It’s a classic four-seed versus five-seed faceoff. Time and time again these series produce the most enticing outcomes, and this one should be no different. The Philadelphia 76ers boast the home-court advantage and hold two of the league’s biggest stars. The Toronto Raptors are deep and very experienced, especially after winning the title a short time ago. This has all the looks of a classic.
NBA Playoffs Preview: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Toronto Raptors
Philadelphia finished the season with a 51-31 record. They also finished with the same record as the two teams ahead of them, yet previous match-ups dropped them down to the four seed. It’s also safe to say that the 76ers had one of the most interesting seasons. Joel Embiid righted the ship all year long, but the team health with the Ben Simmons saga and losing a plethora of players through trade. Said trade brought them James Harden, however, who’s one of the league’s sharpest offensive talents.
Toronto finished the season with a 48-34 record. They hovered around the Eastern Conference play-in zone throughout the beginning of the season but followed the All-Star break with a surge in great results. The Raptors also claim an All-Star this season in Fred VanVleet and enter the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the NBA.
Embiid is a nightmare match-up for whoever has the duty of guarding him. Averaging about 30 points, 12 rebounds, and four assists per game, Embiid is going to be a final candidate for the MVP award. Due to this, he stands out as the top player in this series. Joining him in the frontcourt are Tobias Harris and Danny Green. Harris is averaging about 17 points and seven rebounds per game, which are very solid numbers. He’s inconsistent, however, and will have to be at the top of his offensive game. Lastly, Green is a veteran and a solid “three-and-d” type of player. Philadelphia also has Matisse Thybulle, but he will not be able to play in Toronto due to Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Starting at center for Toronto is Pascal Siakam. He’s an excellent two-way player, a former All-Star, and was a major piece in Toronto’s 2019 championship run. He’ll have two tough tasks in this series – slowing down Embiid and being the Raptors’ second option on offense. The two other starting forwards are Scottie Barnes and OG Anunoby. Both players, like Siakam, are terrific two-way players. Barnes could very well be the Rookie of the Year, whereas Anunoby will drain threes and feature as a top defensive stopper.
Toronto is deeper in their frontcourt, but Philadelphia has Embiid.
Advantage: Philadelphia 76ers.
Philadelphia will start Harden and Tyrese Maxey. Harden is struggling to an extent with Philadelphia, but the league knows what he’s capable of. Harden can easily drop 30 points per game, or he can orchestrate an offense and generate double-digit assists. Struggles aside, Harden remains an elite guard. Maxey is also experiencing a breakout year, averaging about 18 points and five assists per game. He is clearly Philadelphia’s third option now. Their backcourt depth is solid as well.
The starting backcourt for Toronto features VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr. VanVleet is an All-Star this year and an offensive force. This year he’s averaging about 20 points and seven assists per game. He’ll be the focal point of Toronto’s offense and also their clutch player to rely upon. Trent Jr. is quietly one of the top “three-and-d” players in the NBA. Averaging over 18 points per game, Trent Jr. will be absolutely crucial in this series. If his shots are falling then Toronto has a real chance to advance. Toronto’s backcourt depth is decent but not great.
Advantage: Philadelphia 76ers.
Coaching and Intangibles
Both teams feature a championship-winning head coach. Philadelphia has Doc Rivers whereas Toronto has Nick Nurse. Both are also two of the top coaches in the game. The difference here, however, is that Rivers won his championship with another franchise while Nurse won his with Toronto and many of the same players.
The 76ers players have been on deep championship runs, a lot of which came with their current team. Harden did the same with the Houston Rockets. Green has a ring with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Three of the Raptors starters were part of the 2019 championship team. They all played a role in that too. Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry aren’t around anymore, but this team, and their coach, know how to win with what’s around them.
Advantage: Toronto Raptors.
Final Prediction: Philadelphia 76ers in seven.
There is no doubt that this will be a terrific series. A game seven should even come down to the wire. Although Toronto holds more championship experience, none of their players are clear-cut superstars. Philadelphia, on the other hand, has a former MVP in Harden and a possible MVP this year in Embiid.
Toronto is very deep and will keep things interesting until the very end, but Philadelphia has more star power when it’s all said and done.
Main Image: Embed from Getty Images