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Desperation time for Toronto

For as much as Toronto is complaining about the free-throw discrepancy, it's been their inability to get back in transition that has really hurt them.

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

No team in NBA history has ever come back from being down 3-0 to win a best-of-seven series. 0-143.

After the  Sixers took the first two games of the series in convincing fashion, that's the task Toronto would face if they drop tonight's pivotal Game 3. In fact, after the first two games the Sixers have the #1 offense in the playoffs (139.2 offensive rating, Golden State is the only other team close at 135.9) and the third best net rating (+21.2, right behind Miami at +23.0 and Golden State at +22.8).

If the Raptors are to claw their way back into the series, starting to win the battle in transition will be key. The Raptors aren't built to win a half-court game against the Sixers, and winning battles on the margins is key to pulling off an upset. So far, not only are the Raptors not winning the transition game, but they're getting obliterated in it. Synergy Sports has the Sixers with 52 points in transition over the first two games of the series, which is both the most (Memphis is second with 44) among playoff teams, but also the most efficient (1.677 points per play). More importantly, the Sixers have outscored the Raptors 52-32 in transition so far.

One way Toronto can close this deficit is by forcing more turnovers and generating transition scoring opportunities of their own, something they did exceptionally well in the regular season but have struggled with so far against the Sixers. More importantly, though, Toronto needs to do a better job of getting back in transition. According to CleaningTheGlass, the Sixers have been running on 37.7% of their live-ball defensive rebounds, and scoring 1.85 points per play off of those opportunities. Those are truly astounding numbers – in the regular season, opponents ran on 26.5% of live-ball rebounds against Toronto and averaged 1.226 points per play when they did so.

So far in this series, Toronto's pursuit of extra possessions on the offensive glass has very frequently turned into points at the other end for the Sixers. Harden, though kick-ahead passes, and Maxey, through whatever comic book accident gave him his super-human speed, specifically have been tearing Toronto apart whenever they don't come up with the offensive rebound. That's not to suggest that Toronto shouldn't be pursuing offensive rebounds, because they almost have to in order to have a chance, but they need to be more disciplined to deny the runouts the Sixers have created.

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