A rematch of a classic Eastern Conference semifinal series from last season is on tap for Monday night, when the Philadelphia 76ers visit the Toronto Raptors. Toronto won last year’s meeting in the playoffs in seven games.
Philadelphia has been playing good basketball this season, despite the early-season suspension endured by Joel Embiid. This is a team that has plans to go all the way this year, with Kawhi Leonard no longer standing in its way. Josh Richardson has had his struggles to adjust, but he poured in 32 points in their last win, so it looks as if he may be starting to come around. And the addition of Al Horford has made them an even better defensive team.
Toronto, meanwhile, even without Kyle Lowry for the last eight games, has continued to rack the wins up just as it was with him in the lineup. The Raptors have also been without Serge Ibaka, so G-League Player of the Year Chris Boucher has stepped his game up. Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet are playing like stars, and we’re all here just wondering why it took so long for Nick Nurse to make it to the NBA ranks. Watch out for the Raptors this year, because even without Leonard and Danny Green, they are as dangerous as ever.
The spread for this game favors the Raptors by one point, while the over/under is set at 214 points.
Philly Looking For Big Road Win
It is early in the season still, but when you are tied with the team that ended your season a year ago, and you are making your first return to “the scene of the crime,” it has to be looked at as must-win. The shot that bounced around and fell for Leonard, the tears of disappointment from Embiid. None of Philly’s moves to acquire Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris were enough. So now we see how they do sans Butler and with Horford against this highly competitive team in a sort of hostile environment.
Philadelphia’s offense ranks outside of the top half in the league in points scored, but the 76ers are eighth in points allowed and ninth in defensive rating. Even with the speed Ben Simmons sometimes plays with, they are 17th in pace, and this is primarily a half-court offense.
Raptors Trying To Stay Hot
To go 11-5 despite eight games of no Lowry or Ibaka is very impressive. Siakam has averaged 26 points, eight rebounds and four assists, shooting 47 percent from the floor. VanVleet has posted 18 points, four rebounds and eight assists while being the acting starting point guard in Lowry’s absence. Norman Powell has shown what he can still do, scoring 12 per game this year with a few 20-point efforts as a starter. Perhaps the most surprising thing of all has been the fact that OG Anunoby is shooting 50 percent from deep while taking nearly four per game. He is back and efficient again.
Toronto is eighth in points scored and ninth in points allowed. They have their anchor, Marc Gasol, to thank for that. Gasol is posting the worst totals of his career but is still proving to be an effective player.
Raptors Win A Nail-Biter
Gasol will keep Embiid at bay, and VanVleet will take over down the stretch to lift Toronto to its 12th win!
Free Play: TOR -1
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