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Playoff basketball continues on Wednesday night when the Toronto Raptors host the Philadephia 76ers in Game 3 of their first-round Eastern Conference series. After covering the spread with two double-digit home victories, the 76ers have a 2-0 lead.
Is this the year Philly competes the process?
The 76ers have been dominate through the first two games of the series, winning the opening game 131-111 and the second game 112-97. As a team, the 76ers have shot 51.6% from the floor and an NBA playoff-high 48.4% from three-point range. The 76ers now hit the road with a chance to go up 3-0. During the regular season, Philadelphia was 27-14 straight up in road games, and 21-19-1 against the spread.
Tyrese Maxey has broken out as a star this postseason, averaging 30.5 ppg, due to a 38-point Game 1, and 23 points, nine rebounds, and eight assist performance during Monday’s Game 2. MVP finalist Joe Embiid is averaging 25 points and 13 rebounds, and Tobias Harris has put up an average of 23 points, eight rebounds, and two blocks in the series. James Harden is averaging a team-high 40.5 minutes, and also leads the team with 10 assists and two steals per game to go along with his 18 ppg.
On the injury report, the 76ers are mostly clean. Matisse Thybulle (5.7 ppg, 2.3 rpg) is out for personal reasons, and Charles Bassey (2.3 ppg, 2.7 rbg) is out with a shoulder injury.
Do or die for Toronto
The Toronto Raptors beat the 76ers in three out of four games during the regular season. Due to the prior success, the Raptors came into the series as an attractive underdog with +165 odds to upset the 76ers in the first round. This series isn’t over yet, but if the Raptors cannot make some distract changes on Wednesday, it basically will be, as no NBA team has ever climbed back from a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series.
Toronto is not as healthy as Philadelphia. Rookie Scottie Barnes is listed as doubtful for Game 2, and Gary Trent Jr is questionable. During the regular season, Barnes played 74 games, averaged 15.3 ppg, 7.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists. Barnes had 15 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists in the 20-point Game 1 loss. Gary Trent Jr. played in 70 regular-season games and averaged 18.3 ppg. Trent was held to nine points in Game 1 and did not score in Monday’s loss in a little under 10 minutes of action.
The Raptors shot 45.6% from the floor and 37.1% from the three-point range in the first two games in Philly. Individually, OG Anunoby has led the team with 23 ppg, followed by Pascal Siakam with 22 ppg, and Fred VanVleet with 19ppg.
Best Bets for this Game
Prediction: Toronto Raptors +2
Rating: 5 out of 5
The 76ers have had the Raptors’ number in the first two games, and from the eye test looks like they are on their way to sweep, but as the old saying goes, “a series doesn’t start until a home team loses.” I’ll admit, I’ve never been a huge fan of that overused line, but it has some merit here, especially when considering that the 76ers have failed to cover the spread in five of their last six trips to Toronto.
The Raptors covered the spread in all four regular-season games against the 76ers, and even though this is the playoffs, the evidence is there; Toronto is capable of beating Philadelphia. The Raptors have a championship coach on their side and are tough to beat in Canada, as they have covered the spread in their last four games as a home underdog. I understand that Doc Rivers is a championship coach as well, but he has also struggled to close out several series’ as a favorite with the lead in the past. The 76ers have failed to cover the spread in their last five road games and I expect to see a drop-off in this game from Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris. To what extent James Harden shows up will also be interesting.
The season is basically over for Toronto if they don’t win this game, and as a small underdog, they can’t win this game without covering. Expect the North to rise up on Wednesday, with their role players playing better at home, and turn this into a series.