Toronto showdown in second round looks to excite fans
That’s a wrap! Philly easily escaped the Brooklyn Nets, taking down the wiry veterans in five games. Next on the list is a Toronto showdown that should interest fans from Philly all the way to Ontario.
Just be upfront, Brooklyn was by no means a ‘walk in the park.’ Early in the series, it looked like the young Nets had Philly’s number. Nobody expected them to steal game one in Philadelphia, especially a 23 point performance from young star Caris LeVert.
LeVert suffered a major leg injury at the beginning of the season and it looked like he would be out for the entire season. This kid has the tenacity and fearlessness of Ron Artest. The injury didn’t phase him at all, and by the end of the season, LeVert was back to form.
He played great against Philly and at the time the defense didn’t really have an answer for him. 21 points per game later and fans are now looking at the future of the Nets and maybe even the NBA.
Looking at the Sixers four-game run in that series definitely raises some questions. Despite having an abysmal game one, point guard Ben Simmons bounced back and controlled the entire series from that point on.
LeVert is going to be a real problem for the NBA in a few years:
Big time buckets for Ben Simmons
Losing Joel Embiid early in the series looked like a knockout blow for Philly. Considering how much pressure the team puts on him, it was hard to see them advancing without their best player.
Low and behold, Simmons picked up the slack and had a devastating series against the Nets. In a crucial game three victory, the LSU product put up 31 points. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t take a single shot, which has been a common theme for his career thus far.
Despite his lack of a jump shot, Simmons looked a lot more comfortable with his inside hook shot as the series progressed. It will be interesting to see how well he can get to the basket against the Raptors.
It’s obvious he won’t put up a jumper anytime soon but how long can the team succeed like that?
The scariest thing for Philly fans has to be how well the team has been doing in contrast to Simmons’s development. With the team in championship contention, it’s hard to see the Australian born point guard working on his shot.
Especially if Philly can advance to the Eastern Conference finals, the pressure on Simmons will be immense. If the team plays well he might start to question if a jump shot is a way to go.
Apparently, Simmons channeled his inner-lion after a vicious dunk against Brooklyn:
Toronto, we have a problem
A Toronto showdown might bring Simmons back down to earth, or at least behind the free-throw line. The Raptors defense is smothering, don’t expect them to give any easy drives to the basket, especially with Kawhi Leonard on the floor.
Even worse for Simmons is the transition defense he is about to face. The Nets are stacked with young players who are more keen on offense than defense and it shows when Simmons can drive to the basket on almost every rebound.
The Raptors definitely have some of their own weaknesses as well, such as the usually apathetic Leonard. Scary enough as it sounds, Toronto fans have yet to see how intense Leonard will be in the playoffs for them.
The normally quiet forward will be tested this round certainly. Embiid, Simmons, and Butler are all very intense players with the big man Embiid being the loudest voice. He was nearly ejected in game four after being pushed by Brooklyn’s Jared Dudley.
Leonard isn’t always quiet though, and his 26.6 points per game this season spoke for themselves. He is a dominating force on both sides of the ball and a former two-time defensive player of the year.
Let’s not forget he destroyed LeBron James in the 2014 Finals and won Finals MVP. Leonard isn’t the only problem the Sixers face this round as Toronto boasts some of the best bench players in the entire NBA.
Luckily, Embiid stayed as far away as possible from the Dudley scuffle:
Its all about the bench!
A Toronto showdown could turn into a bloodbath for both team’s benches. The Raptors have a couple of gems in Norman Powell and Fred VanVleet.
Both of these rising stars can shoot, play defense, and handle the ball. That is a scary combination for any team to face, considering they are coming off the bench.
Honestly, the scariest thing about these two is that they come off the bench. They are yet to be paid hundreds of millions like their starting counterparts which makes them work that much more.
Nothing is harder for a team like Philly than two scrappy guards who can fly to the ball at a moment’s notice and knock down big shots.
Fortunately for Philly fans, we have a secret weapon as well. The Sixer bench may not be as explosive as it was last year, however, there are a couple of pieces who could tip the series in Philly’s favor.
Mike Scott and Boban Marjanovic are both X-factors coming off the bench regardless of their polar-opposite playing styles.
Scott is a hustler, and obviously deadly from behind the arc as he knocked down the game-winning three in game four against the Nets.
Marjanovic, on the other hand, is an absolute monster. Imagine the monsters from Space Jam, then picture Marjanovic. He’s 7’3″ and has a great touch around the basket.
This Toronto showdown could go seven games considering the talent on both teams. If Philly gets out to an early series lead and Embiid stays healthy throughout, we might just end up in a heated battle to go to the Finals.
Twitter had a lot of fun with Mike Scott’s clutch three-pointer: