Analysis | The Raptors’ season ends in Game 6 against the Sixers. It was quite a ride

History has to wait.

Trying, and failing, to do something no NBA team has ever done, the Raptors bowed out of their first round playoff series with the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday night, losing 132-97 in front of a loud but ultimately spent audience at Scotiabank Arena.

It ended Toronto’s chances of becoming the only team ever to rally from a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series, or just the fourth team of more than 140 in that predicament to even force a deciding Game 7.

The season will ultimately be remembered as a rousing success after two tumultuous, COVID-ravaged years for the franchise most adversely affected by the global pandemic.

But today, the feelings are much worse with a large measure of disappointment in the immediate aftermath of the Game 6 loss.

After gambling, successfully in the bigger picture, on a roster long on lanky defensive forwards and very short on shooters, the Raptors paid dearly for a lack of offense at critical junctures of Thursday’s season-ending loss.

The Sixers put the game away with a 25-6 run to start the third quarter — 17-0 at one point — as the Raptors couldn’t find anyone who could make a bunch of shots to solve the onslaught.

Without Fred VanVleet — the team’s best shooter, but more important the guy who could get other shooters good, consistent looks — the Raptors offense sputtered most of the night.

Only Chris Boucher and Pascal Siakam had above-average offensive nights when the Raptors needed more from more players, because their transition defense wasn’t up to the occasion.

While Gary Trent had 19 points, he was scorched most of the night by a resurgent James Harden, who exploded for 22 points and 15 assists.

James Harden was on his game and Thaddeus Young and the Raptors couldn't counter in a season-ending Game 6 loss to the Sixers at Scotiabank Arena.

OG Anunoby was ineffective — five points after two quick fouls in the first quarter — and Precious Achiuwa did not score a point until the game was long over in the fourth quarter.

The Raptors shot just 32 per cent as a team from three-point range in the first five games of the series and then struggled even worse on Thursday.

They were 7-for-35 from beyond the arc, not nearly good enough even if the shots weren’t bad.

“There has been a few (three-pointers in the series) which have been a quick touch … transition, one-pass, pretty-contested,” coach Nick Nurse said before the game. “I would hope we would venture into some more offense before we take some of those.

“But you are always riding a fine line of just telling guys to let it fly and not turn those down. So I tend to live with a few of those a game with those guys trying to play with some aggressiveness.”

The Sixers, who appeared to be reeling from two straight losses after taking the 3-0 lead, just dictated the pace of the game from the opening tip.

Harden and Joel Embiid (33 points) were, of course, central to their attack but Danny Green, Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris also stepped up when Toronto’s players didn’t.

The Raptors couldn’t have been surprised that the Sixers came out looking to dictate the pace because they were run out of the gym at times in Games 4 and 5.

“I would expect them to play fast tonight and push the pace, and play a lot faster than the series has been going,” Nurse said before the game. “We are going to have to be better and better in our transition defence.”

The Raptors certainly weren’t early, as Harden got to the rim easily in a 10-point first quarter that was Philadelphia’s best in two games. And when the Raptors made seven of their first eights shots, a Sixers zone defense befuddled them into nine straight misses.

Cue Siakam and Boucher, whose combined second quarter kept the Raptors in the game. Siakam made six of eight shots while Boucher was four-for-six from the floor as each played the entire quarter. Boucher finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds.

Siakam wound up with 24 points, seven rebounds and six assists in what, when it’s all looked at clearly, was an impressive series.

“We’re all the seeing the big things — the points and the assists — but he’s doing a lot of the little things,” Nurse said. “He’s been really good in his defensive rotations, he’s been really good on the glass and not even just grabbing them. He’s been helping block out and doing a lot of the little things, like flying out at shooters and all those things. His activity from him is what has stood out to me.


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