The Philadelphia 76ers had absolutely no answer for Kawhi Leonard in their 108-95 game one loss to the Toronto Raptors. Leonard, who pretty much did whatever he wanted, notched 45 points on 16/23 shooting. Let’s talk about how they should defend him moving forward.
The Sixers started the game with Jimmy Butler on him. That didn’t have much success. When guarded by Butler, Leonard shot 5/6 from the floor. When guarded by Tobias Harris, he shot 5/5. While a lot of those looks were contested, it didn’t matter, and will continue not to matter. Leonard is robotic. You need to do more to slow him down than just contest.
By more, I mean send a double team. One big reason why I believe the Sixers could have success with this tactic is because Leonard is not much of a passer. Not because he can’t do it, but because he’s unwilling to. He averages just 2.4 assists a game for his career. If they can force him into passing situations, I like their chances. Two players made up for 74 of their 108 points. The Sixers did a pretty good job of defending everyone else. They need to make someone else besides Pascal Siakam and Kawhi Leonard beat them.
Both Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid touched on this after the game;
“I don’t think we showed enough help.” Simmons said.
“Next time maybe just like they are doing to me and double teaming me, throw some double teams and have a better game plan.” Said Embiid.
Speaking of Ben Simmons, he actually had a reasonable amount of success when matched up on Leonard. He held him to just 4/9 shooting. His length and athleticism is crucial. But even with that, sending help and making things uncomfortable for Leonard is probably the best recipe to winning this series. Brett Brown made some serious adjustments after game one against the Brooklyn Nets and they paid dividends. We’ll see what adjustments Brown makes heading into game two in Toronto.
Lock Ben on Kawhi the rest of the series. Like literally match their minutes.
Butler probably won’t have another offensive performance like that.
Embiid has to attack quick. Can’t just sit there and wrestle with Gasol.
— Jimmy Cash (@danmcguckin_) April 28, 2019
Also, let’s hope we never have to see Furkan Korkmaz get playoff minutes ever again.