The Eastern Conference semifinals got underway on Saturday evening, as the Toronto Raptors took a 1-0 lead over the Philadelphia 76ers with a 108-95 victory. Toronto has had their struggles in Game 1s over the years, but there was no such problem this time around.
Thanks to a red-hot start by Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam, the Raptors were up by double digits midway through the first quarter, and never looked back. Leonard put up 27 points in the first half, on his way to a playoff career-high 45, while Siakam added 29 of his own as he continues his ascent.
On the defensive side of the floor, the Raptors made life quite difficult for the Sixers, who shot just 39.8 percent from the field, and had to work for every look they got. Leonard, Siakam and Green led the way on the perimeter, while Ibaka provided some stout rim protection.
Here are a few takeaways from the Raptors' big win:
The Raptors traded for Kawhi Leonard in the offseason for games just like this. He was tremendous in Game 1, pouring in a playoff career-high 45 points on an efficient 16-of-23 from the field, to go with his usual strong defense. There was just nothing the Sixers could do to combat Leonard's effort on Saturday night. In a game with all sorts of talent, he was the best player on the floor, and it wasn't close.
There was never any doubt about whether Joel Embiid would be on the court for Game 1 against the Raptors, but it's clear he's still not 100 percent. Ahead of the game, Embiid said in regards to his sore knee, "It's still not there. It's still trying to get better." The combination of the knee still bothering him and a much more difficult frontcourt matchup in this round against Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol resulted in a sub-par game from the Sixers' star big man. Sixteen points on 5-of-18 shooting simply isn't good enough from Embiid.
Siakam proves himself yet again
There really wasn't any doubt about Pascal Siakam's ability after what he did not only in the regular season, but in the first round against the Orlando Magic. But in case you still weren't convinced, the young forward put together yet another fantastic performance. He finished with 29 points on 12-of-15 from the field. Expecting that many points from him every night might be a bit too much, but if he keeps playing this well, it's going to be a big problem for the Sixers.
Difference on defense
Both of these teams have incredible talent on both sides of the floor, but the Raptors were much better on the defensive end in Game 1. Part of that was their top-tier defensive talent in Leonard and Siakam, part of it was the Sixers' less than perfect fit on the offensive end and part of it was effort. The trio of issues coalesced into a tough night on offense for the Sixers. They had to work so hard for every look they got, and just couldn't score enough points, shooting 39.3 percent from the field and turning the ball over 14 times.
No. 2 Toronto Raptors vs. No. 3 Philadelphia 76ers
How to watch Game 2
- Date: Monday, Apr. 29
- Time: 8 p.m.
- Location: Scotiabank Arena -- Toronto, Ontario, Canada
- TV channel: TNT
- Live stats: GameTracker
- Online streaming: fuboTV (try for free)
- Odds: Not yet released
Recap of live updates
If you're having trouble viewing the live blog below,.