The Sixers began Game 2 of the Raptors series on the wrong end of an 11-2 run. Toronto punched them in the mouth, playing their unique brand of physical basketball, forcing turnovers, and making Joel Embiid mad. They should not have made Joel Embiid mad. The Sixers ended the first quarter down just one point, with Embiid putting 19 points on the board in his first 11 minutes.
From there on out, it was (save for a brief nap in the fourth quarter) all Sixers. Philadelphia ran ahead to a 2-0 series lead, with the Raptors’ halfcourt offense never really looking up to snuff. The Sixers continue to match Toronto blow-for-blow in the physicality battle, and the Raptors’ over-aggressive help schemes on defense continue to yield favorable results for Joel Embiid, who is more than willing to pass out of doubles and let his teammates finish plays.
With the series now moving north to Canada, what have we learned about the Sixers and their chances of closing out this series?
Sixers-Raptors game two takeaways: Joel Embiid is a warrior
After hearing Nick Nurse complain about officiating all weekend, the Raptors entered this game with one goal: be physical and contend with Joel Embiid’s dominance “within the confines of the rules,” or however Nurse phrased it. Very quickly, it was apparent the Raptors were willing to foul Embiid quite hard, much to the enjoyment of the Toronto faithful.
It did not work. Embiid is difficult to start when he’s in a normal mood, but the version of Embiid Toronto awoke in the first quarter was another entity all together. He eviscerated Toronto in the painted area, dropped 19 first-quarter points, and took charge for the Sixers as they began to run away with the game.
Embiid also battled several bumps and bruises along the way — hard falls, a hyper-extended elbow, a tweaked ankle. He took a beating all game and kept on swinging, which speaks volumes about Embiid’s commitment to winning and desire to help his teammates.
We all know the injury history with Embiid, and when you’re a 7-footer who moves the way Embiid does, and who invites contact to the extent Embiid does, the risk of injury or pain is always higher. Despite feeling quite a bit of pain in this game, Embiid battled his way to 31 points and 11 rebounds, which is practically par for the course these days.