Title: Murphy Mini-Mailbag: Talking through it as a Game 7 looms for Raptors and 76ers
Date: May 9, 2019
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic, I answered some reader questions after the Raptors dropped an ugly Game 6 to the 76ers, trying to help settle anxieties ahead of Game 7.
There really isn’t anything higher stress in sports than a Game 7.
I suppose there are greater causes of anxiety outside of sports – having a child, actually shooting your shot with someone (ha), (gesturing broadly) all of thiswe’re dealing with – but in the words of Jack Armstrong as the broadcast closed Thursday, there’s no greater term in professional sports than “Let’s play a Game 7.” Wait, he said greater? No greater term? Those with a weaker stomach may disagree.
The Raptors put themselves in this position. It’s not so much the terrible Game 6 performance that saw them lose 112-101 to the Philadelphia 76ers in a game that really wasn’t as close as that score indicated. That was bad, almost inexcusably so, as this series continues its weird trend of being close-but-not-really, a 3-3 draw with four wholly non-competitive games. The squandered opportunity in Game 2 looms larger, a winnable game where Joel Embiid was under the weather and the Raptors left a lot of low-hanging fruit on the table. Win there, and this series could be over. Maybe the 76ers rally differently. They could probably make the same case themselves about a winnable Game 4 at home. And maybe they don’t. Win those questionable games and you face fewer questions like this.
This is why leaving things to smaller and smaller samples by waving away areas for improvement in victories is so shortsighted. Embiid’s presence in this series makes Game 7 feel tenuous from the Raptors’ perspective. Even when he hasn’t been scoring well, he’s been a monster in driving the score. He’s plus-80 over six games, only one of which you’d say he played to expectations as a scorer. If the 76ers get more aggressive extending his minutes Sunday – and his presence late in a Game 6 blowout because of how quickly the Raptors went on runs any time he sat suggests they may – the Raptors will have to play their best possible game. They’ve shown they can do that, and they showed Thursday that they’ll pivot away from what’s worked, too.