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Raptors vs. Sixers Series Betting Preview: Toronto Is Undervalued

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Photo credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler

No. 2 Toronto Raptors vs. No. 3 Philadelphia 76ers

Series Odds: Raptors -260 | 76ers +210

Both the Raptors and 76ers dropped Game 1s in the first round but then rattled off four straight dominating wins.

See below for the series schedule, advanced metrics breakdown and expert analysis from Matt Moore on how he’s betting this series.

Raptors vs. 76ers Schedule

Game 1: Saturday, April 27 at 7:30 p.m. ET | Raptors -6.5, O/U: 222
Game 2: Monday, April 29
Game 3: Thursday, May 2
Game 4: Sunday, May 5
Game 5: Tuesday, May 7
Game 6: Thursday, May 9
Game 7: Sunday, May 12

Advanced Metrics Breakdown

Offensive Balance Is an Edge for Toronto

First, the Raptors want this to be a defensive series, while the Sixers want it to be an offensive series, which is a weird switch of identities. The Sixers after the All-Star break were 16th in Defensive Rating, giving up over 110 points per 100 possessions. The Raptors were third at 105.6. The Sixers gave up a 105.7 rating to the Nets, while the Raptors held Orlando to 95.8.

The Raptors have been a better defensive team, and they have a much better set of defensive matchups within this series. The Raptors can guard Jimmy Butler with Kawhi Leonard to cut off the head of the snake or with Kyle Lowry to give him a tough, physical matchup. They can guard J.J. Redick with Danny Green, who tracks through screens as well as anyone, or they can move Green to Butler for stints.

Toronto can also use Leonard as a free safety, playing off Ben Simmons with the ability to recover if necessary. His athleticism takes away the cost of leaving Simmons.

The Raptors can put Pascal Siakam, Green or Leonard on Harris, and one of the others on Simmons. That just leaves the 1-on-1 matchup of Joel Embiid vs. Marc Gasol. If Gasol gets in foul trouble or gets in general trouble vs. Embiid, the Raptors can counter with Serge Ibaka or Siakam. If Embiid gets going, it will be difficult, but their doubles will be much better than those of the Nets.

The Sixers, meanwhile… yeesh. OK, first off, replace Joe Harris, who struggled in his first playoff appearance, with Danny Green, who Redick will have to chase around screens.

Here, Embiid is able to clean up the mess, but Green is also probably either pulling up for a short-range jumper or making a pass to a cutter here:

Then you have Gasol’s ability to stretch Embiid out. Embiid likes to stay next to the rim to contest. The Nets had no one to viably stretch the floor in five-out settings who could also guard Embiid in the post. Gasol can guard Embiid in the post, and he can do this if Embiid sinks:

Then there’s the Tobias Harris issue. Who do you put him on? Lowry, and hope he runs pick-and-roll for the stretch? Siakam, who will dunk on him? Green, and have him get lost constantly on screens, forcing broken rotations? Or Leonard, who they could let go for 40 each game and try and stop everyone else?

It’s brutal. There’s no good place to hide Harris.

You can capably put Simmons on Siakam, which would carry Philadelphia a long way defensively. Butler can hang with Leonard and make him work, which is all you’re looking for. If you limit Siakam and Leonard, you live with everything else the Raptors throw at you.

But the Raptors are smart enough to hunt down the matchups they want. If Redick is on Lowry, Leonard will run pick-and-roll with Lowry and his squat, brick body as the screener, and force Redick onto him. If you blitz him, Lowry, a point guard with range, is open and you’re now 4-on-3.

If Embiid wins his matchup, it tilts things. But one last note…

The Sixers gave up the third-most transition points per game of any team in the first round. With Embiid on the floor in the regular season, the Raptors ran a ton. In the season series, they ran 22% of the time, which is higher than their regular-season mark of 20%. With Embiid on the floor specifically, the Raptors generated 26 points per 100 possessions off fast breaks — eight more than their season average.

Siakam here just jaunts downcourt ahead of Embiid and gets to the rim.

Here, in transition, Embiid gets crossmatched on the perimeter, and again Siakam just gets to the rim:

The Nets never did this and it was baffling. The Sixers are big and athletic, but they are not fast, especially with Embiid on the floor.

You want to get Embiid off the court? Run him on a bad wheel up and down the floor. The Raptors will do that.


The Bench Isn’t What You Think

The Sixers’ bench is bad. It’s really awful. That said, it’s probably better than Toronto’s.

Toronto had the best bench in the league last season with Delon Wright and Jakob Poeltl, both of whom have been traded. The Sixers’ bench wasn’t good in Round 1 vs. a deep Nets team that isn’t top-heavy. Caris LeVert was the best player in the series and came off the bench. Spencer Dinwiddie was probably the fifth-best, and he came off the bench as well.

But Toronto is bringing Norman Powell, who had a great Round 1 but a shaky season in off the pine. Fred VanVleet had an up-and-down first round; same for Jeremy Lin. The Raptors bench is basically FVV and Serge Ibaka with Powell and a little bit of Jodie Meeks.

The Sixers, meanwhile, have Boban Marjanovic, who can battle the Raptors’ smallball second unit, along with James Ennis, T.J. McConnell, Jonathon Simmons and Jonah Bolden.

Simmons and Bolden were bad in Round 1, but this series probably fits their talents a little better. Bolden should be healthier than he was in Round 1. They’ll miss Mike Scott, but Zhaire Smith is expected to contribute and brings real explosiveness.

We’re talking scant minutes, but the bigger key is that if you’re looking for in-game angles, focus on the second and fourth quarters if you’re looking to bet Philly.


Takeaways

As you can tell from how I look at the defensive matchups, I think the Toronto overs are the way to go. The Game 1 Raptors total is all the way up at 115, and I’m using that as a hedge for Game 1. I’m on Philly in Game 1 just because the Raptors losing Game 1 or at least failing to cover is a nearly immutable law of nature. (One Game 1 win in their entire playoff history.)

But the Raptors’ series price has value, as does Raptors in 6 at +367. Expect one great Sixers game and one bad Raptors game, and the rest should go for Toronto.

So much of this series is in the Raptors’ control. They have better defensive matchups. They have better offensive matchups. They have a better gameplan, the series’ best player in Kawhi Leonard and a player in Siakam who throws a wrench in everything.

Wait on Game 1 to determine where Philly is going to go with its matchups, and then smash the player props on whichever players Harris and Redick guard.

If you’re looking for Sixers angles, their overs are the way to go given how great their offense has been, and betting Embiid overs on his player props with the hope Gasol hits foul trouble could be a smart move. Target second and fourth quarters, especially in Philadelphia, and the Raptors in the first and third based on how much better the starters should be.

This series is fascinating, but if it wasn’t for Toronto’s history in Game 1s I’d be creeping up on Raptors in 5.

As it stands, I’ll take Raptors in 6, ride the Sixers in Game 1 and be prepared to absolutely hammer the Raptors in Game 2 if they actually dominate Game 1. If Toronto wins Games 1 and 2, I’ll be looking to grab the points with the Sixers at home. I’ll also be looking for team totals anywhere around 108-110 to grab the over. This series isn’t as much a defensive series as it looks on paper.

Moore’s Series Pick: Raptors in 6

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