Marc against Embiid and the most important game in the history of the Raptors: "You have to grow"

Tonight (01:00 Spanish time), Raptors and Sixers play in Toronto for the final in the Conference. Marc resolves his duel with Embiid.


This night (01:00, Spanish time) is played the seventh game of the Eastern semifinal against Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers. The Canadians, they earned it during the season (which is largely played just for that) have in their favor the momentum of the Scotiabank Arena. The field factor. Against, the story. In 2016 they played the only Eastern final that appears on their curriculum. Since then they have won 51, 59 and 58 regular season matches but have fallen in 2017 and 2018 in this same round. So far the reason had always been LeBron James and his Cavaliers. Without it, the East opened wide with four obvious suitors on the starting grid: Celtics, Sixers, Raptors and Bucks. Throughout the season we sensed that the four would see each other, it remained to be seen with which couples finally, in a round from which two teams would inevitably be played. Not so much los Bucks, that in any case already wait to see what happens tonight to know who is visiting them on Wednesday in the first game of the final of the East. Yes, for one reason or another, the other three. The Celtics are already on vacation, and with a tremendous taste of failure and a more difficult than expected for a crucial summer. Tonight, whatever happens, another team will be very touched and faced an uncertain future.

The Sixers accelerated the process and bet everything to the present (without LeBron ...) with the arrivals of Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris. The two and JJ Redick end the contract in the summer, 60% of one of the best starting quintets in the NBA. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons would remain in any case, but they would be surrounded by doubts in case of a defeat that would leave those who They seemed a year ago favorites for the East post LeBron, Celtics and Sixers, in the divan of the psychologist. What has happened has been, to a large extent, Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Sixers are being a difficult team to decipher and anticipate, big door or nursing. Capable of appearing absolutely incompetent or definitely unstoppable, they will test the snowfalls of Scotiabank, a meeting of ghosts in playoff time for which there is, in principle, a perfectly qualified exorcist: Kawhi Leonard.

Kawhi and Marc against the shadows of the past

The arrival of Kawhi, a one-year bet similar to the one that went well with OKC with Paul George, was a radical attempt by Masai Ujiri to prevent his franchise from definitively establishing itself in no man's land, reliable in Regular Season and trembling in playoffs To loan the forward until this summer, nothing of what happens in Toronto can be separated from the attempt to sell the benefits of continuity beyond July. For that, a victory today would also be crucial. Kawhi, really a mystery after his grotesque last year in San Antonio, has been put back in Canada at the height of the top 3 players in the NBA. And the latest rumors speak of good tuning to a possible new contract in the Raptors. Interestingly, much of that will be decided against the same Sixers who eliminated them in 2001, also in the semifinals and in the seventh game. In Philadelphia, Vince Carter failed on the horn and were (88-87) the Allen Iverson Sixers the They advanced and ended up facing the Lakers of Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. Yes: ghosts know a long time in Canada.

So in Toronto there is a conviction that this is the most important match in the franchise's 24 years of history. Because without LeBron they feel able to reach for the first time the Finals and because of Kawhi depends his present but also his future. To avoid another upset, he arrived and Marc Gasol arrived later in the middle of the year, another whose future can be decided largely tonight: at 34, Marc will decide in summer if he becomes a free agent or plays host to his player option for season 2019-20, which would play for 25.5 million. The alternatives are to sign a longer contract but with less annual charge for the franchise in Toronto ... or change of air only a few months after an orchestrated arrival to, precisely, take a leap of quality in these playoffs. And for now Spanish is fulfilling. He knocked out Nikola Vucevic in the first round and is in general very effective against Joel Embiid, which gives more problems than any other defender in the entire league. With Marc on the court, Embiid (self-defined as "the most difficult player to stop the NBA ") drops his possessions in paint from 7.4 to 4.2, his points for 100 possessions of 37 (his number against the rest of rivals) to 21 (and his total average against Marc in the last two seasons is in 19) and its percentage in the suspensions outside the zone of 34 to 27% .

Marc, therefore, it is in the center of one of the batThey will decide tonight the fate of Raptors and Sixers and the shape of the conference finals that precede the fight for the ring. Kawhi Leonard talks about his team only having to "have fun" and coach Nick Nurse assures that the best will play whatever is necessary (in Philadelphia a week ago, in the fourth and losing 1-2, he already reduced his rotation to essentially six players) and warns of the necessary temperance for being a seventh and for the irregularity that has been a very changeable series between some nights and others. And Marc focuses everything on one word: growth. "I liked how we reacted after losing the first game against the Magic on our court, or against the Sixers after being 1-2 against, E demonstrates the growth we have to teach in this game as well. everything when things do not go well, the pace at which it grows can not always be marked by yourself, sometimes you have to do it whether you like it or not and how much you play.That is the most important thing.We have to focus on controlling what we can control ", assures the Spanish pivot, 48 minutes of his second conference final after which he played with Memphis Grizzlies in 2013.

Control the rebound, equalize the energy of the Sixers and not hesitate when there are frank shot options are the keys that points Marc, who recognizes that tall men have to throw every time Joel Embiid stays close to his hoop. If they force the Cameroonian out of the painting, they will open waterways that could be used by Kawhi and Siakam in a duel in which any contribution from the bench will be key as the Raptors worsen even the second unit problems that the Sixers have. With the best quintet by numbers of all the playoffs, the limited production of VanVleet and Powell on the outside and the lack of pieces beyond Ibaka on the inside, they put Nurse in a position to, surely, squeeze the holders to the maximum today. It's the day to do it, of course: surely the most important game, for now, in the history of the Raptors. Or so they say in Canada.



Photos from as.com

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