The Milwaukee Bucks may be in trouble as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, while the No. 2 seed has the look of a legitimate title contender. After beating the Orlando Magic in five games in the first round, the Toronto Raptors picked up right where they left off in Game 1 of their second-round series against the Philadelphia 76ers over the weekend. Toronto picked up a dominant 109-95 win on Saturday afternoon in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score may indicate.
The teams will battle north of the border in a crucial Game 2 tonight. The Sixers’ chances of being able to successfully battle their way out of an 0-2 hole are dicey, so tonight is shaping up to be a monster game for Philly.
|2019 ATS Home||23-21-0||21-24-0|
|2019 ATS Away||19-25-0||20-22-1|
|2019 O/U Home||23-21-0||24-21-0|
|2019 O/U Away||19-23-0||23-19-1|
The fact that the 76ers weren’t really competitive in Game 1 is a bit of a surprise. Philly fell into an 0-1 hole against the Nets in the first round before ultimately storming their way back and winning each of the next 4. This 1-game deficit obviously isn’t insurmountable, but the Sixers have some real problems.
The biggest issue for this team is a lack of depth. Last year’s Sixers squad boasted capable bench shooters in Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova. Unfortunately, both guys left last summer, leaving Philly without much firepower beyond the starting five.
James Ennis III led the bench mob with 11 points in 21 minutes in Game 1. But if James Ennis is your best reserve, you’re in trouble. The Sixers are going to have to lean on their starting five more than most teams. It’s an excellent group, of course, but that kind of strategy can cause a team to wear down pretty quickly.
If the Sixers are going to come back, they’re going to need Joel Embiid to show up. Embiid was held to just 16 points and 8 rebounds in Game 1, which was a far cry from his averages of 24.7 points and 13.5 rebounds during the Brooklyn series.
Embiid was held to just 5-18 shooting from the floor. The Sixers need a more efficient night from their All-Star big man if they want to actually win this series.
It wasn’t all on Embiid, of course. The 76ers shot just 39% as a team in Game 1, with Jimmy Butler (4-12) and Tobias Harris (6-17) also struggling mightily to hit shots. Those guys need to step up when Embiid is having an off night. If they’re all off at the same time, the Sixers are in deep trouble.
The Raptors were excellent during the regular season last year before ultimately bowing out of the playoffs in disappointing fashion yet again. Rather than running it back with the same group, GM Masai Ujiri made the bold decision to trade DeMar DeRozan to the Spurs in exchange for Kawhi Leonard.
It’s early in the playoff run, but that move already looks like it could be the difference for this team. Leonard was unstoppable in Game 1, as he routinely torched Jimmy Butler on his way to a career-high 45 points on 16-23 shooting from the field.
The Sixers had absolutely no answer for Leonard, who seemingly got whatever he wanted whenever he wanted it. Not to be outdone, Pascal Siakam also contributed 29 points of his own on efficient 12-15 shooting from the floor. That was really all the Raptors needed, as no other player even cracked 10 points in Game 1.
The combination of Leonard’s high-octane offense combined with the team’s ability to pack the paint against Embiid defensively could be enough to get the Raptors through this series. The team traded for Marc Gasol essentially just so they’d have someone to throw at Embiid, and so far it’s worked.
I doubt we’ll see another 45-point outing for Leonard in the rest of the series, but his explosion in Game 1 is going to force the 76ers to tinker with some things defensively. If they focus more on stifling Leonard tonight, Toronto will need guys like Kyle Lowry and Danny Green to step it up.
Game 1 was a surprisingly lopsided result in a series that most believe will be competitive throughout. The Raptors were just 5-point favorites in Game 1, yet they escaped with a pretty easy 13-point victory.
Teams have a way of making adjustments from game-to-game, and I expect to see a better effort from Philadelphia in Game 2. I’d be surprised if Embiid shot as poorly as he did in the first game. Still, it’s not like the 76ers haven’t had major question marks all year, even after acquiring Harris in a trade at the deadline.
I expect most of the betting public’s money to come in on the Sixers’ side of this game, which could shrink the spread as the day progresses. Still, nothing the Sixers showed in Game 1 gives me much optimism that they can actually beat the Raptors in this series. Until Philly shows they can slow down Leonard and Siakam while actually getting guys like Embiid to go on the other end, I’m going to side with the Raptors here.
The odds at -105 are favorable, so give me the Raptors to cover the spread at home in Game 2.
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