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Sixers host Raptors seeking second straight win

The Sixers would be wise not to look past tonight’s opponent with the Milwaukee-Boston two-step looming.

Toronto Raptors v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

The Sixers broke their three-game losing streak in their return home Wednesday night against the Mavericks. Joel Embiid and James Harden both returned to action after missing one and four games, respectively. That’s all good. However, after the game, Harden revealed the Achilles is something that has been bothering him for months. Embiid had a moment after a play at the rim where the shoulder that has been bothering him intermittently throughout the season was causing him a great deal of pain. He also described how his calf felt as “good enough.” These are not things you love to see and hear with the playoffs starting in just over two weeks.

We’ll see how much rest the Sixers’ stars get over these final six regular season games. It looks like they’re both going to be out there tonight against Toronto, with neither player listed on the initial injury report. On the season thus far, Philadelphia is 2-1 against the Raptors, splitting a pair of games in Toronto back in October and winning an overtime game at home in mid-December. Tyrese Maxey exploded for a career-high 44 points in one of those road games. He has currently scored at least 21 points in seven straight, so it wouldn’t be the least bit surprising to see another big outing tonight.

The Raptors bucked expectations by being surprise buyers at last month’s trade deadline. There was no move sending out Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, or O.G. Anunoby. Instead, their major move was bringing back center Jakob Poeltl in a deal with San Antonio. Poeltl has been terrific since his return, averaging 14.1 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1.5 blocks in 20 games with Toronto. But with Poeltl an upcoming free agent, and player options looming for VanVleet and Gary Trent, Jr., it’s fair to wonder what the ceiling is here and whether the organization should have been thinking short-term.

On the hardwood, though, the Raptors have won three straight games to essentially solidify their presence in the Play-In tournament. Currently ninth in the Eastern Conference standings, they hold a four-game lead over Washington with six games to play. While rising up out of the Play-In is probably not going to happen (Toronto is three games back of sixth-place Brooklyn), they’re tied with eighth-place Atlanta and only 1.5 games back of seventh-place Miami, after just beating the Heat in their last game on Tuesday.

Getting into the 7/8 spot is obviously preferable, providing two games in which to win one and reach the postseason, whereas the 9/10 teams have to win two straight games to grab the eight seed. Not that anyone would expect Toronto to knock off Milwaukee or Boston, but they’re much feistier than your typical low-seeded squad.

While the Sixers have a clean injury report, Trent, Jr. (elbow) and Will Barton (ankle) are both listed as questionable for Toronto. Neither played on Tuesday night; Trent, Jr. actually hasn’t played since March 19 so the questionable status is an upgrade.

We have a Raptors team that doubled down on this season, and has a good bit to play for over this final week and a half of the regular season. Toronto’s length and versatility across the roster has always given the Sixers some trouble. With games against Milwaukee and Boston upcoming after this one, it’s important for the Sixers not to overlook tonight’s opponent. Given the recent playoff history and the past status of Joel Embiid’s eye socket, I don’t necessarily anticipate that happening. We’ll see how healthy the stars look and if Philadelphia can make it two straight wins.

Game Details

Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Toronto Raptors
When: 7:00 pm EST
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic
Follow: @LibertyBallers

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