With both the Raptors and Sixers taking care of business in the first round in five games, the Eastern Conference Semifinals are now set.
SERIES PREVIEW: Bucks vs. Celtics
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The series schedule has not been announced yet but Toronto has homecourt advantage and the series will begin at Scotiabank Arena.
- Game 1 - TBD at Toronto
- Game 2 - TBD at Toronto
- Game 3 - TBD at Philadelphia
- Game 4 - TBD at Philadelphia
- Game 5 (if necessary) - TBD at Toronto
- Game 6 (if necessary) - TBD at Philadelphia
- Game 7 (if necessary) - TBD at Toronto
Recapping the season series
Result: Raptors won 3-1
Best game: Dec. 5, 2018 - Raptors 113, 76ers 102
Best performance: Kawhi Leonard (Dec. 5, 2018) - 36 points (13-24 FG, 5-6 3P), 9 rebounds, 5 steals, 1 block
Of the four times the Raptors and Sixers met in the regular season, the closest meeting was decided by 11 points in early Dec.
The season series opened just two weeks into the regular season when Toronto defeated Philadelphia 129-112 behind 31 points from Kawhi Leonard. Kyle Lowry (20 points, 12 assists) and Pascal Siakam (15 points, 15 rebounds) each put forth impressive double-doubles while the Sixers were led by 31 points and 11 rebounds from Joel Embiid. While Ben Simmons flirted with a triple-double (11 points, 10 assists, eight rebounds), he committed 11 turnovers on the night.
The next meeting between the teams would come over a month later, and the Sixers had added Jimmy Butler to an already-talented roster. Butler made his presence felt, scoring a game-high 38 points to go along with 10 rebounds but Kawhi Leonard was too much, as he finished with 36 points, nine rebounds, five steals and a block to lead Toronto to an 11-point win. The Raptors dominated on the inside in the second meeting as Serge Ibaka finished with 18 points and eight rebounds and Jonas Valanciunas scored 26 points and grabbed eight rebounds in a reserve role; Joel Embiid scored just 10 points (on 5-for-17 shooting) and grabbed 12 rebounds.
The Sixers lone win came in the third meeting of the year when the Raptors were without Kawhi Leonard. Joel Embiid (27 points), Ben Simmons (26 points) and J.J. Redick (22 points) combined to score 75 points as Philadelphia earned a convincing 126-101 win at Wells Fargo Center. The Raptors were led by 26 points from Pascal Siakam and 20 points (on 6-for-16 shooting) from a hobbled Kyle Lowry.
In the fourth and final meeting between the two teams this season, Kawhi Leonard scored a team-high 24 points despite shooting 3-for-11 from the field as the Raptors earned a 12-point win in Philadelphia. While he had a rough shooting night, Toronto's All-Star forward converted on 16 of his 17 free throw attempts in the game to make his presence felt on the offensive end. Both Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka added 20 points apiece while Pascal Siakam finished with 16 points in the win. In a losing effort, Joel Embiid scored a game-high 37 points to go along with 13 rebounds and three blocks while Ben Simmons finished with 20 points, seven rebounds, six assists and six turnovers.
Key storyline: The Marc Gasol Effect
Both the Raptors and Sixers made a number of big moves during the regular season to bolster their respective rosters to better prepare for the postseason. Perhaps one of the biggest - quite literally - was Toronto's trade deadline move to acquire centre Marc Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies.
Gasol's passing ability has paid dividends for the Raptors, as evidenced by their increased efficiency on the offensive end. On the defensive end, Gasol has done an excellent job on interior scorers, most recently playing a large role in limiting Magic All-Star centre Nikola Vucevic to 11.2 points (on 36.2 FG%) in the first round.
It gets no easier this series, as Gasol will now be tasked with slowing down the Sixers All-NBA centre Joel Embiid, who averaged 24.8 points and 13.5 rebounds in their first-round series win over the Nets despite the fact he wasn't 100%.
While Gasol was not yet a member of the Raptors roster for any of their four meetings with the Sixers this season, he has an impressive track record against Embiid in his career.
The two have met five times and Gasol has had a hand in holding Embiid to averages of 14.0 points (on 34.4 FG%), 12.4 rebounds to go along with 4.4 turnovers per game. The Gasol-led Grizzlies were 3-2 against Embiid and the Sixers.
In four games against the Raptors this season, Embiid averaged 26.3 points, 11.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.8 blocks per game. His performance on the offensive end - and Gasol's ability to slow him down - could very well be what swings this series.
4 Players to Watch
vs. Philadelphia in 2018-19 (three games): 30.3 points (48.1 FG%, 50.0 3P%, 90.9 FT%), 7.7 rebounds, 4.0 steals, 2.7 assists
Leonard made his presence felt in the three games in which he took the floor against Philadelphia this season. Starting with a 31-point performance early on in the year, Kawhi was the Raptors leading scorer each time they defeated the Sixers.
Perhaps the most eye-popping stat from Leonard's three games against Philly this season derives from his ability to get to the line - Leonard averaged 11.0 free throw attempts through the three games, thanks in part to his going 16-for-17 from the line in a win in early Feb.
After averaging 27.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists in the Raptors first-round series win over the Magic, playoff Kawhi is in full effect; he'll look to continue his stellar play in the second round.
vs. Toronto in 2018-19 (four games): 16.3 points (62.8 FG%), 9.3 rebounds, 8.8 assists, 6.3 turnovers
Ben Simmons has an opportunity to reverse some recent misfortune that he's had against Leonard and the Sixers.
While the Sixers 23-year-old All-Star put up impressive numbers on efficient shooting splits, he has a clear issue with turning the ball over against Toronto. To open the season, Simmons committed a career-high 11 turnovers as the Raptors defence stifled him throughout the night.
Turnovers have been a season-long issue for the Sixers and it all begins with their point guard, who dictates the pace of the game with his unique blend of size, speed and playmaking ability. In Philly's three losses to Toronto, Simmons averaged 8.0 turnovers per game; he committed just one turnover in t
vs. Philadelphia in 2018-19 (four games): 16.8 points (40.7 FG%, 34.4 FG%), 6.8 assists, 3.5 rebounds, 1.8 steals
There's no question that Lowry, a proud native of North Philly, will be amped up for an opportunity to play postseason basketball in his hometown.
During the regular season, Lowry appeared in all four games against the Sixers and scored exactly 20 points in all games except one. The All-Star guard's worst scoring performance against Philly came during his early December slump, as he finished with just seven points (on 2-for-8 shooting), four assists and three steals.
Lowry's grit and ability to score can give the Sixers problems on the defensive end and could also be just what the Raptors need to steal a game at Wells Fargo Center. In his most recent game in Philadelphia, Lowry scored 20 points while connecting on five of his nine 3-point attempts and dished out six assists.
- Philadelphia has advanced to the second round in consecutive years for the first time since doing so in 2000 and 2001.
- Toronto has now advanced past the first round for four consecutive seasons.
- This is the second postseason meeting between the Raptors and Sixers, and the first since the 2001 Eastern Conference Semifinals. In that series, Allen Iverson and Vince Carter were engaged in one of the best duels in NBA history and Philadelphia won in seven games.
- The Sixers have lost 13 straight games at Scotiabank Arena - their last road win over the Raptors came on Nov. 10, 2012.
- Including the postseason, the Raptors are 34-10 at home while the Sixers are 22-21 on the road; home-court advantage could prove to be a big aspect of this series.