We were promised a tough opposition to these six against the unfettered birds of prey. However, Doc Rivers’ forces proved in this first match that they had all the cards on hand to dominate the debates.
Philadelphia quickly revealed their plan, developing plenty of quick play to prevent the Toronto defense from setting up and betting on James Harden’s creation in a thrown attack, and Joel Embiid’s ability to swallow rebounds and look for fouls. The cocktail was explosive, because Philly’s snipers shot them, and the gap quickly swelled.
In an atmosphere celebrating the return of the playoffs, the locals finished the first quarter at +8 with 10 points already for Therese Maxi (35-27). The match then ended with a 9-0 score of 2+1 from Joel Embiid which allowed them to take off (57-42). A 3-pointer Thybulle-Harris tandem put then the Sixers set at +18 at the break (69-51).
The Raptors didn’t give up and showed they still had things to play when the pace slowed down a bit and Fred VanVleet & Co started to kick their shots.
For a few minutes, they were able to flirt with the crossbar, which was 10 points apart. Problem: Canadians came across fused maxi teres. Linebacker Philly was eager to respond to every comeback attempt by ranking baskets in the third quarter, during which time he scored 21 points, with a 3 pointer and two shots to hold his 19th lead. 12 minute lengths of time (107)-88!
The dice were already rolled, but fate fell on Toronto, which also lost Scotty Barnes in the final chapter to finally lose 131-111.
What to remember
Sixers’ plan succeeded. Admittedly, we can emphasize the beautiful outdoor title (16/32) and Tyrese Maxey’s heat stroke. But above all else, Philly won the tactical battle by developing a game plan that worked, allowing the locals to take the upper hand from the start. The main premise was that Doc Rivers’ forces could ramp up the tempo as much as possible, one of the strengths of the Raptors that ended up being maneuverable. “Rhythm will be very important for us in this series,” Philly’s coach confirmed during the first half. And his plan worked.
– No waste. We can quote almost all the numbers, as all the stats tipped in favor of Philadelphia in the first game. But the most impressive of them all is the Sixers’ ability not to lose the ball. Zero at the break, only one ‘turn’ after three quarters, the locals ended up with three losing balls at the end of the game, a record in qualifying history that was a hair’s breadth from falls last night.
– Two birds of prey on the carpet. If Fred Vanfleet and OG Anunoby can finally hold their place, Toronto is accused of two premature exits during the match. Thaddeus Young was the first to visibly hurt his thumb after rubbing against the ground to recover the ball. But the potentially big blow worries Scotty Barnes who still wowed the meeting with his aggressiveness, but fell for good when Joel Embiid received support in his left foot, causing a sprain whose severity will be known after an MRI that day. Even if the first x-ray revealed no injury, his exit from the field does not bode well.
✅ Therese Maxi. A symbol of those lieutenants who will have a big role in the series in support of Joel Embiid, the Commander has been a lasting poison to the Raptors who have never been able to stop him. The end of the game could have been very different if he hadn’t been happy to respond to every big kick the Raptors sent in in the third quarter to end up with a standing ovation from the crowd. Upon his arrival, he signed his best playoff match and launched his team in the best possible way in this 2022 campaign.
✅ Synonym Harden-Embiid. The Harden-Embiid duo played very fair in this first match. James Harden provided 14 assists, scored important baskets, and lost only one ball. Same for Joel Embiid who made an impact in the paint, receiving bouncing balls and making fouls.
⛔ Fred Vanfleet. His basic streak doesn’t really reflect his tough style. In particular, the first half of his life, when Philadelphia made the difference and the period during which the captain/rear really struggled, between the flaws (two in the first minute…) and the title he ran away from. He then corrected the shot but went out with six errors, with technique after Scotty Barnes was injured.
The Sixers will play their second game of the series at home from Monday night through Tuesday, starting at 1:30 a.m.