Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals between the Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers didn’t fail to entertain.
The teams put on a show that offered a bit of everything, including big plays on defense, sweet passes that led to thunderous dunks, and no shortage of drama — including Kyle Lowry finding a new way to get mad at the refs.
A see-saw battle that saw both teams knotted up at 75 after three quarters, Game 4 was ultimately won by Toronto, which outscored Philly by five points in the final stanza.
Here’s what we learned from the pivotal contest.
Siakam clearly not 100%
A game-time decision Sunday due to a calf injury sustained in Game 3, Pascal Siakam gutted it out in Game 4. He clearly wasn’t fully healthy, however, and that showed up big time on the offensive end of the court.
It wasn’t until well into the second half that Siakam even scored from the field, having gone 0-8 (including 0-4 from three) before finally scoring on a fast-break dunk with just over three minutes left in the third. He finished with just nine total points.
Still, Siakam was a force on defense (three steals) and contributed heavily (28 minutes). Yet Toronto has relied on him to score much more than he was able to contribute in Game 4. He’ll have to step up on the offensive side next game. Thankfully for him and the Raptors, other players stepped up.
Jimmy Butler wasn’t settling
An aggressive Jimmy Butler is the best Jimmy Butler. That’s the version Philly got on Sunday, as Jimmy Buckets was attacking the rim and rarely settled for outside shots.
Butler was also extremely aggressive on the offensive glass, tallying five offensive rebounds. He stayed on the attack throughout the game, providing an offensive spark while contributing plenty on the defensive end as well. All told, Butler finished with 29 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, and one block.
Ben Simmons had a rough night
Simmons played hard. He played a lot. He just didn’t play well.
In 38 minutes, Simmons hit 5-of-10 from the field, missed both of his free throws and struggled to find his shooters when running point. Last year’s Rookie of the Year wasn’t as active on the glass as we’ve seen in the past, either, finishing with just five rebounds and one offensive board.
In the end, Simmons scored just eight points, dished four assists, and the Sixers were minus-16 with him on the floor.
Kawhi was red hot
The Raptors built up an early double-digit lead thanks to a red-hot start by Leonard. He was on fire from the floor and particularly deadly from three.
Head coach Nick Nurse kept trying to get his star some rest on the bench, but the Raptors clearly missed his shooting touch whenever he was out of the lineup. As a result, Leonard played 43 total minutes to lead all players in this game.
Philly was playing strong defense throughout the game. But it didn’t seem to matter who was on Leonard. He just kept hitting shot after shot, finishing with 39 points on 13-of-20 from the floor (including 5-of-7 from behind the arc). Even better, his three with a minute left in the fourth quarter pretty much sealed the win.
And as usual, the best two-way player on the Association tallied a well-rounded stat line with 14 rebounds and five assists.
Joel Embiid was a sparkplug, until he wasn’t
Even on a day when Embiid’s offensive game wasn’t amazing, the big man found ways to positively impact his team. He got off to a slow start but set the tone for the Sixers with a pure-effort play in the first quarter that ended with a baseline collision with a cameraman and a fan.
Always active on defense, Embiid’s block of Serge Ibaka in the second quarter sparked a run for the 76ers, who seemed to seize momentum of the game from that point until late in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, Embiid and the Sixers got ice cold late in the game, while Leonard continued to stay hot.
Philly was plus-17 with Embiid in the game. In the end, the Sixers lost by five points. Sometimes, basketball is a crazy game.
It’s anybody’s series, now
Before Game 4, it seemed like the Sixers had seized the momentum of the series. Following a road loss in Game 1, they won two in a row and could have darn-near wrapped up the series with a win at home Sunday.
Too much sloppy play on offense, combined with another tremendous performance by Leonard for Toronto, led to a tough loss. Now it’s anyone’s series. And if Philly is going to pull out a victory in the end, it’ll have to win two on the road.
Get your popcorn ready, folks. This one isn’t close to being over. And the best is yet to come.