The Toronto Raptors are now 6-1 at the NBA restart in Orlando, Florida.
After trailing by seven points with under three minutes remaining, the Raptors closed the game on a 17-6 run to earn a 125-121 win over the Philadelphia 76ers.
Kyle Lowry and Chris Boucher led the way with 19 points apiece but it was Stanley Johnson that made plays late, including the game-winning putback with 4.9 seconds remaining in regulation.
HOW CAN YOU NOT LOVE THIS TEAM pic.twitter.com/mBHW1caW6x- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) August 13, 2020
Here are some observations from the game:
Adrian Griffin takes the reins
A few hours ahead of the game, head coach Nick Nurse relinquished head coaching duties to lead assistant Adrian Griffin for the night, giving him an opportunity to gain experience at the top spot.
Let's get it, @NBACoachGriffin ! pic.twitter.com/9E3iT8CLnb- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) August 12, 2020
On the ESPN broadcast, Griffin spoke with Malika Andrews after the first quarter, saying "Coach Nurse, he's a phenomenal human being. He knows my aspirations - what I aspire to be and he wants to see me grow on and off the court…"
Griffin, who has been in coaching since retiring in 2008, is thought of by many to be next in line as a head coach in the coming years. Tonight, he had an opportunity to see what that will feel like on a nightly basis.
Marc gets on the board early
During the restart, Marc Gasol hasn't been too involved as a scorer, averaging 7.2 points over the team's first six games.
In the first frame, Gasol surpassed that average, scoring eight points by shooting 3-for-6 from the field, including two triples.
👀 pic.twitter.com/Gws8OFR8VJ- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) August 12, 2020
He would go on to finish with 11 points (on 4-for-8 shooting) but it's always a positive sign for the Raptors for him to see the ball go in the hoop, as they'll look to play through him at times during the postseason.
Lowry's monster second
The game was at The Field House at Walt Disney World, but Kyle Lowry must have felt like they were at the Wells Fargo Center.
Seeing how it was technically a home game for the Sixers, you would have thought the Philly native had his family and friends in attendance purely based on his performance in the second quarter.
After picking up three fouls in the first quarter, an angry Lowry played in all 12 minutes of the second, scoring 18 points on 6-for-9 shooting from the field. He could have scored more, too, as the 86.2% free throw shooter missed two of three attempts after he was fouled on a 3-point attempt.
Just had to poke the bear...- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) August 12, 2020
19 Points | 16 Minutes pic.twitter.com/cFHsR5BpsC
In 25 minutes of action, Lowry scored 19 points (18 of which came in one quarter) on 6-for-11 shooting from the field.
When it was announced that All-Star Joel Embiid would be active after suffering a sprained ankle over the weekend, all eyes shifted to the interior battle between him and Marc Gasol.
Historically, Gasol has been one of the best at defending Embiid.
Entering this game, Embiid posted averages of 11.4 points, 11.9 rebounds and 4.7 turnovers while shooting 30.4% from the field and 4.8% from deep through seven regular-season games. The 2019 playoffs weren't much better, as Embiid averaged 17.6 points and 8.7 rebounds while shooting 37.0% from the field and 34.6% from deep.
On Wednesday night, Philly's All-Star finished with five points (on 1-for-4), nine rebounds and five turnovers in 13 minutes of action but did not play in the second half after experiencing wrist discomfort. X-rays returned negative.
It was a team effort to slow down the big fella, as the Raptors sent double teams to get the ball out of his hands, resulting in some of those turnovers.
Embiid is the Sixers' biggest advantage over an undersized Boston Celtics team, but they might have the blueprint to make this difficult.
The Tobias Harris Philadelphia needs
With Ben Simmons likely missing the entirety of the postseason and Embiid battling through some injuries of his own, the 76ers need Tobias Harris.
Alongside two All-Stars, we sometimes forget how skilled Harris is but he put that on full display in limited minutes in this one.
Team-high 17 PTS for Tobias Harris in the 1st half on ESPN! #WholeNewGame pic.twitter.com/dKvLTHqyBn- NBA (@NBA) August 13, 2020
Harris scored 17 in the first half, finishing with 22 points (on 8-for-13 shooting), six rebounds and five assists in under 25 minutes of action. Harris and Embiid will need to be a solid 1-2 punch for the Sixers to have any chance in
Siakam's slight struggles
Pascal Siakam has been trying to figure things out during the restart. He entered the game averaging 17.2 points and 5.2 rebounds while shooting 40.0% from the field over the first six seeding games.
Against the Sixers, Siakam finished with 15 points and nine rebounds but shot just 5-for-14 (35.7%) from the field and 3-for-7 (42.9%) from the charity stripe.
At times, the All-Star was visibly frustrated with himself for not finishing through contact around the rim and in the first half, was dared into missing an above-the-break 3-pointer. Last postseason, Philly dared Siakam into those types of shots, prompting him to work on adding that to his game.
It's not necessarily time to sound the alarm, but Toronto needs Siakam at his best to go on a deep postseason run.
Boucher back at it
After scoring a career-high 25 points in Monday's win over Milwaukee, Chris Boucher again made the most of his minutes Wednesday.
Just taking a moment to acknowledge Boucher setting another career-high with four blocks to go along with 19 points. Here's one of them:
That's just disrespectful, @chrisboucher 😂 pic.twitter.com/Cq5tKK2Ktt- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) August 13, 2020
Toronto closes its seeding schedule on Friday when they face the Denver Nuggets at 1:30 p.m. while Philadelphia plays its final seeding game against the Houston Rockets at 9 p.m.
The second-seeded Raptors will then take on the seventh-seeded Brooklyn Nets in the postseason and the sixth-seeded 76ers are set for a date with the third-seeded Celtics.
The 2020 NBA Playoffs begin on Monday, Aug. 17 and NBA.com is your destination for complete coverage of every series from now through the end of the NBA Finals.
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