The Sixers struggled mightily north of the border including two losses by double digits. In fact, all four games were decided by at least 11 points.
The lone Sixers victory came on Dec. 22, 2018, when the Raptors sat Kawhi Leonard due to rest.
None of that matters now due to both teams making moves to improve their respective rosters before the February trade deadline.
A second chance with notable matchups
As mentioned above, the Sixers didn’t have much success against the Raptors during the season. That obviously didn’t change much in Game 1.
Both teams have improved since their last matchup back in February and the individual matchups are fascinating.
Against the Brooklyn Nets, there wasn’t anyone on the roster capable of dealing with the physicality of Embiid. That changes with the Raptors.
The Kawhi Leonard problem
Most likely, Ben Simmons and Butler will take turns guarding Leonard throughout the series. They should throw different looks his way and perhaps either Simmons or Butler will prove to be the better option guarding him.
Simmons will have the tough task of dealing with Leonard defending him. He has 24 combined turnovers in three career games against Leonard.
It showed to be a problem in game 1, Butler will have to run point guard with Simmons setting screens and occupying space closer to the basket.
Head coach Brett Brown will need to be creative to keep Simmons engaged in the offense if he struggles taking care of the ball.
Harris and Pascal Siakam will be an important matchup to see which player will have a bigger impact on the series. Harris will have to shoot well from three to help keep the floor spaced for Embiid and Simmons.
Siakam has continued to improve his game throughout the course of the season and his athleticism could provide a problem for Harris on defense.
Game 1 Toughness
What a tough game it was for the Sixers. Most of the worst things that could’ve happened did. Philly had no answer for Leonard’s offensive game while he was stellar on defense.
No one on offense for the 76ers scored more than 20 points with J.J. Redick putting up 17 points to lead the team. Realistically, that’s not a good thing moving forward.
These matchups make it seem like this could be a six or seven game series. Perhaps it will be a callback to 2001 when the Sixers defeated the Raptors in a seven-game series, the only playoff meeting between these teams.
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