This Saturday, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Toronto Raptors will play the first of a seven-game series as the first round of the NBA Playoffs begin. The two squads are in different stages of their NBA life cycle, which is part of what makes this series interesting.
As one can see by their roster construction, the Sixers are a “win-now” team, meaning they are all in on winning a championship. Many have questioned Joel Embiid’s championship window for years, and the addition of veteran James Harden didn’t do anything to extend that — although it certainly did legitimize the 76ers chances at a title. The Raptors, meanwhile, are coming off of a remarkably fast retool following their 2019 NBA Championship and boast many young stars such as OG Anunoby and impressive rookie Scottie Barnes.
While these teams are in different life stages, they finished the regular season in close fashion as the Sixers hold the fourth seed and the Raptors the fifth. For all of their youth, the Raptors are an incredibly intelligent team in no small part to their impressive Head Coach, Nick Nurse.
As the two teams prepare for battle, it’s time to look at some brief storylines and what the odds say about the Sixers’ chances of moving on to the second round.
Previewing the 76ers/Raptors Preview
This series will certainly be one of the marquee matchups of the first round as the division rivals are widely considered to be a near-even matchup. The Sixers clearly have the star power — boasting the two best players in the series — but the Raptors have an abundance of depth on their side.
The advantage of depth is twofold for Toronto, as not only are they one of the deepest teams in the NBA, but arguably the Sixers’ biggest weakness is their lack thereof. How — or rather if — the 76ers’ bench can rise to the occasion will be a significant factor when it comes to Philadelphia’s chances to win the series.
On the injury front, both teams look to be fairly healthy when the series begins this Saturday though both sides have situations to monitor. For the Philadelphia 76ers, the team will be without Matisse Thybulle for every road game in Toronto as unvaccinated — or in this case, half-vaxed — persons cannot enter Canada, which of course, houses Toronto, the Raptors’ home city.
The Raptors, meanwhile, will have all of their players available but questions surround Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby. VanVleet with a lingering injury to his knee that has caused some discomfort and affected his performance for quite some time. VanVleet will almost certainly play though the injury will likely continue to trouble him throughout the playoffs.
The Philadelphia 76ers are seen as the expected favorites due to their seeding and star power, but what do the odds say? How does Vegas think this series will work out?
Game One Odds
The Sixers enter Game One as 4.5-point favorites at home, according to DraftKings. Coming off of extended rest, playing in front of the home crowd, and of course, having Matisse Thybulle available all bode well for Philadelphia. While the home court hasn’t quite been the same advantage this year as in the past, the Sixers still finished the season 24-17 at home. One also can’t discount the playoff atmosphere in Philadelphia rising to the occasion to lift the team.
The over/under for the game is currently set at 216. The first game of a playoff series is always difficult as the teams have yet to show their hand in reference to their playoff playstyle. With that being said, if the regular season is any indication, fans may be in for a low-scoring affair as both the Sixers and the Raptors finished the season in the top eight in “Opponent points per game.”
The series is settling up to be a close one as it may go as many as six or even seven games. Each team has its advantages over the other, and it will simply be a matter of who performs when it matters most.
Currently, DraftKings places the Sixers’ odds of winning the series at -180, which may not be encouraging for 76ers fans, but it’s certainly understandable when one considers their opponent.
The first game between the Atlantic Division rivals begins Saturday at 6:00 PM EST. Regardless of fandom, this series is shaping up the be a must-watch matchup.
The Sixers and Raptors have a storied playoff history and a sweep never seems to be on the cards. The famed ‘Sixers in Six’ sentiment could be in play here, making the Sixers -1.5 line a little too risky. Betting the Sixers outright, however, feels like the right play as Toronto are yet to experience a seven-game series against a Sixers team this stacked.