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You can count on the decisive Kawhi. But what about the rest of the Raptors?



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Kauai Leonard was the best player in the playoffs Eastern Conference so far. (Especially after what happened to Adetokunbo in Milwaukee on Sunday.) It destroyed the Orlando Magic in five games, averaging 27.8 points per game on 56/54/89 shooting splits, and It includes game where he has gone 5-for-19 while patients with a flu. He opened the second round in a big way, pouring in the car & # 39; EASURES playoff height of 45 points and the Philadelphia 76ers making the search not able to stop him. And even after the Sixers proved that is not quite right, switching the protective limit Leonard looks only three field goal attempts in the first quarter of Game 2, All-Star forward withdrawn to produce another monster performance. Almost two years after Closeout heard that changed everything, Leonard returned to the opposition, sabotage, MVP-caliber form of his last days in San Antonio, or damn close to it, at least.

But despite the Leonardo finishing with efficient 35 points and six assists, his Toronto Raptors lost Game 2 on Monday night, as the Sixers inertia IT-wasn & # 39; t-quite-but-we & # 39; ll- take its 94-89 victory against top-flight competition, even the biggest players in need of assistance, and Philly currently hold home-court advantage, as the scene shifts to the south-Thursday's game, the big question looms. You can count on the decisive Kawhi come through. But whether he can count on the rest of the Predator?

Brett Brown really shake up the defensive task of his team after the game coach 1. Sixers slid 6-foot-10 Ben Simmons off play Kyle Lowry and Leonard instead smaller Jimmy Butler. In addition, he moved center Joel Embiid, who needed IV fluids before the game, to fight to the end, um, intestinal problems-off Marc Gasol and his brother native Cameroon forward Pascal Siakam, with Harris picking Predators great man. The switch paid off handsomely in the early going.

Simmons (and his means of prevention, protecting a teammate) did an excellent job of battling through the screens and working to deny Leonard easy catches, which disrupted the flow of Toronto and made predator to look elsewhere for the beginning of the crime. At the same time, Embiid sag to protect effectively dared Siakam or withdraw from a distance or drive and finish in a giant roadblock in the paint. The combination led to the main Siakam hit a speed bump. Most Improved Player favorite came out of pirouettes on the rim for downtime in an attempt to find the range on some uncomfortable floats, which leads to the start of a 3-for-11 from the field for a player who went 12-for-15 in Game 1.

With Siakam fuss, Kawhi Lourte quiet and trying to find the game, the Raptors offense stalled in the hail of forced conversion, a low percentage of attempts at the end of the shot clock, and pictures taken with the secondary and tertiary threats. Result: The Raptors missed two-thirds of their shots through two quarters, making Philly rate to a 13-point halftime lead, which could have twice been entirely Sixers coughed the ball 13 times, leading to 18 points Toronto.

Predators later make a run to get back in the game, including the third quarter of 22/10 and 19/07 burst push in the fourth, both of which cut the deficit to one. But on Monday, those ultimately matters less than how they got behind the eight ball in the first place. With Siakam, who has come so far so quickly, stumbling, supporting scoring threat Leonardo. With Lowry, Toronto still higher priced talent and rear leader, seems to be more complementary than command. And Leonard, doing all this in a nearly constant Philadelphia double and triple-teams, are often left to fend for themselves.

These Predators are different from their predecessors because they have Leonard exactly defensive destroyer on the perimeter, the high cost of the shot creator and source of effective late-game offense, Toronto DeMar DeRozan missed in age-Dwane Casey. Nevertheless, the favorite team Predators still clanged off the opportunity to seize control of the series on Monday, inviting doubt, where it is not required to exist none.

Perhaps this is not quite true. In the end, they lost game 1 of the magic before blowing the door off of Orlando for the next four, and we are only two days removed from the formula in the amount of mouse Predators decisive victory over the same Sixers. And while the checkered postseason past Lowry will always be the town where the Raptors struggle, he did finish the game 2 with 20 points on 7-for-17 shooting, five rebounds, five assists, steals, and only two turnovers in 42 minutes of work and drilled two huge delay of 3-pointers to keep in Toronto within reach at the last minute.

But then: the final minute. This is when the second potential Lowry nutmegging of Game 2 went awry, sending him to the deck in pursuit of the ball and scrambling for a potential predator sight strapping games, not to generate a sharp execution:

Either Lowry tries to dribble through the legs Harris with 16 seconds left in the playoff game three-point, or it is simply outrageous lost the handle on the ball at the wrong time of the competition. Neither option is ideal. Even still, the Raptors had a chance, but Danny Green and 45.5 percent shooter from long range during the regular season, came up empty. (In part, perhaps, to a man Humongous tow it gastro-suffering ass in the Green direction).

You can make your peace with the attempt to stray Green; do or-miss league, and all that. But things are different, yet they are not of the & # 39 are, and you will forgive the fans that have I have been here before for feeling that familiar brand of anxiety again, watching the dark 17-point first quarter and at the end of unforced errors, especially taking into account all the Lowry Predators were riding on the outcome of this playoff run.

Leonard holds a player option in the 2019-20 season. He is all but certain to give up and enter unrestricted free agency where several teams with max-salary cap space especially Los Angeles Klippers- are expected to put on a full court press for their services. His choice of where to play next stands as one of the most attractive league issues in 2019; at this stage, all the Raptors do or should not do viewed through the prism of what impact this may have on this choice.

A team that already has Siakam-rigid zaryadok crusher emerging offensive game that can also stand shoulder to shoulder with Kawhi against tough defensive match-plus hands of established veterans and future financial flexibility to build a championship caliber roster around them can be quite a tempting step. A trip to the NBA Finals, probably it will not hurt, either … but for the franchise and competing for the title and continuing a long season listening to Leonardo's use in free agency, and spotty performance in the game the decision to make the promotion more difficult or less likely, he can.

After a pair of Gasol free throws cut the Sixers lead to 61-60 with 2:50 to go in the third, he felt Predators figured things as they weathered the storm Philadelphia adjustments, restored order, and put itself back on the path to 2- 0. They did not have, though. You do not have a lot of accumulated for error after coughing away the first half. Thanks to some curious rotational calling coach Nick Nurse in the late third and early fourth Jodie Meeks, seemingly out of nowhere? Sticking with Serge Ibaka against Embiid, rather than matching Gasol minutes to it, despite the Ibaka is struggling mightily in this matchup? And what a star playmaker of the late game butler and Embiid, The Sixers could keep predators from getting on the mound, and to get even in the series.

That's how you lose a game in which your best player exposes 06/07/35 at 54 percent shooting while the other team makes it 20 times. You miss the March 27th-pointers. You do not get anything from your desktop Philly Greg Monroe and James Ennis III strongly outperformed loves Ibaka, Fred Van Vliet and Norman Powell. And your Var & # 39; Yat-genius head coach, who spent the entire season praising the fluidity and experimenting with combinations in the lineup, gets embarrassed in disagreement hunting and produce shaky recaps roll too long. You lose out on the fields. Little things make a difference. They always do.

These matches are on the margins can tilt the path Toronto came Thursday. The nurse may re-evaluate its rotation, consider shifting their substitution patterns, and come up with more creative ways to attack for the match Embiid-Siakam Kawhi or get the ball in advantageous positions early and often. Outdoor 3s may fall, and store the battle can contribute Predator. (Especially if Left ankle sprain Monroe land him in street clothes, and when Mike Scott or unable to re-enter the line or in the return of his father's.) Even if they do, though, you wonder whether things as those who decide things on Monday night will stick in the mind of Leonardo. You do not have to worry about what you get from Kawhi longer; load control is finished, a hunt is in full swing, and he sure as things get in the NBA right now. Past him, though, almost all can be to grasp, in this series and beyond.

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