The Philadelphia 76ers take on the Toronto Raptors Monday evening, who sit above the Sixers in the Eastern Conference standings by half a game. The contest marks the first head-to-head between the two teams since Kawhi Leonard’s Game 7 quadruple doink that knocked the Sixers out of the NBA playoffs last May. While the Sixers and Raptors face-off, the Boston Celtics will play the Sacramento Kings and Miami Heat will play the Charlotte Hornets. In the unlikely trifecta that the Sixers defeat the Raptors, the Celtics lose, and the Heat lose, each of those four teams will be tied for 2nd place in the Eastern Conference at 11-5.
As previously mentioned, the last time the Sixers and Raptors squared up, Kawhi Leonard put a dagger through the heart of Philadelphia. Fortunately for Philly, Kawhi is no longer with the Raptors; however, the Raptors are a still a very formidable squad. Pascal Siakam is backing up his 2018-19 Most Improved Player campaign with exceptional play through 15 games this season. Siakam is averaging 25.7 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game, gradually solidifying himself as one of the NBA’s upper echelon talents. The Raptors are also getting very strong guard play namely from Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet. Philly may aim to slow down Siakam by checking him with different looks (some Joel Embiid, some Al Horford, maybe some Ben Simmons). As far as the backcourt, Lowry is out (he’s been out since Nov. 8th), so he won’t be any worry. VanVleet could provide a challenge for the Sixers defense which often struggles to contain guards.
The Sixers have had a rocky start to their season with some disappointing losses and inconsistent play. More recently though, they’re getting back on track with three straight victories against the New York Knicks, San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat. The win over the Heat was especially satisfying for Brett Brown’s squad, routing the conference foe 113-86. Another win tonight against a talented, experienced, well-coached Raptors team, on their court, would be quite the confidence boost for the Sixers and arguably their most impressive win of the season.
Philly’s starting lineup is at full health, so we should expect the Sixers to give the best they have to offer to Toronto. While Toronto will be without Kyle Lowry, they are a deep squad that can snag a victory regardless. Tonight’s game could not only be a rematch of last season’s conferene semifinals, it could be a preview of a playoff matchup to come.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Toronto Raptors
When: 7:30 pm ET
Where: Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, ON
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic