We already knew things were kicking off on Saturday evening, but now we have the full series schedule:
Game 1 — Saturday Apr. 16, 6:00 pm ET, at Wells Fargo Center, broadcast on ESPN.
Game 2 — Monday Apr. 18, 7:30 pm ET, at Wells Fargo Center, broadcast on TNT.
Game 3 — Wednesday Apr. 20, 8:00 pm ET, at Scotiabank Arena, broadcast on NBA TV.
Game 4 — Saturday Apr. 23, 2:00 pm ET, at Scotiabank Arena, broadcast on TNT.
Game 5 — Monday Apr. 25, at Wells Fargo Center, TBD.
Game 6 — Thursday Apr. 28, at Scotiabank Arena, TBD.
Game 7 — Saturday Apr. 30, at Wells Fargo Center, TBD.
The Sixers certainly have the advantage in terms of top-end talent with Joel Embiid and James Harden, but this series is going to be a competitive one. The Raptors are extremely well coached under Nick Nurse, and have typically had a better understanding than other teams of when and where to double team Embiid from. With a plethora of long, athletic forwards such as OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes and Pascal Siakam, the Raptors are versatile and fast — essentially, they’re pretty much the opposite of the Sixers from a physical standpoint.
The Raptors’ bigs may be undersized to guard Embiid one-on-one, which is an advantage for the big fella, but they’ll be throwing aggressive help at him from all angles and have the personnel to switch on Embiid-Harden pick-and-rolls. Switching has been one way defenses have slowed down the Harden-led pick-and-roll attack so far, so how effectively will Harden be able to drive and get off his step-back threes? We’ll see soon enough. And for some detailed analysis on Harden, LB’s Dave Early wrote all about balancing Harden’s scoring and passing skillset.
The Raptors have put together a strong stretch of play lately, going 16-9 after the All-Star break with their fifth-ranked defense in this stretch leading the way. Meanwhile, their offensive rating (113.5) has still been just below average in this time, ranking only 19th. Again, if Embiid and Harden stay composed and Tyrese Maxey keeps thriving as the Sixers’ third guy, this is where the Sixers’ firepower could help them pull ahead. Philly has been dominant with both Embiid and Harden on the floor, recording a ridiculous 125.7 offensive rating and +16.6 net rating in their 603 minutes together so far, per PBP Stats.
There are lots of interesting matchups and tactical decisions to follow in this series. It’s going to be exciting (and probably stressful for fans) watching it all play out.