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Playoffs 2019

NBA Playoffs 2019: Four things to watch in Game 3 between the Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers

We now have a series.

After the Toronto Raptors won Game 1 in dominant fashion, the Philadelphia 76ers bounced back in Game 2 to steal homecourt advantage.

Jimmy Butler stepped up in a big way for the 76ers, scoring 30 points in the win while pulling down a game-high 11 rebounds and handing out five assists. The 76ers also got some unexpected production from their bench, with Greg Monroe and James Ennis III both scoring in double figures.

They helped Philadelphia overcome quiet performances from the rest of its core, as Ben Simmons, JJ Redick, Tobias Harris and Joel Embiid combined for only 38 points.

TAKEAWAYS: Game 1 | Game 2

Tied at 1-1, the series now shifts to Philadelphia for two games.

Will the Raptors regain homecourt advantage or will the 76ers take a 2-1 lead? Here are four things to watch in Game 3...

Pascal Siakam against Joel Embiid

The biggest adjustment the 76ers made in Game 2 was matching Joel Embiid up with Pascal Siakam on defence.

It was done in response to Siakam's performance in Game 1, in which he scored 29 points on 12-for-15 shooting, with most of his scoring against Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler.

There's no denying that the adjustment worked. Siakam scored 15 points when he was matched up with Embiid, but he missed 11 of his 17 shot attempts, per NBA.com. He scored six points on 3-for-8 shooting against everyone else.

"Obviously it was difficult for us to handle by just looking at the numbers, right?" Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said after the game. "I think Pascal had a low shooting percentage tonight and a lot of those were trying to take Embiid at the rim and take advantage of the 3s that were open."

It's possessions like this where Embiid's impact was clear:

Siakam improved leaps and bounds as a 3-point shooter this season, but the majority of his 3-point attempts came from the corners. According to NBA.com, he shot 43.8 percent from the left corner, 39.1 percent from the right corner and 27.0 percent from above the break.

Knowing he's not much of a threat from the top of the perimeter, the 76ers basically treated Siakam like Giannis Antetokounmpo, backing way off of him to clog the paint, where he does the bulk of his scoring.

As a result, Siakam settled for a number of awkward floaters around the paint.

"[Siakam] shoots a low percentage from anywhere around the top of the key, so the goal was to make him drive, make him go left, and I think we did a good job today," Embiid responded when asked about the matchup.

That also made it difficult for Siakam's teammates to score because Embiid was in a much better position to provide help at the basket.

Siakam making a couple of 3-pointers early might force the 76ers to make a change if they use the same strategy in Game 3, but the Raptors could try to get him moving off-ball - something they did a better job of in the second half - to get him more looks within the flow of the offence.

Marc Gasol attacking mismatches

Putting Embiid on Siakam meant Harris was left guarding Marc Gasol.

Even though Gasol has a massive size advantage, the 76ers could get away with it because Gasol hasn't looked to score much since joining the Raptors. Whereas he averaged 15.7 points on 12.9 shot attempts per game with the Memphis Grizzlies prior to the trade deadline, he averaged 9.1 points on 7.2 shot attempts per game with the Raptors to finish the regular season.

Gasol is averaging even fewer points (7.9) and shot attempts (6.0) in these playoffs.

It's not that Gasol can't attack a mismatch in ways that he used to. He proved it several times in the third quarter, when he went to the post against a smaller defender, drew a double team and made the 76ers pay by finding the open man.

The Raptors just didn't go to it much in the first half, when they were struggling to generate offence.

"I feel like them putting Harris on Marc probably got us out of rhythm a little bit," Kawhi Leonard said post-game. "Once we figured it out, I feel like we started playing better."

The Raptors don't want to completely change their offence to have it run through Gasol, but they might need him to be more aggressive moving forward if the 76ers are going to put a much smaller defender on him. Gasol attempting only one shot with Harris guarding him simply isn't enough.

Toronto's 3-point shooting

Toronto missed a ton of 3-pointers in Game 2. They shot 10-for-37 from the perimeter as a team, with Leonard (3-10), Siakam (2-7) and Kyle Lowry (2-6) being the only Raptors to make more than one 3-pointer.

Danny Green, in particular, had a rough night. Not only did he shoot 1-for-6 from 3-point range, but two of his misses also came at crucial points of the game.

The first came at the midpoint of the fourth quarter when Green missed an open 3-pointer that would've cut Philadelphia's lead to five points. The 76ers instead extended it to 11, as Butler corralled the defensive rebound, pushed the ball the length of the court and made a layup that he was fouled on.

Green then missed a good look in the closing seconds of the game that would've given the Raptors an opportunity to force overtime.

It obviously wasn't Green's fault that the Raptors lost Game 2 - Toronto got almost no production from its bench and the likes of Gasol, Siakam and Lowry missed their fair share of 3-pointers - but he was their most consistent shooter during the regular season.

With how the 76ers are defending Leonard and Siakam, they'll need Green to start knocking some of those open 3-pointers down to open up the floor for them.

Philadelphia's turnovers

Turnovers were an even bigger problem for the 76ers in Game 2 than they were in Game 1.

They finished with 19 turnovers, most of which came in the first half. The biggest reason they led by 13 points despite those turnovers was because of their defence, as they held the Raptors to 32.6 percent shooting from the field through two quarters.

"If you looked at the first half and if we didn't know the score and you said we have 13 turnovers in a first half, 10 in a second period, in Toronto in the Eastern Conference Semifinals in Game 2, what would you guess the score would be?" 76ers head coach Brett Brown said following the win.

"You certainly wouldn't think you were winning and you'd bet that they would have 70 because they run so well. If you eliminate the turnovers, which they had 18 points off, and you look and say we held them to 38 points, I was proud of our defence."

Those mistakes were a huge source of offence for the Raptors. According to NBA.com, 24 of their 89 points came following a 76ers turnover.

If the 76ers can continue to defend at a high level and limit their turnovers, they have good reason to feel confident about their chances moving forward.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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