Phase one is complete.
Now can raptors pull off like never before?
A total of 143 teams have found themselves in the same doom that the Raptors did 3-0 in the NBA series, and none have ever returned.
With more load than ever on Saturday without Fred VanVallet and Pascal Siakam, the Raptors avoided a sweep.
On Monday night, they enter the lion’s den in search of a step closer to history.
And don’t think there’s a raptor who isn’t aware of the odds.
Fans will note an extended conversation between head coach Nick Nurse and Precious Achiuwa, a key part of the group that eventually solved the Joel Embiid puzzle.
When the nurse was asked about that conversation, she laughed as she vacated her bench with the game in hand.
“We were just talking a little bit about the stuff we’ve been talking about for the past few days,” the nurse began. “That we’ve all talked about here as well. It’s hard to be down 3-0, but let’s get it down to 3-1 and then it’s not 3-0. He kind of reiterated to me. That it’s now 3 -0 and let’s have some fun in Philly and see what we can do.”
And there really has to be a mindset that doesn’t play in favor of the Raptors despite some situations.
The biggest among them is the expected availability of point guard and undisputed leader Fred VanVleet.
VanVleet left Game 4 in some very un-optimistic circumstances.
The man, battling with pain and injuries, finally reached the point where he could no longer go.
Anyone suspecting his desperation had to see his jersey ripped to the front on his way to the locker room for reassurance.
Up to this point, the major injury limiting VanVleet was treated as a knee injury. But the injury is in the hip and he was on his way to imaging after Game 4.
Officially he is listed as Suspect for Game 5.
VanVleet did not return to the bench after leaving the game, but he was in the hallway with throat and back slaps after Siakam, Gary Trent Jr., and the rest won without him.
How much or whether he will be able to play in Game 5 remains a question.
With or without him, securing another win in Philadelphia is going to take even more.
The assumption in Toronto’s favor in Game 5 is that Scotty Barnes is going to get better in his first game after a serious ankle sprain.
Barnes was good, no question, but if he starts imposing himself in the paint the same way he was for the All-Star break period, a second consecutive win in Toronto seems more likely.
Perhaps offsetting some of the negative VanVleet news is the confirmation that the Sixers have a much bigger issue of their own.
Joel Embiid, who dominated the series until Saturday’s loss in Toronto, is dealing with a thumb issue and had to have his own MRI when he returned to Philly on Sunday.
But unlike VanVleet, there’s no doubt that Embiid will play.
He played through the issue on Saturday and, while he wasn’t great, some people outside Siakam were on these disappointing starts that wreaked havoc with everyone’s rhythm at the insistence of filling up TV schedules.
After the game, Embiid was not coming forward at all, saying that he felt the thumb impacted his rebounding, his passing and the free-throw line, before admitting that he didn’t really know how to explain it. Was.
“I mean, it’s painful,” Embiid said. “So, basketball requires you to use your hand a lot.”
We’ll see how much or how little this affects him at Wells Fargo Center on Monday night which will be as loud and intimidating as ever.
As with every series, the panic builds up as the games begin.
Embiid, in particular, is trying to establish some kind of Cameroonian dominance over his countryman, Siakam.
There was a tough foul on Siakam as he attempted to call a timeout with three minutes left in the game which earned Embiid a technical.
And then what was up with the big guy who was kicking Siakam on the head as he bowed down the court? Siakam didn’t know what to make of it.
“I guess it’s difficult, isn’t it?,” Siakam began. “I’m a competitor, I just like being competitive and fighting, it’s the playoffs, you’re fighting at the highest level. I’m cool to talk and all that I think I don’t want any dirty drama like this Ho. “
“I don’t like it, I hate (that stuff), just keep it basketball, just go out there and compete, play hard at the highest level, just don’t make any dirty plays. At the end of the day it’s all anyway Fake toughness.”
Game 5 will once again test the Raptors’ toughness, their discipline and probably all their ability to block outside noise and focus only on defense to stay in the series.
Toronto’s best defensive performance has come in the last two games. If they can continue that trend and maybe come back to make at least a few more open shots, they have a chance to move up the chain again.
“Listen, if we ever shoot the ball in this series, we can score over 110,” Nurse told Saturday.
After that? Well, one step at a time.