STP Staff Predictions: First Round Series Between Sixers, Raptors

The Philadelphia 76ers are taking on the Toronto Raptors in the first round of the playoffs this season. The series begins tonight at 6:00 PM. The series will certainly be tough due to the Raptors matching up well against the Sixers. Find out if our contributors think the Sixers will be able to make it past the Raptors and move on to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Matt Gregan, Staff Writer – Sixers:

Everyone knows the game slows down in the playoffs. One of the things the Raptors have an advantage in is their transition offense. However, the game slows down in the playoffs and the Raptors offense, which struggles in the half court, will not get as many easy transition opportunities.

The Raptors match up well with the Sixers, but in Embiid the Sixers have the best player on the floor in this series. The combination of having the best player, the most star power and the game slowing down will all help give the Sixers an advantage against a more well-balanced Raptors squad. The series will definitely be close, perhaps too close for comfort, but in the end Philadelphia will pull away and win it in six games.

Michael Doctorovitz, Staff Writer – Sixers:

The Sixers will have their work cut out for them against the Toronto Raptors. After losing the regular season series 3-1, they will have to beat them in a best of seven. The Raptors are a very long and lengthy team that will be able to send multiple defenders Joel Embiid's way throughout the series. Embiid knows and is expecting to be double and triple teamed throughout this series which is why he will need his teammates to step up. James Harden has had some postseason failures in the past and ran into the juggernaut that was the Golden State Warriors from 2017-2019. Don't let that make your decision though, Harden is still an elite passer which will relieve some of the pressure off of him but that means the role players and shooters will need to hit their shots.

Depth is going to be huge in this series. Advantage Toronto. Shooting will also be key in this series and that is where the Sixers hold the upper hand. The Sixers have shot 36.4% from three-point range this season, good enough for seventh best in the league. It is a three-point shooting league and the team that hits more threes seems to be the team that will come out on top. This will be a back and forth series and will be a nerve wracking one for a team that has huge expectations since making a trade for Harden at the deadline. Doc Rivers' job could be on the line, Harden's legacy could be on the line and even Daryl Morey's job could be in jeopardy. With all that said, the Sixers will take it in six games.

Michael Lipinski, Contributor:

I’m not feeling good about this series for a myriad of reasons. There’s the drama surrounding Matisse Thybulle and what the effect is since he can’t play in Canada. There’s the James Harden factor, he hasn’t lived up to the expectations since arriving in Philadelphia. And finally, there’s the Doc Rivers factor and that’s the thing that scares me the most.

While the Thybulle situation is unfortunate, the Sixers have enough weapons to make it through two or three games without him. I believe that we haven’t seen the best of Harden for a reason. There’s no reason to go hard when the bright lights aren’t shining. The bright lights are shining now and I believe Harden will too.

But Doc and his decision making scares the crap out of me. His decision making is questionable and his arrogance is maddening. His rotations have cost the Sixers down the stretch but Doc will remind you that he, just like Gregg Popovich, has won an NBA title. If Doc continues his questionable coaching it will cost the Sixers in this series just like it’s cost the Sixers in series past.

The Sixers are still the better team and will win the series but there will be more drama than needed. Sixers in 6.

Bill Gorman, Contributor:

Four bounces. A season with more promise than any Sixers fan had seen in 18 years, and with just four bounces of the basketball on the rim at ScotiaBank Center, it was over. That is the lasting memory of the Sixers-Raptors rivalry. Now the Sixers have a chance to erase a small amount of the sting from the bounces that haunt many a fan’s dreams.

This will be an interesting matchup. Toronto won the season series 3-1, winning both of their appearances in Philadelphia and splitting two in Canada.

Toronto is an odd combination of styles. They play with the 4th-slowest pace in the league (just 96 possessions per game), but they are fourth-best in the league with 22.5 transition points per game. They are a poor shooting team (25th in the league in field goal percentage, 20th in three-point percentage and 23rd in free-throw percentage), but they make up for it by attacking the offensive glass with no abandon (second with 13.4 offensive boards a night). This could swing some games against the Sixers, who are 19th in defensive rebounding and have struggled specifically against Toronto on the glass.

Toronto has the 10th-best defensive efficiency in the league, and will do everything in their power to keep Joel Embiid from beating them. They are a very athletic group, and they will throw double and triple teams every time Embiid touches the ball with his back to the basket, and even some of the times when he’s facing it. They will make the 76ers beat them with James Harden, Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris. Two of those three have struggled in previous playoff appearances, and this will be Maxey’s first as a starter after making a huge leap in his second season.

A major wrinkle was thrown into this series when it was revealed that Matisse Thybulle, an All-Defense performer, will not be eligible to play in games in Toronto due to his Covid vaccination status. This will be an important problem against Toronto guards Gary Trent Jr and All-Star Fred VanVleet.

Philadelphia should win this series. They will have the two best players on the floor in Joel Embiid and James Harden. Toronto’s athleticism and aggressive mentality will even things to an extent, but I will take the 76ers to win this series in seven games.

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