Eastern Conference Semifinals – Game 2 — Raptors lead 1-0
No. 3 Philadelphia at No. 2 Toronto (-6.5/220.5), TNT, 8:05 p.m. ET
April 27 – Raptors (-6.5) 108 vs. 76ers 95 (Under 227)
Feb. 5 – Raptors (+2.5) 119 at 76ers 107 (Under 231)
Dec. 22 – 76ers (-7.5) 126 vs. Raptors 101 (Over 222.5)
Dec. 5 – Raptors (-6.5) 113 vs. 76ers 102 (Under 229)
Oct. 30 – Raptors (-6) 129 vs. 76ers 112 (Over 227.5)
Kawhi Leonard has taken his game to another level, which should have a lot of the NBA excited.
He might be leaving Toronto this summer anyway, but prevailing sentiment is that he’d likely have an easier time doing it after winning a championship. The Raptors have 11 victories to get in order to hang a banner and would win the East for the first time if they pick up seven more. It’s no secret to Raptors fans that those wins get increasingly difficult to secure but they’re all starting to see how valuable employing guys who have done it before can be. Dealing DeMar DeRozan for a Leonard rental also secured the services of Danny Green, who has an NBA and NCAA title under his belt and has quickly endeared himself to Toronto with his defense and winning mentality.
Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the 76ers saw both Leonard and Green impose their will masterfully. Leonard was dominant, posting 45 points and 11 rebounds while shooting 16-for-23 from the field. Green had just seven points and three rebounds but irked J.J. Redick and bloodied his mouth, continuing to set the tone that this is going to be a long series for Philadelphia.
Unlike Boston and Milwaukee, which have a core that has been together multiple years, both of the semifinalists in this Eastern Conference matchup are relatively new to one another. Saturday’s Game 1 marked the first time the divisional foes had even crossed paths with Tobias Harris and Marc Gasol in the mix. The first meeting didn’t include Jimmy Butler, while Leonard missed a game as well.
Despite this, Saturday’s series opener was no feeling out process. At least not on the Raptors’ end. Leonard was too much for both Butler and Harris, while likely Most Improved Player winner Pascal Siakam missed only three of his 15 shots, finishing with 29 points and seven boards.
No Philadelphia player scored more than Redick’s 17 points and only Simmons (7-for-8) shot above 50 percent among the team’s star-studded starting lineup. The problem with that was that Simmons didn’t bother to take any shots from the perimeter, allowing the Raps to sag and clog the paint in addition to shading coverages on to others. Gasol, who has a history of success defending Joel Embiid, impressively thrived in their individual matchup, holding the league’s top big man to 5-for-18 shooting while finishing a team-best plus-29.
Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry shot just 4-for-10 but played a masterful floor game in finishing with a team-high eight assists and keeping the ball moving. Lowry is leading this postseason in raw plus-minus and finished a plus-25 on Saturday despite dealing with a finger issue after a dislocation in Game 5 against Orlando.
Simmons shot 63 percent from the field during the regular season, averaging 16.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists, so he’s the player most likely to have a big performance in Game 2 to lift the 76ers’ level. In case you didn’t watch the series opener, the final score didn’t properly indicate how thoroughly Philadelphia was dominated since they trailed by as many as 20 points and didn’t lead after the 8:41 mark of the opening quarter. The game featured a 70-point first quarter and a 60-point third but slowed down significantly in the second and fourth.
Even though the Game 1 outcome went comfortably ‘under’ the closing total of 223, bettors leaning to the low side weren’t that confident after the first 12 minutes and they were getting ready to sweat again heading into the final quarter.
“Anybody who had the ‘over’ in Game 1 were all smiles early,” said VegasInsider.com NBA expert Chris David. “While the 43-point effort by the pair wasn’t great in the second, the teams rebounded for a 60-spot in the third and you only needed 51 points in the fourth quarter to go ‘over’ the number. Sure enough, bettors riding the high side didn’t even get treated with a possible win as Toronto outscored Philadelphia 16-14 in the final 12 minutes.
“Fast Forward to Monday and the books lowered the total to 219 ½ for Game 2 and that was quickly pushed up to 220 ½. This is the lowest number posted in their meetings this season and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the numbers drop as the series continues. Even though Game 1 had two great quarters of offense, the Raptors defense (92.5 PPG) has been lights out in this year’s playoffs and that effort has helped the ‘under’ go 5-1. The length of Toronto is a tough matchup for anybody and the addition of Leonard and Gasol has given the club an extra edge. The 76ers did score 145 points after losing Game 1 to the Nets but I don’t see that happening on Monday. Rather, I’m expecting more of the same and would lean to the Philadelphia Team Total Under (107) again in Game 2.”
Make a note that Philadelphia has now dropped 14 straight games at Scotiabank Arena and it only busted the century mark five times, with 112 and 114 being the most points scored.
The Raptors have seen the biggest drop in pace from their regular-season numbers to what they’ve done so far in the playoffs. After playing the Nets in the highest-paced first-round series, Philly came into this conference semifinal round tops in pace after finishing eighth during the regular season.
Toronto continued its trend of being at its best in the first and third quarters, imposing its will in both. Forward Mike Scott remains out for Philadelphia with a heel injury, taking a matchup problem out of the equation since he’d been so effective down the stretch and in the first round. Furkan Korkmaz is back in the fold. It appears Brett Brown is exploring he and Jonah Bolden splitting Scott’s minutes.
The ‘under’ is on a 6-1 run in Raptors games and has prevailed in each of the last three contests involving the 76ers. The series shifts to Philly for Game 3 on Thursday.