The Philadelphia 76ers are getting set to take on the Toronto Raptors in the first round of the NBA playoffs. This is a highly anticipated matchup for fans across the NBA as this is a very even matchup.
The Raptors started a late push towards the end of the season and ended up with the 5th seed in the East. For a while the Raptors starting 5 was very underrated, but with the playoffs about to start they have gained recognition. Their starting 5 consists of Fred Vanvleet, Gary Trent Jr, OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, and Pascal Siakam. The Sixers played against a worse starting 5 lineup and lost in Toronto just a couple weeks ago. Now, they’ll have to face this team at full strength.
Unless… they still aren’t at full strength. Ever since their injuries, Anunoby and Vanvleet have not played well at all, or up to standard. Vanvleet has really struggled since the All-Star break shooting 34% from the field and 29% from 3 in 15 games since the break. He also only averaged 16 PPG over 36 MPG. If he continues these struggles, then the Sixers could catch a break in the series.
The big issue that the Sixers have been facing is Matisse Thybulle. Our best defender, that could lock up any player on the Raptors roster, is only eligible to play in home games. We were able to see how well Siakam can play without an elite defender on him at all times and he tore our defense up. If the Sixers can win the first 2 games with Thybulle, then they should have a good chance to win the series. It isn’t crazy to say that the Sixers could win 1 out of the 2 games in Toronto to take the series lead 3-1. They would then of course be able to finish the series off at home.
James Harden’s late struggles are also a big issue that the Sixers are facing but Harden himself doesn’t feel any pressure. Over the past week we’ve seen him alongside Embiid getting in a lot of extra practice after their practice is over. It’s good seeing Harden get shots up as we’ll desperately need him to play well to win this series. If he can play how he did in his first 5 games with the Sixers, this series should be a cakewalk.
Winning this series is definitely not out of the question and most should be more surprised if the Sixers lose than if they win. It seems like a lot of people don’t want to put too much hope into this team all for it to get crushed again. At the end of the day, all we need is for Harden to play how he is and for everybody else *except the bench* to play how they have been playing. Doc Rivers will definitely need to be a competent coach but hopefully our team can make the plays needed even if he isn’t. Let’s all look forward to the meaningful basketball, and go Sixers!