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The Toronto Raptors and the Philadelphia 76ers will face off in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals after successfully negotiating their way through the first round of the playoffs.
Both teams endured the same scares in the first match of their respective series. The Raptors would have been wary of another early exit after dropping the first game against the Orlando Magic. However, Kawhi Leonard and company issued an emphatic response to win four-straight games to book their place in the next round.
Philadelphia went down to the Brooklyn Nets in game one of their series. The 76ers rallied to also win four games on the bounce in an ill-tempered series between the two teams. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons rose to the occasion for Brett Brown’s men to guide them into the Conference Semi-Finals for the second year in a row.
The two teams have not been synonymous with success in recent history. Toronto more than any other side have failed to live up to expectations. The 76ers have gone through years of struggle to get back to the peak of the game. They now battle it out for a place in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.
There would have been a familiar feeling of unease when the Raptors dropped game one of their series against the Magic. Kyle Lowry had a game to forget, failing to put a point on the board. Orlando were on form and were able to secure the win on the road thanks to a 25-point performance from DJ Augustin.
Toronto made a bold move to trade away DeMar DeRozan to acquire Leonard from the San Antonio Spurs. He proved why the club made the decision, leading their response in game two with a 37-point display to quell the nerves. Leonard would take over the rest of the series by dominating the scoreboard, being aided by Pascal Siakam, to drive his team over the line courtesy of a 4-1 scoreline.
Leonard and company now have the challenge of raising their game against the 76ers. Toronto have struggled against the elite teams of the Eastern Conference in the past. The Cleveland Cavaliers bested them for three seasons in a row in the post-season. Although the 76ers have quality they do not have a player of LeBron James’ talent at their disposal. Leonard will have to remain at the peaks of his powers to outduel Embiid, Simmons and Jimmy Butler.
Siakam’s performances were crucial and he will have to continue providing that level of support to Leonard. Lowry could be even more important to their success. Should he produce his regular season form it may tip the balance, but if he struggles as he has done in the past it could be the Raptors’ death knell in the post-season.
The 76ers were in a similar position to the Raptors after the first game of their series against the Nets. Although Embiid and Butler were on form in the opener, Simmons endured a difficult game against the Nets, struggling to impose himself in the 111-102 defeat.
However, Philadelphia responded with a dominant performance in the second game of the series, putting 145 points on the board. The offense began to click into gear, ensuring that Brooklyn were swept aside with ease. Embiid, Simmons and Butler were able to take command to book the 76ers’ place in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals for the second season in a row.
Philadelphia were well beaten in the playoffs last term by the Boston Celtics. However, the club have experience on their side now as well as the additions of Butler and Tobias Harris. The depth of their roster is perhaps their biggest asset, handing Brown four potent players on the court at one time.
Brown will have to be wary of his team’s discipline, which could be a decisive factor in the contests. Embiid was involved in a melee with Jared Dudley on the court in game four against the Nets. The 76ers cannot afford to lose his presence on the court or for him to get caught up in a war of words.
Embiid has to operate at the peak of his powers to match Leonard score-for-score. Only then do the 76ers have a chance of reaching the Conference Finals for the first time since 2001.
The Raptors have edged the matchup historically between the sides, and it has been the case during their meetings in the regular season. Toronto won the series 3-1, including one win on the road. Every one of the Raptors’ starters broke into double figures in their victory over Philadelphia by 17 points in October at the ScotiaBank Arena.
Leonard and Embiid went toe-to-toe in game two of the series in Toronto, but the Raptors were able to clinch the victory in the first week of December. Embiid, JJ Reddick and Simmons combined to end the losing run against Toronto as the 76ers triumphed at the Wells Fargo Center three weeks later. However, in their last meeting in Philadelphia, Leonard, Serge Ibaka and Lowry combined to guide the Raptors to a comfortable win, despite a 37-pointer from Embiid.
It promises to be an enthralling contest between two talented sides. There was little separating them during the regular season, although the fact that Toronto secured home-court advantage for the opening two matches may be able to swing the series in their favour.
Leonard is a big-game player and could arguably be the best remaining in the post-season. Boasting the best individual has swung the playoffs in the past and now the Raptors are in that position.
Embiid, Simmons and Butler are all outstanding players, but series will be decided by the greatness of Leonard. Back the Raptors to win the series at odds of 2/5 1.40 -250 0.40 -2.50 0.40 with BetOnline, but at scoreline of 4-2 with TopBet at 5/1 6.00 +500 5.00 5.00 -0.20 . Leonard and company will be determined to take the onus from the off, therefore back them at 2/5 1.40 -250 0.40 -2.50 0.40 to win the Semi-Finals opener with Bovada.
Toronto Raptors To Beat Philadelphia 76ers Game One
Saturday 27th April 2019 20:00 EST (Sunday 28th April 01:00 BST)
Odds: 39/100 1.39 -255 0.39 -2.55 0.39
Toronto Raptors To Beat Philadelphia 76ers Playoff Series
Odds: 2/5 1.40 -250 0.40 -2.50 0.40
Toronto Raptors To Beat Philadelphia 76ers Playoff Series By 4-2 Scoreline
Odds: 5/1 6.00 +500 5.00 5.00 -0.20
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