The Toronto Raptors are in Philadelphia to take on Joel Embiid and the 76ers in what looks to be a pivotal game in this series with the 76ers up 2-1 already and with home-court advantage. The biggest storyline is that Pascal Siakam is listed as doubtful with a right calf contusion, the same right calf that was used to trip Joel Embiid and draw a flagrant 1 foul in game 3.
I wouldn’t be as stunned as normal if Siakam played after being listed as doubtful, which almost never happens simply because a contusion is likely something that is a pain management thing. That being said, we have to operate like Siakam is out until further notice, but I would at least expect him to attempt to warm up before the game.
Raptors Need More Balance
The Raptors’ playoff missteps seem to have continued in the post-LeBron era in the East, at least with the Raptors that were around before this season. Siakam might as well have not been around, and Kawhi Leonard is the only reason the Raptors are even in this situation. Kawhi has carried the Raptors to a 110 offensive efficiency while he is on the court and a defensive rating around 100.
The issue for the Raptors is that without Kawhi, the Raptors have an offensive efficiency closer to 50. That is the offensive efficiency I would expect from the 5th team in the MAC playing against the 76ers, and I’m not joking. That is so bad that even reporters have asked Nick Nurse if Kawhi can play all 48 minutes. Nurse said that he doesn’t think he can; however, there is no restriction on his minutes, so he can’t technically count it out. I would expect Kawhi to see the most minutes of the series in this game, especially without Siakam.
Kyle Lowry went public talking about how he needs to support Kawhi more, and this is the perfect game for Lowry to do so after losing Siakam. Siakam has taken 15, 25, and 15 shots in the first three games, so the lack of his presence should force guys like Kyle Lowry and Marc Gasol to show that they aren’t as bad as they have looked through the first three games. Gasol hasn’t really been a force on offense at all in this series, which can somewhat be chalked up to the defensive assignment on Embiid. In this game, I expect Gasol to take the most shots he has taken all series.
Philly Looks To Keep Rolling
The 76ers are simply looking to repeat their Game 3 performance. After the first two games, it seemed as though this would not be Joel Embiid’s best series with two really poor performances in Toronto. However, this last game gives the 76ers hope that Embiid was actually struggling with this sickness more than we probably knew, as he said after the last game. If Embiid can turn in a similar performance, I think the 76ers are in a great spot.
If he cannot perform like that again versus a once elite defender in Marc Gasol, I expect Jimmy Butler to have to carry the load on offense. Ben Simmons, JJ Redick, and Tobias Harris can score, but none of them are truly shot creators, and that has hindered them all at times. Butler is the go-to scorer for this team, especially if Embiid struggles.
Sixers Take Commanding Lead
I think that this line is disrespecting Siakam, so I have to take the 76ers in this spot. I expect either Ibaka or VanVleet to see the start, and both will pick up more time, but neither can bring to the table what Siakam does. After the last two games and the Raptors losing their second-best player in the series, I think only +2.5 on the road is rather egregious. Give me the 76ers -2.5 here.