Boban Marjanovic

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Tacko Fall shatters NBA draft combine records for height, wingspan, standing reach

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Mohamed Bamba posted the longest wingspan ever in the NBA draft combine.

His record stood only one year.

Central Florida center Tacko Fall now owns the top combine’s top all-time marks for height with shoes (7-foot-7), wingspan (8-foot-2.25), standing reach (10-foot-2.5) and hand length (10.5 inches).

The tallest players in NBA history are Gheorghe Muresan and Manute Bol, who were both 7-foot-7. So, Fall could match them.

If he plays in the NBA.

Whether Fall even gets drafted looks like a tossup. He’s an excellent shot-blocker, and he scores well around the basket. He’s even mobile for his size. But mobile for his size doesn’t mean mobile, and the modern NBA shreds anchored bigs. Fall’s free-throw shooting is also a major weakness.

Boban Marjanovic‘s occasional dominance could provide a road map and cause a team to pick Fall in the second round. Fall is a project. He’s also also is already 23, though he didn’t start playing basketball until 16.

Here are the players with the largest measurements in the NBA’s database, which dates back to 2000:

Height with shoes:

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Wingspan:

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Standing reach:

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Hand length:

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76ers take Game 2, not control of series, vs. Raptors

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The 76ers threw several adjustments at the Raptors.

Enough stuck to allow Jimmy Butler to play hero.

Philadelphia built a 19-point lead in the first-half then – thanks to several big shots by Butler (30 points, 11 rebounds and five assists) – stayed ahead despite multiple Toronto pushes, prevailing 94-89 in Game 2 Monday.

In best-of-seven series that open with a split in one location, the team that began with homecourt advantage has won 59% of the time. The Raptors will have a chance to retake the series lead in Game 3 Thursday.

The way they improved throughout tonight’s game suggests they will.

It took time for Kawhi Leonard (35 points, seven rebounds, six assists) to find his spots against a Philadelphia defense shading closer toward him after his dominant Game 1.

It took time for Pascal Siakam (21 points on 25 shots) to find openings, more on the perimeter, with Joel Embiid defending him

It took time for Marc Gasol (+7 despite 1-of-6 shooting) to learn how to handle Tobias Harris guarding him, more playmaking than scoring from the post.

But it was mostly too late. Especially on a night Toronto shot just 10-for-37 (27%) on 3-pointers.

With the loss out of the way, expect Raptors coach Nick Nurse to more aggressively adjust, not just respond to the 76ers’ changes. Gasol should more closely shadow Embiid, who worked Serge Ibaka. Fred VanVleet (-18 in 18 minutes) can get a quicker hook when he becomes a defensive liability due to his height.  Toronto can pull Greg Monroe, who played well tonight, into more pick-and-rolls.

Of course, the 76ers can play better, too. They shot just 10-for-35 (29%) on 3-pointers themselves. Embiid can get healthier (his stomach, probably not his knee). Philadelphia won’t necessarily have to rely on another disastrous stint from Boban Marjanovic, who was -5 in just 1:25 after Monroe left due to a sprained ankle.

Both teams should perform better. It just seems Toronto’s paths to improvement, which are already well underway, are clearer.

Three things to Watch in Philadelphia 76ers vs. Toronto Raptors

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There are other good ones: Boston vs. Milwaukee, Houston vs. Golden State.

But no other second-round series is quite the measuring stick, nor comes loaded with the pressure of what a loss will mean this summer than Philadelphia vs. Toronto does.

Elton Brand, the Sixers GM, ended “the process” and traded for Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris because Philadelphia wanted to win now. The Sixers pushed all their chips into the middle of the table, hoping that chemistry would develop quickly, winning would follow, and Butler and Harris would agree to stay when they become free agents in July. A second-round exit changes that equation.

Toronto also went all-in to win now, trading DeMar DeRozan and more away to get Kawhi Leonard and the chance to woo him for a year, to develop a relationship and bond, then to win and convince him to stay. The Raptors have rested Leonard’s body (he missed 22 games this season, most for “load management”), given Leonard whatever he wanted, yet nobody knows what the quiet is going to decide this July. However, a second-round exit after all of that could have Leonard packing his bags for Southern California.

This is as high-stakes as it gets in the second round, and this series is going to hinge on just a few things — like Philly winning a game in Toronto for the first time since 2012. Here are three things that will help determine the outcome of this series.

1) Watch the Marc Gasol on Joel Embiid matchup. The Raptors traded for Marc Gasol at the deadline just because of this matchup.

The numbers support Toronto’s move. Look at NBA.com’s matchup data and over four games in the past two years Gasol held Embiid to just 10-of-29 shooting (34.5 percent), and just 16.3 points per 100 possessions (about half Embiid’s average production). In two meetings this season when Gasol was with Memphis, Embiid had a dreadful 40.4 true shooting percentage and averaged 14.5 points and 15 rebounds a game (he averaged 27.5 points per game for the season).

Embiid’s knee and how well he moves are also remaining question marks.

Embiid is critical to Philly’s offense, the team was 5.4 points per 100 possessions worse this past season when he was off the floor (they have been better with him off the court in the playoffs, but that speaks more to Brooklyn and matchups than what will happen this series). The Sixers are going to have a hard enough time scoring on the Toronto defense, they need peak Embiid, getting buckets inside, throwing down dunks, dominating the glass, and drawing in defenders to open up shots and lanes for others. If Gasol can continue to keep Embiid in check, Philly is in trouble.

2) Which team can find an offensive advantage in what will be a defensive slugfest? If you’re looking for offense, wait for the Houston/Golden State playoff series. This series will not be that, it is two good defensive teams that have length and lock-down defenders that will cause matchup problems the other way. Scoring will be at a premium.

In two meetings this season (both before the trade deadline), Kawhi Leonard stole Ben Simmons’ lunch and bullied him all over the yard. Leonard remains one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA, and Toronto can switch Leonard onto Jimmy Butler or any Sixers getting hot (outside Embiid). It’s not a one-man show, they also have long and active defenders in Danny Green and Pascal Siakam who can take guys like Tobias Harris or J.J. Redick and make their life difficult. Toronto was the fifth best defensive team in the NBA this season and is the second best so far in the postseason. They will take away driving lanes from a Philly team that already struggles with floor spacing, making good looks at a premium.

The reverse is true as well — Butler will get time on Leonard in what will be an old-school physical battle, making life hard for the guy Toronto turns to in the clutch. Simmons’ length will take things away for Siakam or anyone he is matched up on, Harris and Redick are solid team defenders, and Embiid is one of the best defensive centers in the game anchoring the paint.

Which team can hit contested, difficult jumpers? Which team will turn defense into some (relatively) easy transition buckets?

Which team’s coaching staff will come up with a way to free up their scorers best? Scoring will be at a premium and whichever team can find a way to break through a defensive stalemate will have a massive advantage.

3) Can Toronto’s bench win them the series? This year’s Raptors bench — Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell, Serge Ibaka, and OG Anunoby (if/when he returns from his emergency appendectomy right before the playoffs) — is not as good as the Raptors best-in-the-league bench from a season ago. The Raptors averaged 35.8 points a game from bench players this season, down from 41.2 last season, and the unit’s effective field goal percentage dropped by nearly 10 points.

But it’s still better than Philly’s bench. By a longshot.

Philly’s starting five — Simmons, Redick, Butler, Harris, Embiid — was a ridiculous +62 points per 100 possessions against Brooklyn in the first round. However, they only played 12.3 minute per game as a unit (remember Embiid also missed one game due to his sore knee). When the Brooklyn bench, led by Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert, got on the floor, the tide turned.

Philadephia’s best bench player, Mike Scott, is out for at least Game 1 with a sore heel. That means a lot of T.J. McConnell, James Ennis, and Boban Marjanovic for as long as he can stay on the floor before the Raptors play him off. None of that is good for Philly.

Against Toronto, look for Brown to lean on his starters more, maybe up to 20+ minutes a game (depending on what Embiid can handle with his knee). Brown did a good job with rotations and getting those starters out there at the beginning of the second and fourth quarters — against the Nets second unit — and it had tremendous success. Toronto will be prepared for that.

The Sixers need to dominate when their starters are in and the bench groups (staggered with starters) need to just hold the fort. Whether they can against a Raptors bench that knows its role is another question.

PREDICTION: Toronto in five. Maybe the Sixers can take this series seven games, they have the raw talent. They need Embiid to play at an MVP level to have a shot in this series. However, Philly’s lack of depth limits Brett Brown’s options to adjust when things do not work, while Nick Nurse has much more variety at his disposal. Toronto will make adjustments Philadelphia cannot match, and that will decide the series.

76ers’ offense goes from 0 to 60 (more accurately, 102 to 145) in a hurry

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Ben Simmons seethed about 76ers fans booing the team Saturday.

Yesterday, Simmons held his hand to his ear calling for more noise from the Philadelphia crowd.

After scoring a pedestrian 102 points in their Game 1 loss, the 76ers got their offense on track in a 145-123 win over the Nets last night. That 43-point regulation scoring increase between games of a playoff series is the largest in the last three postseasons and tied for 14th-largest of the shot-clock era.

Here are the biggest regulation scoring increases between games of a playoff series in the shot-clock era:

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Philadelphia had six more possessions in Game 2 than Game 1, but pace doesn’t cloud the picture here. The 76ers are better when they play faster.

Even considering pace, the picture is rosy. Philadelphia’s offensive rating went from 103.0 to 138.1. Based on regular-season team rankings, that’s the equivalent of going from worst than last place to far better than first place.

Here’s the 76ers Game 1 and 2 offensive ratings on the scale of each team’s regular-season offensive rating. Scroll wayyyy down for Game 2:

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Simmons keyed Philadelphia’s turnaround. At his best, he attacks the basket in transition and semi-transition. That either creates easy looks for him or, if the defense collapses to stop him, he has the passing skills to find open teammates. There are still questions whether that style works against better defenses, but it sure did yesterday. Simmons finished with 18 points and 12 assists.

Joel Embiid still looks hobbled, but he was no longer limited to hanging on the perimeter. After shooting 0-for-5 on 3-pointers in Game 1, Embiid scored 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting (all inside the arc).

J.J. Redick and Mike Scott got on track with their distance shooting. After continuing his slow start to the series, Tobias Harris eventually found a rhythm within Game 2. Boban Marjanovic was sinking short jumper after short jumper. Offensive minus Jonathon Simmons got pulled from the rotation.

Jimmy Butler, the lone impressive 76er in Game 1, faded. (Nobody should overreact to a single game, but performances like these could give Philadelphia pause when Butler hits free agency this summer).

But this was a grand display of offensive execution.

The 76ers shot 61% on 2-pointers, 39% on 3-pointers and 81% on free throws. They grabbed 15 offensive rebounds to Brooklyn’s just 20 defensive rebounds. And they limited their turnovers to a reasonable 12.

Philadelphia’s 145 points were the most in a playoff game since 1992 (Trail Blazers 153, Suns 151 in 2OT) and most in a playoff regulation since 1990 (Celtics 157, Knicks 128).

That output is not a total shock. The 76ers projected to have one of the postseason’s best offenses, and the Nets projected to have one of the postseason’s worst defenses.

But after Game 1, it was sure tough to see this coming.

Joel Embiid on status for Game 1 of 76ers-Nets: ‘I have no idea’

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Joel Embiid missed 14 of the 76ers’ last 24 games with a knee injury. Philadelphia opens the playoffs tomorrow afternoon against the Nets.

Rich Hoffman of The Athletic:

The 76ers are a totally different team with Embiid in or out. Not only is he an excellent two-way player, Philadelphia’s backup centers are lacking. Boban Marjanovic, Jonah Bolden and Greg Monroe are each flawed.

The Nets might not be good enough to take advantage. Philadelphia still has Ben Simmons, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris and J.J. Redick, after all.

But Embiid missing time in this series definitely opens the door for Brooklyn.