After failing to capitalize on the opportunity to take a 3-1 series lead at home in Game 4, the Sixers head north of the border with the series tied at two apiece. The Sixers weren’t quite themselves in Game 4, with practically everyone recording an underwhelming performance aside from Jimmy Butler. Joel Embiid trudged miserably all night as he suffered through a respiratory infection that nearly forced him out of the contest and usual sniper Tobias Harris failed to find a rhythm offensively- shooting an abysmal 7-23 from the floor.
Despite the loss, the sky is not falling in Philadelphia. Now, with a seemingly healthy Embiid, the Sixers aim to resemble the dominance they displayed in the Game 3 routing of the Toronto Raptors. If they are to get back to their winning ways, here are five things the Sixers must do in Game 5:
Fade the Noise
After a brief trip to the City of Brotherly, the Sixers are once again slated for a tough road game in Toronto. Devoid of the usual Canadian hospitality, the Raptors faithful are certainly going to make their presence felt tonight at Scotiabank Arena. Just as they did in Game 2, the Sixers must stay focused and forbid the crowd noise of getting the better of them. It won’t be easy, as Raptors fans will be eager to dampen the Sixers confidence after watching them demolish Toronto in Game 3, but if the Sixers can effectively communicate and tune out the crowd noise they’ll be in much better shape.
Unleash Ben Simmons
This series has not gone according to plan for Ben Simmons so far, as the former first overall pick has produced a lowly 40 points through four games. While scoring has never been Simmons’ specialty, the Sixers certainly expected more of the 2019 All-Star and didn’t exactly mince words when speaking of his performance.
“I want Ben to be aggressive just like I want Jo [Embiid] to be aggressive. Attack,” Jimmy Butler expressed in his post-game interview, “We’re not gonna win without you guys. You have to be ready to attack it at any point in time. If he has the ball in transition, [I’m like] ‘Ben, don’t pass the ball in transition. Attack every single time’. That’s how we’re gonna win this game.”
HC Brett Brown wasn’t quite as straightforward when speaking of Simmons lack of aggression, but seemed to agree with Butler that he could seek more shots around the rim:
“He is a track star in the open court; he’s 6-foot-10. His length and ability to get to the rim we encourage all day, every day. It’s where he can most significantly offensively stamp his thumbprint on the game. I think in general it’s difficult in the playoffs to get those kinds of opportunities, even as good as he is, as frequently. I just finished watching the game. There were a few times maybe he could have gone a step further or tried to draw contact with a strong finish or a dunk. I don’t think it’s anything that’s bothersome. I do feel like the green light in this environment is something he always knows that he has. … This is where we want to get him going as much as we can, in those first three to five seconds of a shot clock.”
As Brown stated, Simmons is an athletic freak with his blend of size and speed and could cause havoc for Toronto defenders. In an effort to regain the series lead, the Sixers will need Simmons to shake off his early struggles and make a much bigger impact offensively.
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