The Raptors have the individual talent to be in any game against almost any opponent, but at some point, there has to be something more than that. There are no guarantees other than Leonard's ride won't be turning into a pumpkin.
Simmons appeared to make contact with Lowry's groin after the pair got tangled up during the 76ers' 116-95 win in Game 3 of their second-round series. Lose and the Raptors are down 3-1. Butler shot 3 for 5 around the rim and 1 for 7 everywhere else.
It was moments like this why the 76ers endured the painful Process - the years of tanking seasons for high draft picks, like in 2014 when they drafted Embiid with the No. 3 overall pick.
It's not just the usual realities of a best-of-seven playoff series that are in play here, although those are significant enough. Dreams of an National Basketball Association title remain alive, concerns about a post-Kawhi future can be pushed off. When teams are sometimes accused of generating false hope because they have played a soft schedule, the response is that you can only beat who is in front of you. It is for sure risky. Against the Sixers he's been, well, I'm not sure what the proper adjectives would be to describe someone averaging 37.7 points with a TS% of 71.4 per cent.
"There's no way I was missing this game", he said. Their net rating is 7.2.
But now it will be the Sixers who get to enjoy two off days without anyone pestering them about whether Jimmy and Joel can get along in the sandbox, and it will be the Raptors who will be asked over and over if they can put two straight playoff losses behind them, and in the process correct the course of a franchise that is suddenly heading straight for a cliff with the guardrail already broken.
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Leonard scored seven more as Toronto used a 13-4 run out of the break to cut the gap to 55-51. They have scored 54.1 points/100 possessions with a net rating of -52.5. Without a superhuman performance by Leonard to hide behind, the lack of contributions from the Raptors' role players have become very apparent. There's a chance you saw these tweets in the aftermath of the game, but basically, when Leonard is on the floor in the three games against Philadelphia, good things happen.
The Raptors found another gear in the third quarter.
Leonard is single-handedly keeping the Raptors alive. On the court ringing the team's pre-game ceremonial bell was former Toronto Maple Leaf - now Philadelphia Flyer - James Van Riemsdyk.
"It might have last night, right?" said Nurse. "I've got to help him on the floor", said Lowry of Leonard. You can talk about some finesse post moves and that, but I go to defense.
It's the finest of all balancing acts. Nurse seems to have pulled that off, giving Gasol the starting centre job and still playing Ibaka for heavy minutes, even when he has struggled at times in the relief role. "Great player, have a lot of respect for him, but it's a team game".
One thing the playoffs reveal, in a league that takes the regular season less and less seriously, is your true upper capacity. Both players traditionally play better at home than they do away from home and a home game might be the spark that they need to find their feet in the series.