Friday, May 13 2022

The Toronto Raptors face the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the 2022 NBA Playoffs. The two teams were only separated by three games this season. The Raptors won the regular season series 3-1, and each of the four games was decided by less than three points. Game 1 is scheduled to start tomorrow from Philadelphia at 6 p.m.

Philadelphia 76ers

The Philadelphia 76ers finished the regular season with a 51-31 record, earning them the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. Led by Joel Embiid and James Harden, the Sixers are looking to advance their franchise’s fourth title.

Joel Embiid’s dominating season

Sixers starting center Embiid has been nothing short of excellent this season. Embiid finished the season averaging 30.6 points per game on nearly 50 percent shooting from the field. He also topped the boards at 11.7 rebounds per game. Bringing home the 2021-22 scoring title, he is the first center to lead the league in scoring since Shaquille O’Neal did so in the 1999-2000 season. Joel is also a top contender to receive the Most Valuable Player award.

In this next series with the Raptors, Joel Embiid will be the X factor for any possible success in Philadelphia. The Raptors will throw several bodies at him to try to slow him down. If he continues to dominate, fans should expect big numbers from the big man.

James Harden’s playoff impact

On February 10, 2022, the Philadelphia 76ers completed a blockbuster trade that landed them one of the NBA’s all-time greatest scorers, James Harden. Harden comes from a Brooklyn Nets team that took away some of his shine. He was paired alongside stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving who obviously landed a lot of the shots he wanted. Coming to Philly, Harden would be put alongside Joel Embiid, creating one of the best pairings we’ve ever seen.

Recently, Harden has struggled to shoot the ball beyond the arc. Since March 31, Harden has shot a staggering 26% from three. He also has a reputation for playing under par in the NBA Playoffs. This has many Sixers fans worried as James’ shot is essential for the Sixers to win the series. If Harden is able to find his shot, the Raptors will struggle on defense.

Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden (1) shoots as Toronto Raptors forward Precious Achiuwa defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, April 7, 2022 in Toronto. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)

Toronto Raptors

The Toronto Raptors wrapped up a strong regular season as the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, posting a 48-34 record. The Raptors have a talented young team led by Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and Scottie Barnes.

A star in the making

In the 2021 NBA draft, the Toronto Raptors used the fourth pick to select Scottie Barnes out of FSU. Scottie has been sensational this season as he is currently one of the favorites to win Rookie of the Year. He averaged 15.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. Barnes is a versatile player who has impressive length and athleticism for a 6-9 guard. He recently won April’s Rookie of the Month. Toronto will rely on Barnes to make all-around plays on offense and keep players such as James Harden, Danny Green and Tyrese Maxey.

Pascal Siakam led the attack

The Raptors offense is centered around forward Pascal Siakam. Pascal is a one-time all-star and has an all-NBA selection. In the 2019 Playoffs, Siakam helped lead the Raptors to the franchise’s first title. He finished the season averaging 22.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. With many youngsters in the team, Siakam will have to keep the team under control and disciplined throughout the series. Siakam will be thrown on Joel Embiid multiple times in the series, so he has to put in his best defensive effort every night.

Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam (43) takes on the Philadelphia 76ers in the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, April 7, 2022 in Toronto. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)

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