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The Toronto Raptors must really want to see the Philadelphia 76ers in the playoffs.

Let's be honest, if the Raptors weren't interested in the 76ers, there would be no reason to win Thursday night's game. Raptors coach Nick Nurse even admitted it pre-game, suggesting he saw no real difference between the fifth or sixth seed in the conference. And yet, even without Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby and without any of those usual tricks the Raptors weren't going to show a potential playoff opponent, Toronto still came away with a 119-114 victory to just about clinch the fifth seed and a chance to take on Philly again in the playoffs.

It's not hard to see why Toronto would want a date with Joel Embiid and company. Since Nurse took over the organization back in 2018, the Raptors are 13-7 against the 76ers, and Embiid, Philadelphia's superstar center that Toronto should, in theory, have no answers for, has a career average of just 20.8 points per game against the Raptors, the second-worst against any team in the league. 

The Raptors just have a knack for making life difficult on the 7-foot big man. They get in his space, pressuring him with double teams and active hands, frustrating him whenever he gets the ball.

"We don’t have anyone on our team that matches him in size but we have quickness, we have speed and we have length, so we use that to our advantage," said Precious Achiuwa. "We beat him to his spots, his spin move and counter move someone is right there, throwing a lot of bodies at him, showing different coverages at him and making him work throughout the game."

On the other end, the Raptors just don't fear Embiid. They've knocked him off enough times that they know how to exploit him on offense, by luring him away from the bucket or nailing shots from the mid-range when he plays too deep.

Siakam Puts Stamp on All-NBA Case

VanVleet might be getting some time off to rest before the playoffs, but the Raptors certainly aren't taking it easy on Siakam. Maybe it's the All-NBA chase they're after for the 28-year-old forward who terrorized the 76ers from the mid-range Thursday night. With Embiid clogging up the paint, the 6-foot-9 Siakam just rose up over and over again with his short-range floater to the tune of 37 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists for his second triple-double of the season and third of his career.

"Pascal obviously was awesome," Nurse said. "Listen, I think there’s guys that were ready to shoot when he did kick it out and made ‘em, that obviously helps the 12 assists number because that’s the play that’s there. Yeah, just creating a lot of offense there."

As Siakam stood a the free-throw line for the game-sealing shots, MVP chants rained down from the standings.

"I think we missed that a lot with having our own home court and having our fans cheering us on," Siakam said. "It's been tough just playing with fans, without fans, we talked about this a lot but I just think that it feels good to have our home crowd back and just the energy, the vibe it's just a little different."

Put simply, there's really no argument that Siakam isn't a top six forward in the NBA. There may be some chicanery that keeps him off the All-NBA team if Embiid or Nikola Jokic take a spot as a first-team center, but as a true NBA forward, he's one of the best. He's been incredible all season and lately, he's only getting better.

Danny Green Finally Gets His Ring

The wait finally came to an end.

Just 1,030 days removed from winning the 2019 championship, Danny Green finally received his championship ring. The moment may not have been quite as special as Kyle Lowry's return earlier in the week, but it certainly was a chance to celebrate just how special Green and that team was.

"It was everything I expected it to be. It was great," said Green who drained six three-pointers for 18 points.

Those types of players are so important to winning championships. Of course, you need the Kawhi Leonard types, without them, there's no championship, but it was the depth of that team and the quality of those players one through eight that really set them apart.

"I always called him a glue guy for that team, which is an important thing. A veteran who won a lot, was a great pro, was available. I don’t think he felt the greatest a lot during the season, but he always wanted to go out there and play, loved to play. And he brought a lot of winning qualities to the team," Nurse said pre-game.

If this new group ever does get back to the promised land, it'll be because of Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, and big-time performances from the second-tier players who can make all the difference.

Achiuwa A Difference-Maker for Raptors

Achiuwa has become the X-factor for the Raptors these days. He doesn't always make the smartest plays, but when he does, it's really a thing of beauty. The confidence in his three-point shot has reached an all-time high. At one point in the fourth quarter, he brought the ball up the court and nailed a pull-up transition three a la Lowry to give the Raptors a 10 point lead.

"I definitely work on it," Achiuwa said. "I was feeling real, real confident. I think I hit four in a row at that point. I’m coming down and I’m surveying the whole floor and I’m feeling real good. It’s a shot that I’ve work on multiple times so I’m like, OK, I think it’s time. In that moment you’re not really thinking. You’re so zoned in on the moment and you’re just so locked in. It felt good as soon as it left my hand."

When the playoffs roll around, it's going to be his play off the bench that makes a difference for the Raptors. If he can bang in the three-pointers like he did Thursday with 5-for-7 shooting from distance and 20 points, Toronto is going to be a very tough out.

Injury Update

  • The Raptors are targeting a Sunday return for OG Anunoby who remained sidelined with a right thigh contusion.
  • Chris Boucher left the game in the third quarter after taking a hit to the face. He was slow to get up and holding his bloodied face. He promptly walked to the locker room before returning in the fourth quarter. 

Up Next: Houston Rockets

The Raptors will play their final regular season game of the season Friday night when the Houston Rockets come to town for a 7:30 p.m. tipoff.