So, it all comes down to this. The 76ers spanked the Raptors in Philadelphia in Game 6 on Thursday to force a decisive Game 7, which is slated to go down on Sunday night north of the border.
The Raptors will have a chance to finally exorcise their old playoff demons with a win on their home floor. The 76ers, meanwhile, can declare “the process” a success if they manage to come from behind and win the series. Whichever team wins will face a daunting task against a well-rested Bucks team in the Eastern Conference Finals.
|2019 ATS Home||25-22-0||22-25-0|
|2019 ATS Away||20-26-0||21-24-1|
|2019 O/U Home||24-23-0||25-22-0|
|2019 O/U Away||22-24-0||24-21-1|
The Raptors went all-in on this season with their blockbuster trade for Kawhi Leonard last summer. Trading for Leonard in the final year of his contract carried all sorts of risk considering it was no guarantee that he would be willing to stay in Toronto for longer than the one season.
Many still believe that Kawhi will leave for greener pastures this July, which means this could be the Raptors’ best chance at a title. Toronto was one of the three best teams in the league during the regular season, but their recent playoff failures have been looming over them all year long.
The presence of Leonard changes quite a bit, though. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry both flopped come playoff time in recent years, but a proven leader like Leonard does not wilt in big spots. Kawhi won Finals MVP after leading the Spurs to a title a couple of years ago, so he knows what it takes to get over the top.
It wasn’t enough in Game 6, but you can bet Kawhi will be ready to roll in Game 7. The Sixers have shown no ability to stop him at all in this series, as he’s averaging well over 30 points in the playoffs as a hole. He has almost single-handedly gotten the Raptors to where they are with his outstanding effort on both sides of the floor.
Lowry has thrived in more of a tertiary role, while Pascal Siakam has been able to essentially serve as the Robin to Leonard’s Batman on the offensive end so far in this series.
Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons have struggled in this series, but Jimmy Butler has lifted the team to where they are. Butler turned in another stellar effort in Game 6, finishing with 25 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds and a couple of steals in 35 minutes of action.
Butler has been phenomenal in the series as a whole, but it’s hard to envision the Sixers storming into Canada and coming away with a win if Embiid and/or Simmons don’t get it together. Simmons was also great in Game 6, but Embiid’s scuffles continued. The former Kansas Jayhawk was held to just 17 points on 5-14 shooting from the field.
Embiid has dealt with illness and injury in the series, but Marc Gasol has also given him fits with his defense. Simmons’ 21 points on efficient 9-13 shooting in Game 6 helped the Sixers get over the hump, but I don’t trust Simmons’ scoring ability enough to be confident that he’s capable of a repeat showing in Sunday’s decisive game.
This has just felt like the Raptors’ season, and I’ll be surprised if Toronto isn’t the team facing Milwaukee for the Eastern Conference crown. They traded for Leonard with this exact kind of scenario in mind, and his experience in these kinds of games is invaluable to the team.
The Sixers did go into Toronto and steal a win in Game 1, but that feels like it happened an awfully long time ago at this point. The Raptors have been the better team in this series as a whole, and they should get a lift from their raucous home crowd.
This team’s sketchy playoff history certainly gives me pause, but I can’t buy Philadelphia considering I feel as though they’re lucky to have even gotten this far. It’ll be a nice story if the Sixers can advance, but I’d be betting heavily on Toronto as a home favorite in this one.
Give me the Raptors to advance to the conference finals. The better value lies in taking Toronto to cover the six-point spread at -110. -250 on the moneyline doesn’t offer a whole lot of upside, so bet on the Raps to cover the spread and win Game 7 fairly handily.
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