Dominant Raptors sees Toronto lead series 3-2
For once, the Toronto Raptors didn’t rely on a superhuman effort from Kawhi Leonard to get the win.
Leonard had shouldered the responsibility throughout the first four games of this playoff series. However, he got plenty of help from his teammates in Game 5 on Tuesday. Furthermore, the Raptors are just one win away from a berth in the Eastern Conference final. This was their biggest playoff victory in the history of the franchise.
“I think tonight was one of those games where we let him rest a little bit, which is important,” said all-star guard Kyle Lowry. “He didn’t have to do everything offensively. Those are the things that we need to do as a team to continue to get better.”
Leonard has been brilliant in scoring 152 points through the first four playoff games was once again in marvellous form. He had 21 points and a team-high 13 rebounds.
“We’re still going to rely on him a lot. We’re still going to rely on him to score and get buckets. But tonight, he did everything else,” said Lowry. “The level that he’s playing at . . . He didn’t get 38, but 21, 13 and four (assists), some steals (two), that’s an awesome game.”
Meanwhile, Pascal Siakam led the way for the Raptors with 25 points. He showed no signs of the calf contusion he had suffered in Game three. Also, Lowry had 19 points, while Danny Green had five three-pointers and 17 points for Toronto. The Raptors pulled away with a big second quarter and led by a massive 40 points.
Rounding out the six Raptors in double figures: Marc Gasol chipped in with 11 points for Toronto. Meanwhile, Serge Ibaka had ten points, despite playing most of the game with three stitches and an egg on his forehead, thanks to an errant Leonard elbow.
The Raptors are now a win away from just their second conference final appearance in franchise history; their first being in 2016. The Raptors were back on home court after splitting their two games in Philly. They bounced back from a 116-95 rout in Game 3 to beat the Sixers 101-96 in Game 4; another one of the biggest wins in franchise history.
While Leonard didn’t have the offensive firepower of the previous four games, his teammates more than pulled their weight. The result was an offence that flowed nicely and efficiently.
“We’re a team,” Siakam said. “All year, that’s what we’ve done. Kawhi’s an amazing player, and when there are nights where he’s going the way he’s going, and he’s scoring 40, and shooting fadeaways, and making all those shots, it’s kind of amazing to see.
“But at the same time, we know we’re a team, and we always have each other’s back.”
Meanwhile, Jimmy Butler had 22 points for the Sixers, while Joel Embiid finished with 13. Embiid’s status for the game had been in question earlier in the day due to an upper respiratory infection.
Leading by a point after one quarter, the Raptors pulled away in the second. They outscored the Sixers by 20 points in that period. Furthermore, by the time Gasol drilled a three-pointer with 1:29 left in the third period, the lead was 24.
Leonard put the punctuation mark on the thrashing with a monster rim-hanging dunk over Embiid; with the ball bouncing off the Sixers head and nose. The Raptors led 92-70 with one quarter remaining.
The Raptors can cement their place in the next round with a win in Philidelphia on Thursday.