The Toronto Raptors lead the NBA in wins as they defeat the Philadelphia 76ers in 113-102 win.
As the Raptors embarked on tonight’s home game against the Philadelphia 76ers, there was much more on the table than your regular season home game. Last night the Giants of Africa initiative, which started in 2003, celebrated the birth of global humanitarian and civil rights leader, Nelson Mandela. Throughout the arena you could feel the energy of Africa. From the Jumbotron sporting the beautiful colours of red, green and yellow to a curated menu in section 308 that served fans African delicacies such as spicy rice with chicken and plantains. Many celebrities such as former Raptors forward Chris Bosh, Joe Carter and Dana White were present for the festivities.
Prior to the game there was a lot buzz surrounding Raptors front man Kyle Lowry’s interview with ESPN reporter Rachel Nichols. Kyle explained that his relationship with Raptors GM Masai Ujiri is strictly business following the blockbuster trade that lead Demar Derozan to the San Antonio Spurs and Kawhi Leonard joining the Raptors. This lead viewers and fans alike to draw their own conclusions on the narrative between the pair.
As the Raptors wrap up their final shoot around, they make their way to centre court via Lil Wayne’s “Uproar”; the crowd at Scotiabank Arena is awakened. Nick Nurse starts with Serge Ibaka, Danny Green, Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard. The hoopla surrounding the 17-8 76ers with the addition of Jimmy Butler evokes for an interesting matchup. Throughout the first quarter, the defensive improvements from the Raptors are clear as day. While the Raps struggled to contain Nikola Jokic in Monday’s loss, it was apparent when Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard were containing Joel Embiid in the paint that setting the defensive tone was imperative. Embiid was able to capitalize on a few good transition baskets as well in rebounds but wasn’t able to contribute his normal seasonal average of 26 points per game. He only finished with a meager 10 points and admitted in a game interview that tonight “he sucked”. The Raptors also fell into some foul trouble especially Jonas Valunciunas with 3 early fouls that lead to the 76ers to shooting free throws in the end of the quarter.
As the second quarter commenced, the Raptors did lag a bit on defense. Jimmy Butler in turn put his team on his back and was creating various shot opportunities to stay in the game. Butler had an exceptional performance tonight with 38 points and 10 rebounds. Throughout the game he made sure he was everywhere he was supposed to be on the court while picking up the slack for teammates like Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. As the quarter progressed, the Raptors by way of Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakam and Kawhi Leonard demonstrated a solid amount of ball movement. Although they struggled beyond the arc, they still made quality shots and dunks which allowed the Raptors to lead at the half 53-49.
It could be said that Nick Nurse is a magician but the energy that Raptors came into the 2ndhalf with was electric. It wasn’t as though they weren’t playing well but they were able to tie up the loose ends in a variety of ways. They captured the momentum from the end of the 2ndquarter partnered by a stand out performance by Kawhi Leonard. He was able to show up both defensively and offensively and get the job done. He was successful from the free throw line, beyond the arc and in the paint. He overcompensated for the lack of shooting from his cast mates like Kyle Lowry. Although Philly ‘s JJ Redick showed up huge and was 9/16 from the field, it wasn’t enough to dominate the Raptors and the good thing they had going.
While Leonard’s leadership could be seen throughout the arena and TV sets alike, MVP chants were heard throughout the building. Raptors fans are starting to cling to the fact that finally they have a closer that they can depend on. Leonard finished with another successful win and had 36 points, 9 rebounds and 5 steals to win over the Philadelphia 76ers 113-102.