Raptors show how they've changed, and stayed the same, in Lowry’s return
When Kyle Lowry’s Raptors tenure came to an end, with the Raptors flipping Lowry for Precious Achiuwa and selecting Scottie Barnes 4th overall last offseason, nobody knew what the new-look Raptors were going to look like. But we did know that they were going to look different. While the personnel on the court has changed for the Raptors, causing some of what they do stylistically to be dramatically different, there are elements of the 2021-22 Raptors that embody everything that Lowry stood for. Namely, just how hard they play on a night-to-night basis, and how scrappy they can be when it comes to fighting their way back into games and not giving up.“For sure.
The Raptors will face the 76ers in the first round of the 2022 NBA Playoffs.
In finishing the season with a 51-31 record, the 76ers secured the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference. A few games behind them in the standings were the Raptors (48-34), who have been one of the hottest teams in the league over the last few weeks.
The Raptors won the season series with the 76ers, with each game being decided by single digits.
- Nov. 11, 2021: Fred VanVleet scored 32 points in a six-point win for the Raptors.
- Dec. 28, 2021: Joel Embiid posted a 36-point, 11-rebound double-double in a five-point win for the 76ers.
- March 20, 2022: Pascal Siakam finished with a 26-point, 10-rebound double-double in a five-point win for the Raptors.
- April 7, 2022: Siakam recorded his second triple-double of the season in a five-point win for the Raptors.
From a key matchup to watch to our TSN staff predictions, here's everything you need to know about the series.
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The best player in the series is...
No surprises here: Joel Embiid is the best player in the series.
Averaging 30.6 points, 11.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.5 blocks per game, Embiid will likely be a finalist for MVP for the second straight season. He might even win the award. It's been a season full of uncertainty for the 76ers, but Embiid's play has powered them to a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference.
With his bruising post game and improved jump shot, Embiid's graduated to the point where there isn't really an answer for him anymore, but the Raptors do have a history of defending him well.
Embiid has played 17 regular-season games against the Raptors. His averages in those contests? 21.3 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists on 42.2 percent shooting from the field. He has a lower career scoring average against only one team and a lower career shooting percentage against only two teams.
Why the Raptors have the potential to be more than a feel-good story
The Toronto Raptors have exceeded any and all expectations this season, from Vegas’ over/under line of 35.5 wins to Masai Ujiri’s comments about not being a “team of now” and “growing pains” to come. With 47 wins and counting, the Raptors are guaranteed to finish at least 10 games above .500 and make the playoffs for the eighth time in nine seasons, with the only exception coming in 2020-21 during their displaced season in Tampa Bay. While theWhile the expectations were tame, the path to regular-season success was always there for the Raptors.
Embiid has also faced the Raptors in the playoffs once to this point of his career. The 76ers were an entirely different team with him on the court, but he averaged 17.6 points on 37.0 percent shooting from the field over the seven-game series.
Embiid has talked about what the Raptors do so well against him in the past. It'll be fascinating to see if they can continue to make life difficult for him. If they can, it'll put even more pressure on James Harden to step up.
Dominant as Harden was when the 76ers first acquired him, he's been concerningly up and down since.
James Harden's stats with 76ers
|First four games ||Per Game ||Last 17 games |
|26.8 ||Points ||19.7 |
|12.0 ||Assists ||10.1 |
|7.5 ||Rebounds ||7.0 |
|2.8 ||Turnovers ||3.6 |
|59.2 ||FG% ||36.3 |
|50.0 ||3P% ||29.1 |
|90.2 ||FT% ||89.0 |
Key matchup to watch
There's much more to the Raptors than Pascal Siakam, but they'll likely need a big series from him to advance.
Siakam finished the season averaging 22.8 points per game, the most on the Raptors and a shade under his career-high. He also averaged 8.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game, both of which were career highs. He got better and better as the season wore on, culminating in him playing the best basketball of his career in the months of March and April.
Raptors vs. 76ers: Gary Trent Jr. could be Toronto's biggest X-factor
When the Toronto Raptors traded for Gary Trent Jr. last season, they got a certified bucket-getter. But at only 22 years old, he had the potential to become something more than just a scoring machine off the bench. While the Raptors exceeded expectations across the board this season, Trent has served as a staunch reminder of how good Toronto is at identifying and developing talent. Let's start with defence, where Trent made significant strides this season. In his time with the Trail Blazers, he didn’t see consistent minutes, which was understandable given that he was backing up Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.
The 76ers are well aware of what Siakam is capable of. In Toronto's win over Philadelphia on April 7, he dominated with 37 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds, and he made some key plays when it mattered most.
The Raptors came out on top, but Siakam struggled when the two teams met in the second round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs. Embiid played a big role in that by taking on the challenge of guarding Siakam following a standout Game 1 and limiting him to 39 points on 14-for-45 (31.1 percent) shooting from the field in the series.
Embiid wasn't shy about giving Siakam space, sometimes dropping all the way to the paint to encourage Siakam to settle for jump shots and make it difficult for him to get to the basket.
Both Siakam and Embiid have improved a lot since that series, adding even more firepower to this matchup.
With defensive ace Matisse Thybulle ineligible to play in at least two games of the series, Embiid figures to spend a decent amount of time guarding Siakam again.
Raptors vs. 76ers schedule, TV channels
According to Josh Lewenberg of TSN, Game 1 will be played in Philadelphia on Saturday, April 16.
The full schedule and broadcast information for the series has not yet been announced.
Raptors vs. 76ers predictions
Scott Rafferty: Raptors in seven games
Gilbert McGregor: Raptors in six games
Ananth Pandian: Raptors in six games
76ers beat Raptors at their own game in series-opening blowout .
People often say the NBA playoffs are like an entirely different sport; that what happened between two teams in the regular season might not matter when they match up in the postseason, when they can game plan for each other better, shorten rotations, and increase the physicality. If you didn’t believe that ahead of Game 1 of the first-round series between the Toronto Raptors and the Philadelphia 76ers, you certainly should now. The Raptors wonThe Raptors won the regular-season series 3-1 despite Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby missing three of the games.