NBA Playoffs Odds, Picks, Predictions: Raptors vs. 76ers Game 1 Betting Preview (April 16)
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images. Pictured: Tobias Harris.
- The Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers open their series in the city of brotherly love Saturday.
- The Sixers are 4.5-point favorites at home against a dangerous Raptors team with championship pedigree.
- Joe Dellera give out three picks for Saturday's Game 1.
|Time||6 p.m. ET|
|Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.|
The Eastern Conference looks to be a gauntlet this season, and the 76ers must face the Toronto Raptors in the first round of the Playoffs. This matchup features a litany of stars, primarily on the 76ers, while the Raptors have one of the most well-rounded teams in the East.
Let’s break down this opener in what should be a long and engaging series.
Nurse Leads the Athletic Raptors
The Raptors are one of the most well-coached teams in the NBA with Nick Nurse in the running for Coach of the Year on an annual basis. While this team doesn’t have a “superstar,” they are stacked with solid NBA players and some All Stars with a starting lineup of Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, and Pascal Siakam.
They have a relatively tight rotation after that consisting of Precious Achiuwa, Chris Boucher, and Thaddeus Young, with a few minutes for others down the roster.
Nurse absolutely runs his starters as many minutes as possible. Siakam and VanVleet are tied for first in the league in minutes per game, rookie Scottie Barnes is ninth, and Gary Trent Jr is 14th – their minutes are already at a near max with even Trent playing 35 minutes per game.
This gives me shades of the Knicks last season where Coach Thibs ran his starters into the dirt, and they were absolutely maxed out in terms of potential come the Playoffs.
However, this team is different. Thibs is excellent at maximizing his players’ potential during the regular season but struggles historically in the Playoffs because he does not do a good enough job adjusting. Coach Nurse, on the other hand, is a maestro in terms of game plans and adjustments over a season, and especially a Playoff series.
The Raptors’ offense is very average, but their Adjusted Defensive Rating of 110.4 is ninth-best in the NBA. The key for the Raptors, despite not having a traditional center, is that they have length and athleticism. They can switch on nearly everything and play multiple defensive schemes. These adjustments come down to coaching and recognizing the vulnerabilities of the opponent.
Expect to see more minutes from Precious Achiuwa this series considering his size, athleticism, and ability to stretch the floor. In his last two matchups against the Sixers, he was 2/4 and 5/7 from 3-point range.
Embiid and the 76ers Have a Talent Edge
The Philadelphia 76ers have had quite the year. From trading away Ben Simmons for James Harden, to the rise of Tyrese Maxey, to Joel Embiid’s MVP Tour – it’s an awesome time to be a 76ers fan. They finished fourth in the East, but given the tiebreaker situation, they were in a virtual tie for the 2-seed. Nonetheless, they are much happier playing the Raptors as the 4-seed than the Brooklyn Nets as the 2-seed.
The Sixers have more raw talent, a former MVP in Harden, a top MVP candidate in Joel Embiid, a strong supporting cast of Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris, and a litany of wings off the bench. They are certainly title contenders.
However, we have seen Doc Rivers in the Playoffs continually underachieve, and I think he’s still being afforded too much credit for the one run with the original “Big Three” of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce in 2008. The coaching advantage that the Raptors have is significant, unless you were looking to blow a 3-1 lead.
The 76ers just have more talent. When their core four of Harden, Maxey, Harris, and Embiid share the floor, they have a +17.9 Net Rating while scoring 123.1 points per 100 possessions, per Cleaning the Glass. They’re dominating teams on both sides of the floor, and this is largely due to superior spacing that’s provided by Harden running the point.
One player prop that I am taking is for Tobias Harris to go Over 1.5 3s Made (-111). I’ve written about this previously, but he has gone over this line in 70% of games with James Harden, and his role has changed a bit into becoming a spot-up shooter. In his last game against the Raptors, this prop cashed in the first quarter, and with an uptick in minutes here, there’s no reason to expect otherwise.
The Raptors will need to get creative to stop this 76ers offense because the Philly starters should all see an increase in minutes during the Playoffs.
One strategy that has been successful in the past is to double Embiid, but his passing has improved, and with Harden, the spacing is better. Embiid can kick out to any of Harden, Maxey, or Harris, and they all are excellent 3-point shooters. How Embiid handless double teams will be something to watch in this series.
I’ll be backing the 76ers to take care of business in Game 1. They are a superior team that will be whole for the series opener. Harden and Embiid have had plenty of time to rest up for this matchup and should be ready for an increased workload.
This is going to be a hard fought and long series that’s pitting superior talent against superior coaching. While Nurse may come into Game 1 with a plan, I expect the advantage he gives the Raptors to become more evident as the series goes on. Even if the Raptors lose the first two games of the series, you may not see +450 odds since they’d be returning to Toronto where Matisse Thybulle is ineligible to play.
The 76ers have more raw talent, and I expect that to come through in Game 1 – but I’ll open that series-long position as I expect the Raptors to keep this competitive, and we can hedge that if necessary in the future.
Pick: 76ers -4 | Tobias Harris over 1.5 3s | 76ers to win Game 1 but the Raptors to Win the Series at BetMGM (+450)