Despite the Philadelphia 76ers jumping out to a dominant 3-0 series lead over the Toronto Raptors, it is clear the job is far from over. The Raptors have battled back to win two straight games and bring the series back to Toronto. The Sixers have looked lifeless over the past two games and must wake up in order to punch their ticket to the next round. There has never been an NBA team to blow a 3-0 series lead, and the Sixers are certainly not looking to become the first.
Game 6 Injury Report
- Joel Embiid- Available (ligament tear in right thumb)
- Matisse Thybulle- Out (ineligible)
- Charles Bassey: Out (shoulder)
There has been a great deal of talk about Joel Embiid’s thumb injury. MRI’s confirmed the Sixers’ belief that he had a torn ligament in his shooting hand, but the 76ers’ star has made it clear he will not rest because of the injury. While the willingness to play is a credit to Embiid’s heart and will to win, his level of play has not been up to his standards.
The thumb certainly has affected his ability to pass and the willingness to fight for rebounds or block shots. The injury will not heal until it is surgically repaired in the offseason. Embiid must continue to learn how to manage the injury and look closer to his dominant self if the 76ers are to find success.
The Sixers were in need of a defensive boost in Game 5, which paved a lane for Matisse Thybulle to get some time. Thybulle had one of his worst games during his entire career with the 76ers and had fans wishing the game was in Toronto. The Raptors’ defense gave Thybulle zero attention on the defensive end and instead allowed a player to float around and double on the defensive end.
The Washington product was unable to punish the defense and air-balled multiple routine shot attempts. It seems likely Thybulle would be held out of the rotation regardless of where the game is played, but he will be ineligible for Game 6 in Canada due to him not being fully vaccinated.
- Fred VanVleet- Doubtful (hip strain)
It has been a difficult series for Fred VanVleet. The Toronto guard had his first all-star appearance this season and averaged 20.3 points, 6.7 assists, and 4.4 rebounds. It has been clear for the first three and a half-game that VanVleet was far from 100%. The 76ers targeted him on the defensive end as he was not able to move with his typical footspeed. The Wichita State product ripped his jersey when checking out in Game 4 and has not stepped back in the court since.
While the Raptors will be disappointed not to have their sole all-star on the court, they have matched up better with the 76ers without him. They have consistently kept five lengthy defenders on the court and are switchable at each position. This has helped the Raptors effectively muck up the paint and been especially problematic to James Harden and Tyrese Maxey.
76ers/Raptors Game 6 Odds
While a Raptors win would simply push the series to 7 games, this feels as if it is a must-win for the 76ers. The team’s confidence has slipped a great deal since their hot start, and for good reason. The Raptors have made adjustments to their game plan, and the Sixers have been unable to match thus far.
The 76ers are the more talented team but lack the connectivity and the physically imposing nature of Toronto. The one thing the Sixers have consistently done all season is the exact opposite of what most expect. For this reason, they should be expected to lock in and put a dominant performance similar to what was done in the first three games.
The team will need Joel Embiid to physically impose himself and set the tone in the matchup. The team feeds off the energy from their leader, and the disappointing defensive effort in the past two games has been unacceptable. The hand injury is certainly bothering him, but this is no excuse for the slow footwork or biting on pump fakes. Embiid has stepped up to the challenge when doubted before, and this is a critical game when factoring in his legacy.
The Philadelphia 76ers should already be disappointed with the amount of momentum they have allowed the Raptors to regain, but this can all be over with one simple win. This series has hung around for too long, so look for the Sixers to end it and start preparing for their matchup with the Miami Heat.