Game 1 of Philadelphia’s much-fretted-over first-round series against the Toronto Raptors went as well as those supporting the Sixers could have hoped. Doc Rivers’ club did a superb job taking care of the basketball against a usually chaotic Toronto defense, which in turn helped limit those transition opportunities for the Raptors which have been an area of weakness for the Sixers throughout the season. The size of Joel Embiid, the speed of Tyrese Maxey, and the vision of James Harden all appeared to be more than Toronto could handle. The Raptors made a high number of difficult shots, and still, the outcome never felt in question.
Now, the Sixers are left with the difficult task of summoning an encore. However, as of this writing, oddsmakers list the Sixers as seven-point favorites for tonight’s game, a few points higher than the Game 1 line. Undoubtedly, the reason for the bump can be found on Toronto’s injury report, as Scottie Barnes, (left ankle sprain), Gary Trent Jr. (non-COVID illness), and Thad Young (left thumb hyperextension) are all listed as doubtful. Barnes’ sprained ankle in particular looked bad when Joel Embiid and his 280 pounds came down on the promising rookie’s foot in the fourth quarter Saturday night. Nick Nurse said yesterday that it didn’t look good for any of them to take the court tonight, so we could be looking at a Raptors squad that just lost by 20 now being without two of their starters and a rotation reserve — not great news for Jurassic Park.
Things to watch moving forward:
- Will Nick Nurse’s cry for more fouls for Joel Embiid elbows be heeded by the officiating crew? Maybe don’t try to guard an MVP finalist with dudes five inches and fifty pounds lighter than him, Nick. Nevertheless, the squeaky wheel does tend to get the grease in these situations and the refs may try to overcorrect.
- How will James Harden look two days later? The Beard looked pretty spry Saturday night, but that was after a full week’s rest. Hopefully, the hamstring is still in tip-top fighting shape for Game 2.
- Will the supporting cast be up to the challenge again? Tobias Harris was outstanding as a three-level scorer Saturday, including nailing those vital catch-and-shoot threes. Shake Milton was solid off the bench, and Paul Reed... (breathe and say it with me) ... brought enough positive things to the table to help the Sixers win the non-Embiid minutes. The Paul Reed victory tour is coming soon to a city near you.
- Is Tyrese Maxey truly the point guard prince that was promised? Sources say yes.
Things are looking overwhelmingly positive for our 76ers at the moment. Yet, that is often when you most need to be wary of a letdown. But with the Raptors likely to be missing some key pieces tonight, the odds are in favor of the Sixers maintaining their home-court advantage in this series and heading north with a nice 2-0 cushion. We’ll find out if that holds true starting at 7:30 tonight.
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