 76ers have to treat him more like Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo by throwing more help defenders at him to "get the ball out of his hands."
"I don't think we showed enough help," Simmons said. "I think as a team we have to treat him similar to Giannis - come over a little bit more and try and get the ball out of his hands."
The Orlando Magic tried to do the same to Leonard to little success in the first round, so it'll be interesting to see if the 76ers have the personnel to make him more uncomfortable.
Kyle Lowry's defence
As the smallest player on the court, the 76ers tried several times to attack Lowry on switches in Game 1.
It didn't work.
Of the 14 turnovers the 76ers committed, Lowry was directly involved in five of them, a couple of which came in the post.
Even though he was one of the league's best post defenders this season, both Simmons and Harris tried their hand at overpowering him on the block to no avail.
The 76ers can be a matchup nightmare for players like Lowry because they don't have a traditional point guard. Simmons is technically their point guard, but he's a 6-foot-10 freight train. Jimmy Butler is their second-best playmaker, but he too has a height advantage on players like Lowry as a 6-foot-8 forward.
And then there's Harris, who isn't as dynamic with the ball in his hands as Simmons and Butler but has the size at 6-foot-9 to shoot over smaller defenders with ease.
Harris also happened to be one of the most efficient post scorers in the league this season when he was on the LA Clippers, ranking in the 79th percentile with 1.05 points per post-up possession.
If Lowry can continue to hold his own in those matchups, it would be a huge win for the Raptors.
The transition game
There are many differences between the Magic and 76ers, but one of the biggest is Orlando ranked near the bottom of the league in points allowed in transition this season and Philadelphia ranked near the top.
That plays more to the strengths of the Raptors, who finished behind only two teams in transition scoring in Nick Nurse's first season as head coach.
Transition scoring was a factor in Game 1, as the Raptors outscored the 76ers 21-13 in fastbreak points. They looked to push the pace at every opportunity - makes, misses, turnovers - to put pressure on the 76ers while their defence was still scrambled.
It led to plays like this, where Lowry was able to beat Boban Marjanovic down the court, get into the paint and draw a foul on Furkan Korkmaz:
The same goes for this play, where Leonard was able to weave his way to the basket for an uncontested layup:
Even though they gave up a ton of transition points during the regular season, the 76ers ranked in the 93rd percentile in allowing only 1.05 points per possession on those plays.
The problem? The Raptors ranked in the 100th percentile with an average of 1.19 points per transition possession.
Like the battle of the boards, the battle in transition will be something to watch in this series.
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