If the season ended today, the No. 5 seed Toronto Raptors would be locked into a grueling playoff matchup against Joel Embiid and the No. 4 seed Philadelphia 76ers. Considering how well Toronto has played them this season, this promises to be a very competitive matchup.
The 76ers will lean on an MVP candidate in Embiid and a future Hall of Famer in Harden in an attempt to make their championship dreams reality. Unfortunately for them, they might need to run through a division rival who has already beaten them twice to do so.
The Raptors might be led by an All-Star in Fred VanVleet and an All-NBA candidate in Pascal Siakam, but the strength of this team lies in their collective starting lineup. With all five of Toronto’s starters averaging over 15 points per game, it’s easy to see why this team has snuck up on some contenders.
The 76ers would be the favorite in a hypothetical playoff matchup, but the Raptors have already proven they have the ingredients to both hang with Philadelphia in a shootout and claw out a low-scoring win. These three advantages could tip a potential series in their favor.
3 advantages the Toronto Raptors have over the Philadelphia 76ers
3. Perimeter Defense
The 76ers and Raptors were even in this area before Matisse Thybulle was ruled out for games in Toronto, potentially due to his vaccination status. Without Thybulle in the lineup, the Raptors have a clear advantage in this column thanks to their patented pesky defense.
Fred VanVleet’s All-Defensive campaign is as legit as they come, and going toe-to-toe with OG Anunoby is not going to be a fun experience. While Scottie Barnes has made some rookie mistakes on defense this year, he’s tightened up and made serious improvements in those areas.
The Toronto Raptors have a solid perimeter defense.
Harden and Tyrese Maxey combined for just 36 points while turning the ball over seven times in Toronto’s win a few weeks ago. While they might get some more experience in cracking the Raptors’ code in this game, it goes to show how lethal this unit can be when everyone is clicking.
The 76ers have some wing stoppers in veterans like Danny Green and Georges Niang, but the unit as a collective doesn’t have as many teeth as Toronto’s unique roster construction. If they can force Harden off of his game early on, that will go a long way towards laying the groundwork for victory.