The Philadelphia 76ers’ series against Toronto Raptors wasn’t a complete battle of the benches — the ultimate deciding factor was Kawhi Leonard, one of the top five players in the NBA.
The matter of having players consistently produce off the bench, however, was still part of why the Sixers didn’t edge the Raptors in the semifinals. Leonard hit a game-winning shot in Game 7 on Sunday, and the Sixers lost 92-90 to be eliminated from the playoffs.
Before the series began, a concern for the Sixers was how their bench would stack up against the Raptors’. The Raptors have some of the best depth in the league, with players such as Serge Ibaka, Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell being important pieces for them.
Philly has solid players on its bench, as Mike Scott, James Ennis III and Greg Monroe were the Sixers’ core group of reserves in the playoffs. Each player contributed in different ways in the series.
Scott and Ennis both made hustle plays on defense, and Scott occasionally shot the ball well from the three-point line. Monroe played well in the paint on offense, as he sometimes gave the Sixers another distributor on the floor; he also got easy buckets inside when they were available.
But the Sixers’ reserves didn’t produce consistently against Toronto.
In Game 7, the Sixers did not gain solid contributions from their bench players. Scott and Ennis combined for eight points; Monroe played two minutes and missed the only shot he took. The Raptors’ bench scored 21 points, and Ibaka had 17 of those.
Leonard scored 41 points in the win, and he was once again the key difference. Most times, the team with the best player — provided that a good roster is around him — will win the series.
Though the Sixers lost Game 1, they actually won the bench battle. The Sixers had 24 bench points to the Raptors’ 10. But Leonard and Pascal Siakam, the Raptors’ two best players, played well; Leonard had 45 points and Siakam had 29.
In Game 4, when they lost 101-96, the Sixers lost the bench battle 12-11; Ibaka had all of the Raptors’ bench points. In Game 5, though, the Sixers’ worst loss of the playoffs, Scott, Ennis and Monroe combined for 13 points. The rest of the bench scored when the game had already been decided, scoring 16 points. Ibaka, VanVleet and Powell combined for 22 points.
The Raptors’ bench outplayed the Sixers’ during Game 5 and Game 7, the two most important games of the series.
With the Sixers heading into the offseason, improving the bench will be important for the future. The playoffs are about consistently getting the best out of each player in the rotation, and the Sixers did not do that against the Raptors.