Raptors do want to play the 76ers
The talk for two years has been about how Philadelphia has the talent to dominate the NBA’s Eastern Conference. However, it hasn’t worked out that way. The last three Eastern Conference champions have been the Cleveland Cavaliers (2017 and 2018) and the Toronto Raptors in 2019.
Further, the Philadelphia 76ers were semi-finals losers in 2018 and 2019. Last season, they added Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler but lost a tough seven-game series to the defending champions when Kawhi Leonard hit a corner, buzzer-beating jump shot to send the Raptors into the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Raptors no longer have Kawhi Leonard and Philly no longer has Jimmy Butler. After a close series between these two teams last year, Philly still has the length to bother the raptors both on the perimeter and in the post. Ben Simmons is six feet ten inches tall at the point guard spot while Toronto starts two guards barely six feet tall in Kyle Lowry and Fred Vanvleet.
Despite this obvious flaw, the Raptors have several advantages. First, this is Toronto’s seventh consecutive year competing in the NBA Playoffs. The Raptors are battle-tested. In the 2019 playoff series between these two teams, Joel Embiid continued a trend of getting bested by Marc Gasol in head to head matches.
During that series, Embiid’s best game was a 33 point 10 rebound effort in game three giving Philly a 2-1 series lead at the time.
Aside from Embiid’s so-so effort Ben Simmons averaged just 11.5 points per game in that series while his regular-season average in 2019 was 16.9 points. Simmons also had 10 turnovers in the final three games of that series. Simmons has turned the ball over 20 times in three games this season against the Raptors.
Philly is rated 17th overall offensively but would be a tough defensive matchup for the Raptors as Philly is rated 6th overall. They also are a deeper team than they were a year ago with 14 players earning double-digit minutes when they play.
A real concern is that Joel Embiid has yet to play more than 64 regular-season games in a season. Also, Ben Simmons has a sore lower back. According to 76ers head coach Brett Brown Simmons will return to the court this season but
Ultimately, while the Toronto Raptors have gotten healthy during this mid-season break, Philadelphia may not be as healthy and the Raptors lead the head to head matchup this season two games to one.