Defeated three times in as many matches, the Raptors have their backs against the wall in front of their audience and must absolutely dominate the 76ers in this Game 4, under penalty of taking a broomstick and being eliminated from these 2022 playoffs.
At the start of the game, it is difficult to determine which team is in better shape. Because the two formations deliver a very disputed first quarter (24-24), during which the intensity in defense is high, which anesthetizes the attacks somewhat (8/22 for Philly, 9/20 for Toronto), not helped by the advanced schedule of the meeting. Clearly hit in the thumb, Joel Embiid, unsurprisingly, struggled to enter his match (1 point, 0/5). Conversely, Pascal Siakam starts foot to the floor (10 points).
The second quarter marks the rise of the Raptors, still clumsy (10/25), but who stick 30 points to the defense of the 76ers, under the impetus of a duo Siakam – Trent Jr. (33 points in total ) determined to return to Philadelphia. A time relegated to -12, Doc Rivers’ men reacted at the end of the first half, thanks in particular to the good passages of James Harden and Tobias Harris, and remained within reach at the break (49-54).
On the restart, although deprived of Fred VanVleet, who was injured before halftime, the Raptors remained in control, despite an ugly 8/26 on shots in the third quarter. This clumsiness allows the 76ers to remain in ambush after 36 minutes (77-80), thanks to a good passage from Joel Embiid, who joins James Harden and Tobias Harris in an attempt to overthrow Toronto.
But the Raptors do not crack in the last act, and even take the psychological advantage over the 76ers frustrated by their inefficiency at the worst of times in attack (6/18). Like Joel Embiid, very good during the previous quarter, but lost in the “money-time” and who received a technical foul after a muscular and not really necessary foul on Pascal Siakam.
At the end of a disjointed match in attack but intense in defense, Nick Nurse and his men avoid the “sweep”. A relief, but that does not diminish the immensity of the challenge that awaits the Raptors, who still have to win three consecutive games, including two in Philadelphia, to create a feat never seen in the NBA.
WHAT YOU MUST REMEMBER
– Scottie Barnes, diminished but useful. After missing Game 2 and 3, the strong winger, elected Rookie Of The Year a few minutes before the match, marked his return for this fourth round. Far from being 100% physically, he wanted to help his team in this decisive match, and he signed an honorable performance (6 points, 11 rebounds and 2 assists).
– Fred VanVleet’s (new) injury. Bothered by a painful knee for several weeks, “FVV” this time suffered from the hip. A few minutes before halftime, the Raptors point guard joined the locker room, frustrated to the point of tearing his jersey. He did not return in the second period, and his presence for Game 5 has yet to be determined. More bad news for Toronto.
✅ Pascal Siakam. An XXL match for the Cameroonian, who took matters into his own hands throughout the match. Very little rested by Nick Nurse (44 minutes), as usual, he compiled 34 points (10/19), 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 blocks to lead the Raptors to an important victory.
✅ Tobias Harris. Even if he spent the whole game juggling his foul problems (5), he spent 40 minutes on the field and signed a satisfying game: 15 points and 11 rebounds. Opposed to Pascal Siakam for a large part of the evening, he spent a lot of energy in defense and will have to start fighting again on Monday, against the strong winger from Toronto who has the psychological advantage in this “matchup”.
✅ Thaddeus Young. He is the surprise guest of the Raptors in this Game 4. Coming off the bench, the veteran came out of his box and proved useful in all areas of the game (13 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals ). In the absence of Fred VanVleet in the second half, Pascal Siakam needed a little help, and it was the former 76ers player who answered the call.
✅⛔️ Joel Embiid. The 76ers center alternated between good and bad, but mostly had a frustrating night, with a sore thumb and earlier assists from the Raptors disrupting his readings. Discreet in the first half, with in particular a first quarter at 0/5, he managed to find his rhythm in the third quarter, suggesting a rise in power in the last act. Eventually, he only took one shot in the fourth quarter, hampered by the Raptors’ size and two-man strikes.
⛔️ The Harden/Maxey duo. Joel Embiid clearly diminished, Philadelphia needed a James Harden – Tyrese Maxey duo at their best to sweep Toronto. But if the two men generated play, they were too clumsy (9/29 in aggregate including 3/11 from 3-pointers), just like Danny Green for that matter.
Game 5: in Philadelphia, on the night of Monday to Tuesday, at 02:00.