It took a while for Raptors coach Nick Nurse to come around to this last May when the Raptors and 76ers met in the Eastern Conference Finals, but he didn’t forget the lesson:
Match Marc Gasol’s minutes up to Joel Embiid’s.
At age 34, Gasol has lost a step, but the man knows how to play the game. Monday night against Embiid, Gasol was in the right position, was physical, and kept Embiid in check — Embiid went scoreless for the first time in his career shooting 0-of-11 from the floor.
With that, Toronto came away with the 101-96 win. Just like last May, but without the ball bouncing four times on the rim.
It wasn’t all Gasol. Embiid was 0-of-3 at the free-throw line, for example. Also, this was the Sixers’ fourth game in six nights, and it showed, it wasn’t just Embiid’s legs that looked a little tired.
Just don’t underestimate how the Spaniard forced Embiid into more midrange shots, where he was 0-of-6. Gasol can keep Embiid from getting to where he wants on the floor, and the Toronto center also doesn’t foul much.
Philly wanted some revenge for last season’s playoff exit. Plus, on paper, this was a game they thought they could get — Kawhi Leonard obviously isn’t in Raptors colors anymore, and Kyle Lowry was out (fractured left thumb).
Toronto has a new superstar in Pascal Siakam and he dropped 25 on Philly, doing a great job attacking mismatches and passing out of the double-teams when they came. Fred Van Vleet played brilliantly and had 24 points, while O.G. Anunoby played fantastic defense all night. The Raptors are not 12-4 on accident, this is a very good team.
And one that still gives the Sixers, and Joel Embiid, some trouble.