Sixers vs. Raptors Game 2: Scottie Barnes out with left ankle sprain

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Storylines for Sixers-Raptors Game 2, including impact of Toronto injuries originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Sixers seized a 1-0 series lead Saturday night and will face a Toronto team dealing with health issues Monday in Philadelphia.

Here are the essentials for Game 2 of their first-round playoff series against the Raptors:

  • When: 7:30 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m.

  • Where: Wells Fargo Center

  • Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia

  • Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the MyTeams app

And here are storylines to watch:

Raptors’ adjustments mandatory 

Regardless of the Raptors’ health situation, it seemed unlikely head coach Nick Nurse would have made zero schematic tweaks after a 20-point loss in which Tyrese Maxey scored 38 points.

Unfortunately for Toronto, the team will now be shorthanded. Nurse told reporters Monday morning that Rookie of the Year finalist Scottie Barnes won’t play after suffering a left ankle sprain in Game 1. Gary Trent Jr. (non-COVID illness) and Thaddeus Young (left thumb hyperextension) were listed as doubtful.

Barnes wore a walking boot at Raptors shootaround and told reporters he was “feeling better” but didn’t know when he might return, per ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. 

The Sixers know Barnes’ injury is significant for the series, but they don’t want Toronto’s bad health luck to influence their overall approach.

“Scottie Barnes is a great player for them, but those guys are still going to come in and play as hard as they can,” Georges Niang said Monday after Sixers shootaround. “They still have length off the bench. He’s a great player, don’t get me wrong, but we still have to have that same killer mentality going in there, because they’re not going to let up or play any less hard.

“That team is built on playing scrappy, being physical, using their size. It’s unfortunate — I think everybody’s seen the video — but it’s not going to make us … play any less hard, because those guys are coming full throttle at us.”

Riding the backcourt 

Barnes surely would have played a key role defensively in Game 2 against Maxey and/or James Harden, a duo that combined Saturday for 60 points, 9-for-15 shooting from three-point range, 16 assists and one turnover.

Even if the Sixers don’t expect those numbers every game, head coach Doc Rivers is determined to maximize Harden and Maxey’s time together.

“We like Tyrese and James on the floor at the same time with the bench,” Rivers said Sunday. “I thought that was huge for us. The problem with that is it sends one of those two guys to the point where the minutes are too high, because you want one of your ball handlers on the floor when one’s off.

“Putting them both on at the same time with Joel (Embiid) off, it actually does create a problem for us. But we’re going to force that five minutes a game at least, because that combination for us is really good.”

Harden played a team-high 40 minutes in Game 1, which is a reasonable figure for a playoff outing, but it’s notable that he was able to sit the final 2:46 with the outcome sealed. Maxey also would have topped 40 minutes if he’d played the last minute and 55 seconds instead of enjoying the end of garbage time from the sidelines.

As for the bench, Rivers’ rotation experimentation hasn’t appeared to trouble any players lately.

“This is the playoffs; you work the whole year for this,” Niang said. “Figure it the F out. There’s no time to go, ‘Oh, I haven’t had time with him.’ No. We’re all here to win. If that means you have to sacrifice something to be out on the court with someone you’re not used to, well, you figure it out on the fly. It’s kill or be killed at this point. Everybody wants a championship and you’ve got to do whatever’s necessary to make that happen.”

Embiid’s value outside of scoring 

Embiid posted 19 points in Game 1, over 11 below his league-leading average during the regular season. He helped the Sixers set a strong tone in several ways, though.

By working hard as a rebounder on both ends of the floor and making sensible, low-risk passes when double teamed, Embiid showed the Sixers don’t need him forcing up fadeaway jumpers to beat Toronto.

Danny Green called Embiid’s performance a “great game” and said he’s noticed the five-time All-Star “baiting” help defenders more.

“For sure,” Green said Sunday. “I think he knows who he’s playing against. He took his time and didn’t turn the ball over, which is great. He knows what kind of things they throw at him. He’s been going against them for enough years to know how they’re going to attack him. So he knows what he wants to do, and that’s bait the defense sometimes, take his time, find guys, and give himself up offensively.

“We’ll see how he approaches it, how he attacks it next game — and how they guard him next game — but he’ll make the right reads like he’s been doing all year. And that’s why, in my opinion, he’s the most valuable player in this league.”