Heading into the Sixers' second-round series against the Raptors, the conventional wisdom seemed to be that the Sixers had the more talented starting five but Toronto had the better bench.
The conventional wisdom, through the series' first three games, has been very wrong.
The Sixers' bench outplayed the Raptors' yet again Thursday night in a 116-95 win (see observations). A unit mostly cobbled together by general manager Elton Brand during the season has outscored Toronto's bench 73-30 in the series.
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For Games 1 and 2, the Sixers' bench was missing Mike Scott, who was sidelined with a right heel contusion and plantar fasciitis. Scott, initially overlooked because of Tobias Harris' star power and overshadowed by Boban Marjanovic because Marjanvoic overshadows everybody, has become a key piece of the Sixers' identity. He's already sipped a beverage in the stands, made a game-winning three-pointer in a playoff game and inspired tattoos in 33 total games with the team.
Scott gave himself a "C" for his first game back after scoring five points in 14 minutes and said he felt a "little sore."
"It just felt good to be out there with my teammates," he said. "S---, we won. That's all that matters."
Jimmy Butler couldn't have spoken much more highly of Scott Thursday night.
I love Mike Mike. You see the handshake we do any and all times of the game. He's a great guy to have around. Super tough - like a guy that you want in your corner. Not scared to take or make big shots. He can guard whoever you tell him to guard and more than anything, he's always got a positive vibe, a positive energy that he's giving off every single day. Even whenever he's not playing, and that's the hardest thing to do. He's a real one, I'll tell you that.
James Ennis, meanwhile, has gone from a contender in the much-discussed "tournament" for wing minutes off the bench when he first arrived to the best bench player in this series by a wide margin. Following his 10-point night, Ennis has 34 points on 12 for 21 shooting against the Raptors. Toronto's bench players have combined for 30 points on 12 for 50 shooting.
Greg Monroe has gone this season from Toronto to Brooklyn to out of a job after being waived by the Nets without playing a game to Boston to an apparent insurance option for the Sixers to Joel Embiid's primary backup vs. the Raptors. He played Thursday after spraining his left ankle in Game 2 and again gave the Sixers solid minutes - although he did catch some flack from Butler in the locker room about missing a wide-open layup in garbage time.
Though athleticism and springiness are certainly not Monroe's strong suits, his dependable play in Games 2 and 3 meant Brett Brown could give Embiid and his left knee a little time off. Embiid posted his 33-point, 10-rebound, five-block performance in just 28 minutes and got to relax on the bench in the second half of the fourth quarter.
"To have the boost that you learn before the game to have Mike Scott back and Greg," Brown said. "And James really has been uniquely special and required, especially in the absence of Mike where I can shove Tobias maybe more to a four, there are wing minutes to be had. I think our bench has been good. … I think that bench has come in and given us a spark and continued on with sort of the defensive efforts that we're trying to put out."
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