RAPS ARE TRENDY PICK, SIXERS (-4 1/2) HAVE WAY TOO MUCH TALENT!

By Skip Charles in Vegas

The Raptors have become the trendy pick to upset the Sixers, who have much more talent.

Since 1995, the Raptors have made the postseason 12 times. They’ve lost Game 1 in 11 of those 12 series with the only exception being their 2020 first round series against the Brooklyn Nets in the Orlando bubble.

The Sixers 76ers have Joel Embiid, the best player in the series and a finalist for league MVP the last two seasons.

The Raptors can’t defend Embiid — Precious Achiuwa, Khem Birch and Chris Boucher are 6-9 or shorter — who is averaging 30.6 points on 49.9% shooting along with 11.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists this season. The Raptors rank 22nd in opponent field goal percentage at the rim (66.3%), so I expect Embiid to dominate inside.

With James Harden playing alongside Embiid, the 76ers rank first in Free Throw Rate (23.3%) and are attempting 28.2 free throws per game since the All-Star break. The Raptors rank 21st in opponent free throw rate (20) so expect the 76ers to get to the line at will.

All those free throws will hurt the Raptors on the opposite end of the floor as they generate much of their offense in transition. The Raptors rank fourth in transition points per 100 possessions (3.6), but they struggle to score in the half court, scoring just 91.3 points per 100 possessions.

The 76ers’ weakness is their bench, however their starting lineup is one of the best in the NBA this season. In 20 games and 323 minutes, the Harden-Tyrese Maxey-Matisse Thybulle-Tobias Harris-Embiid lineup has the second-best Net Rating in the league, outscoring teams by +20.2 per 100 possessions.

Since trading for Harden, Harris and Maxey are thriving in their roles, both shooting 40% from behind the arc. With the Raptors allowing the eighth-highest frequency of 3-point field goal attempts and ranking 18th in opponent 3-point shooting percentage (36%), I expect the 76ers offense to shoot well from behind the arc.

With teams electing to shorten rotations in the postseason, this 76ers starting lineup should overcome their deficiencies of their bench unit.

While many may look to the Doc Rivers-Nick Nurse coaching matchup as a mismatch, Nurse can’T overcome the talent disparity here.

1:00 PM ET, SAT APR 16
-5
+5
59%
41%
209.5
3:30 PM ET, SAT APR 16
+6.5
-6.5
40%
60%
236.5
6:00 PM ET, SAT APR 16
+4.5
-4.5
62%
38%
216
8:30 PM ET, SAT APR 16
+6.5
-6.5
49%
51%
223

 

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