The City of Brotherly Love has never been afraid of the dramatics, especially when it comes to sports, and the first-round series between the Philadelphia 76ers and Toronto Raptors has a chance to be the latest chapter.
Five days ago, the Sixers were leading the series 3-0 — a deficit no team has overcome in NBA history — but two straight wins by the Raptors, including a dominant wire-to-wire performance in Monday’s Game 5, suddenly has Philadelphia residents sweating.
In this edition of Rival Watch, we’ll check the temperature in Philadelphia by looking at how some local media responded to Game 5.
Sixers suddenly facing embarrassing situation after 103-88 loss to Raptors forces Game 6 Thursday in Toronto | The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Oh, boy. Philly, the 76ers might have a problem.”
That’s how Keith Pompey led off his post-game column in The Inquirer before talking up the Raptors’ impressive play without an injured Fred VanVleet and reminding readers about Doc Rivers’ not-so-great record in elimination games.
“Once in position to sweep the Toronto Raptors, the Sixers look like a squad in jeopardy of suffering an embarrassing first-round exit,” Pompey wrote.
Instant observations: Sixers get punked by Raptors in awful Game 5 loss | PhillyVoice.com
The PhillyVoice column broke the game down into three sections, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The good section was the shortest.
“Look, I am not saying the Raptors are going to come all the way back in this series,” Kyle Neubeck wrote. “They have the harder task ahead of them still, and one good shooting night is all it might take for Philadelphia to move on to the next round. But you’re lying to yourself and to me if you tell me you’re not worried right now.”
Neubeck also specifically praised the play of Precious Achiuwa and his success in drawing Joel Embiid into foul trouble.
“To put it lightly, that is not a matchup the Sixers can lose for any extended stretch of a game if they hope to win playoff games,” Neubeck wrote. “Achiuwa was able to beat (Embiid) every which way, blowing by him when he closed out recklessly and even taking him into the weight room near the basket, scoring over/through Embiid on a bucket toward the end of the third.”
Sixers lay an egg | NBC Sports Philadelphia
“The Raptors are halfway to history, and the Sixers have given them reason to believe it’s possible,” Noah Levick wrote, before sharing three observations from the game.
The 76ers keep digging early holes, he wrote, while playing “shaky” and “indecisive.”
Levick also specifically called out Matisse Thybulle, who missed Games 3 and 4 because he’s not fully vaccinated, saying the time off led to him giving “the worst version of his offensive game.”
“Against a team known for applying constant pressure and pouncing on mistakes, that vulnerability seemed especially unhelpful. Indeed, substituting Thybulle out failed to stop the bleeding,” he wrote. “The Sixers simply couldn’t score without Embiid and the Raptors’ advantage grew to 14 points when Siakam scythed through the defence for a layup.”
Sixers, after Game 5 loss, in a vulnerable position in a series they once controlled: ‘That was a terrible game by us’ | The Athletic
Rich Hofman invoked some recent history in his column, reminding readers that the 76ers also lost Game 5 last season at home against the Atlanta Hawks, blowing a 26-point lead in the process. The Hawks went on to win that series in seven games.
“That night, a stunned crowd filed out of the Wells Fargo Center unaware that an even bigger gut punch was coming the next few days,” he wrote.
“Monday night’s convincing 103-88 loss to the Toronto Raptors was a different type of pain, a slower drip. Unlike the blown lead against the Hawks, the Sixers’ home-court advantage turned into a decided disadvantage for all 48 minutes against Toronto. The players heard boos constantly throughout the game, which is more typical of a mid-February game when the crowd is trying to wake the team from its slumber. The Sixers, with everything to play for in a closeout playoff game, just didn’t give them anything to cheer for.”