Game 3 takeaways: Sixers embarrass Raptors to take series lead
Mitchell Leff / Getty

The Philadelphia 76ers jumped out to an early lead Thursday night and never really looked back as they handed the Toronto Raptors an embarrassing Game 3 loss to take a 2-1 series lead.

Here are some takeaways from Philadelphia's wire-to-wire 116-95 win:

The Embiid Game

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You knew it was coming at some point.

No matter how strong and savvy a defender Marc Gasol is, no matter how limited by knee and stomach issues Joel Embiid has been at various points in this series, he was always going to have at least one of these games. He's too good not to.

From Game 3's opening minutes, Embiid attacked Gasol with a refreshing vigor the Sixers hadn't seen from their star big man in either of the first two contests. He turned it over on his first possession, but then settled down and punished Gasol - and any other poor soul who approached - inside and from deep, finishing with 33 points, 10 rebounds, five blocks, and three assists on 9-of-18 shooting (and 3-of-4 from 3-point territory).

Embiid was a plus-21 in his 28 minutes of action, meaning the Sixers are now plus-38 in 90 minutes this series with him on the court, and minus-18 in 54 minutes without the big man.

Flipping the script

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Much of the discussion between Monday and Thursday centered around how Nick Nurse's Raptors would counter Brett Brown's adjustment of having Embiid guard Pascal Siakam, which gave Toronto's offense fits in Game 2. Instead, it was Brown who again flipped the script to start Thursday's game, shifting back to the defensive look that was exploited in Game 1; Embiid guarded Gasol while Tobias Harris was tasked with Siakam.

Despite the changeup, Siakam and the Raptors never found the series-opening success they had against that matchup when presented with it again in Game 3.

On the other end, the Raptors' defensive adjustment saw Siakam guarding Jimmy Butler, as the assignment of stopping Harris fell on Danny Green's shoulders.

Toronto's unwilling shooters

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Say what you will about the number of open 3-pointers the Raptors missed during the last two games (and it is a problem), but the bigger issue may be how hesitant Gasol and Kyle Lowry are to let it fly when they're open.

These are two capable shooters and brilliant veterans approaching open looks with the confidence of postseason rookies who own Ben Simmons' jump shot. Gasol didn't look for his own offense enough when Harris guarded him in the post during Game 2, and he and Lowry passed up clean 3-point looks to milk the shot clock and play hot potato in Game 3.

The duo combined to go 0-for-5 from deep on Thursday and own usage rates of just 17.4 percent (Lowry) and 12 percent (Gasol) through three games against the Sixers.

If Philly's defenders, who are already ignoring Siakam on the perimeter, aren't the least bit concerned about Lowry and Gasol shooting the ball, it's only going to make Kawhi Leonard's (and Siakam's) offensive task that much taller in a crowded paint.

Speaking of Leonard ...

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What's left to say about Playoff Kawhi?

With his teammates laying eggs up and down the court, Leonard put on an admirable one-man show to will the Raptors back into the game, particularly down the stretch of the third quarter. After the Raptors fell behind 75-57 with eight minutes remaining in the third, Leonard matched Philly's offensive output - 14 points - by himself over the remainder of the frame, leaving Toronto down only seven points after Fred VanVleet converted a technical free throw to start the fourth.

Unfortunately for Leonard and the Raptors, Nurse rested the superstar to start the fourth quarter, and the Sixers responded with a 9-0 run to essentially put the game away.

It may have only been 2:23 worth of rest, but it was 2:23 too long.

If Leonard wears down later in the fourth, you live with it as the cost of battle on a night when no other Raptor provided positive value, then use two days off before Game 4 to heal his body. What you can't live with, if you're Nurse, is knowing the guy who kept you in it all night didn't log a fourth-quarter minute until it was already a six-possession game.

In the end, Leonard poured in 33 points on 13-of-22 shooting, and is now averaging 37.7 points on 61-41-92 shooting in the series. Get the guy some help.

Time to trim Raptors' rotation?

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It's hard to overstate just how bad Toronto's bench has been.

Neither team is particularly deep after midseason trades to bolster their star talent thinned out their reserve corps, but the Raptors have reached a point where any bench-dominated minutes are an automatic loss.

The trio of VanVleet, Norman Powell, and Serge Ibaka are, at best, rattled on the offensive end and completely out of touch on the defensive end. Yet they each logged 16-to-21 minutes in Game 3. Inexcusably, the trio also played seven minutes together on Thursday, during which they posted a net rating of minus-18.8.

Nurse made the easy decision to cut Jodie Meeks from the (non-garbage time) rotation Thursday. Facing a must-win game Sunday, he needs to think long and hard about scaling that rotation back even further and riding with his starting five as long as possible.

The Raptors' collective effort in Game 3 can't fall squarely on Nurse's shoulders, but he did himself no favors with the way he managed minutes.

Full credit to Philly

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As bad as Nurse's Raptors were in Game 3, Brown's 76ers were that good.

With Embiid taking the lead, Philly's offense flowed with a purpose, and their defensive effort and rotations played an undeniable role in creating the type of hesitation discussed above for Lowry, Gasol, and others.

Brown got the better of Nurse by making the first major adjustment of the series in Game 2. On Thursday, his team simply smacked their opponents in the mouth.

Quote of the game

"Chemistry is overrated. When you have great basketball players, it's easy. It's not that complicated." - Embiid on the willingness of his team's stars to share the ball.

What to watch for

Jesse D. Garrabrant / National Basketball Association / Getty

The biggest game of Toronto's season is due up Sunday afternoon. Between now and then, much will be made of the bulletin board material an animated Embiid may have given the Raptors by shimmying, windmilling, and generally enjoying every second of his team's fourth-quarter beatdown in Game 3.

As evidenced by Siakam's fourth-quarter flagrant for tripping Embiid, however, a pissed-off basketball team isn't always necessarily a better basketball team. The Raptors simply need to be better and smarter in Game 4, not just angrier.

Game 3 takeaways: Sixers embarrass Raptors to take series lead
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