Philadelphia 76ers vs. Toronto Raptors
Tuesday, April 23, 2019 at 10:00 PM (Scotiabank Arena)
The Philadelphia 76ers and Toronto Raptors meet in the second round of the 2019 NBA Eastern Conference playoffs. Here is a series breakdown position by position.
Point Guard - Until Ben Simmons develops some form of a jump shot, the hype surrounding him will never be fulfilled. It’s not even the fact Simmons can’t shoot, it’s more so that he’s not even willing to shoot that worries me. With that said, Simmons is a really good player when he’s aggressive, and he’s certainly better than Kyle Lowry, who still has the playoff hiccups. Lowry scored zero points in game one in 34 minutes against the Orlando Magic and had nine points and six turnovers in game four. If the Raptors are going to make the Finals, Lowry has to be better. It’s that simple.
Shooting Guard - J.J. Redick and Danny Green do a lot of similar things, and you can probably give the edge to Green defensively due to his bigger frame and willingness to be a little physical. However, Redick is a better pure shooter and was more impressive in his opening playoff series. Green can be a bit streaky, while Redick is one of the more automatic knockdown shooters in the league when open, and he’s a nightmare coming off a screen. This is a close one, but I trust Redick more than I do Green at the moment.
Small Forward - I love me some Jimmy Butler, as his toughness, defense and ability to hold his teammates accountable are all things I respect. Butler may rub some the wrong way, but he’s all good in my book. With that said, Kawhi Leonard is a top-three player in the world and has been ridiculously efficient offensively in these playoffs. This is going to be a fun matchup between two pit-bulls, but Kawhi has the edge.
Power Forward - Tobias Harris was supposed to be the guy who put the 76ers over the top, but he’s been shaky at times and his 32.6 percent shooting from deep in 27 regular season games was his worst percentage since 2015-16 with the Orlando Magic. Harris has been better in the playoffs, but it’s fair to say he hasn’t been the difference maker many thought the 76ers were getting. Pascal Siakam has gone from young prospect who is still new to the game of basketball to rising star who is arguably the second-best player on the Raptors. Siakam is doing everything for the Raptors right now and his play is becoming more consistent as he gets more and more comfortable.
Center - This position comes down to which version of Joel Embiid we’re going to get. Embiid got everything he wanted against the Brooklyn Nets and was unstoppable on the court, but he also missed time with knee tendonitis and that’s an issue that’s probably not going away these playoffs. Marc Gasol is still trying to figure out his role with the Raptors, so he’s still splitting a lot of time with Serge Ibaka, and that’s a respectable duo at the position. Still, assuming Embiid is going to push through it, he’s a headache in the paint no matter who the Raptors match him up against.
Bench - Outside of Boban Marjanovic clogging the paint with his massive frame and Mike Scott making the occasional three, the 76ers don’t have a lot of depth they can rely on for long stretches. The 76ers are going to live and die off what their loaded starting five bring to the table. Ibaka is a three-time first-team all defense and still capable of giving out double double production. Norman Powell has given the Raptors double-digit points in four of his last seven games and Fred VanVleet is one of the more underrated bench players in the league who flys around the court and simply makes plays. The Raptors have bench players who could be starters on other teams.
Series Prediction: Raptors in 7. You can argue the 76ers are the more talented team, but they have yet to put it all together consistently this season and the health of Embiid is a serious question mark. The Raptors have been rock solid all season long and bring the defensive toughness that’s going to give a Philly team that struggles to shoot at times trouble. The Raptors also won three of the four meetings against the 76ers this season and all three of those wins were by double digits. This is going to be a hard fought competitive series, but the Raptors should advance.