The Toronto Raptors have been the dominant team in the NBA’s Eastern Conference and the Atlantic Division for nearly a decade. Since 2013 the Raptors had appeared in seven consecutive playoffs, won the Atlantic Division six times, and appeared in two Eastern Conference Finals, and won a championship.
They were an Eastern Conference playoff fixture until this past season, when they missed the NBA playoffs for the first time in eight years. This offseason has brought about significant change to the Raptors’ roster, with the most significant moves being the departure of Kyle Lowry and the addition of Scottie Barnes.
Two years removed from an NBA Title, the Raptors will operate this season under lowered expectations.
It is expected that Toronto’s Atlantic Division rivals will once again surpass them in the standings. At least head-to-head, this may not necessarily be the case for the Philadelphia 76ers.
Philadelphia was good in 2021, winning 49 of 72 games to claim the Atlantic Division title and the Eastern Conference’s best regular-season record. However, all the hype over Philadephia in recent years has never materialized into a deep playoff run.
2021/22 could be the year they distance themselves from the pack in the Eastern Conference as a contender, but some issues will make it a challenge to take down the Raptors in head-to-head games.
3 ways the Toronto Raptors could win some games against the 76ers.
3. Coaching Staff
Raptors head coach Nick Nurse has had immediate and meteoric success early into his coaching career. Replacing former long-term head coach Dwane Casey in 2018, Nurse led the Raptors to a championship in his rookie season. The team failed to make a second consecutive ECF in 2020 after a classic series vs. Boston in the second round.
This past season with the team was displaced in Florida due to COVID-19 protocols and the pandemic affecting the team severely. On top of that, several assistant coaches left for other opportunities before the season.
Despite all of that, Nurse proved his quality by keeping everyone together. Doc Rivers is a potential Hall of Famer, but he has his flaws.
Is Doc Rivers’ prime as a head coach over?
Rivers replaced Brett Brown as the 76ers head coach this past season. While they had a good regular season, they failed to advance past the second round of the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year. Rivers, despite getting to two Finals matchups and winning one, has a slight reputation as a ”choke artist.”
"While I do think basketball is the most “player driven” league across all professional sports, and you should always blame the on-court talent before turning one’s attention to the coaching staff….(Rivers) is a guy who has now made a bit of a name for himself as being one of the worst “chokers” in professional basketball."
Nurse and the Raptors may have an edge one on one vs. Philadelphia this season from a purely schematic point of view, especially in the clutch, but also because of other issues that will test Rivers’ leadership in Philly.