Playoff basketball is a fantastic beast. That's true for many reasons, not the least of which is because of what's at stake, with each loss bringing you one step closer a sudden and demoralizing end to the season, and perhaps one step closer to defining an era.
But part of what makes the playoffs a different animal is the chance for two teams, both at the top of their sport, to make adjustments. To figure out what worked and what didn't and come out with a revised game plan, against the same opponent, just a few days later. That's fun from a tactical perspective, but it screws with our emotions as well. A fan base that was riding high just a few days earlier could all of a sudden be thrown into despair.
We don't have to go too deep into the Sixers' past to find evidence of that. In fact, you can just turn to the 2019 second-round series between these two teams as a reminder. When the Sixers dominated the Raptors to the tune of a 116-95 Game 3 win to take a 2-1 series lead, with Game 4 at the Wells Fargo Center, confidence in Philadelphia was at an all-time high. Over the next five days the Sixers dropped a pair of games, including a late collapse in Game 4 in Philadelphia and a 36-point shellacking in Toronto for Game 5, to have their backs up against the wall.
Going back and re-watching the easier-than-expected 131-111 Game 1 win over the Raptors on Saturday night, the story for why the Sixers won is easy enough to write. Coming into the series we all acknowledged that Toronto was at a talent disadvantage, that they'd have to force a lot of turnovers, get extra possessions on the offensive glass, and get themselves out in transition to attempt to overcome that. So when the Sixers won both the turnover (8-4) and rebounding (10 offensive rebounds to 7) battles, the outcome was far from surprising. Even with Toronto shooting above their heads, that's not a style of game that the Raptors will win four times out of seven.