With their backs against the wall, the Philadelphia 76ers returned home to the Wells Fargo Center to take Game 6 and level their Eastern Conference Semifinals series with the Toronto Raptors.
Now, both teams face a win-or-go-home scenario as it is time for the best words in sports: Game 7 (7 PM ET Sunday).
Who wants it more?
It sounds stupid, but sometimes a game or a series can come down to something as simple as that. Throw talent out the window, throw matchups out the window. Sometimes, effort is enough and given the way this series has gone, it would not be surprising at all to see the team who shows up wanting it more, being the one to win.
Now, it’s a somewhat complicated and controversial statement, to say one team wants it more than another. It’s the NBA playoffs and even if it weren’t, as a professional athlete, your goal is to win every game you play. Of course both the Raptors and Sixers want to win this game, advance to the next series and keep their playoff hopes alive. That’s not in doubt. At the end of the day and when the dust settles on Game 7, one of these teams is going to have wanted it more.
Take Game 6 for example. The Sixers, led by young stars, could have shrunk away under the pressure and the humiliation of their demoralizing 36-point loss, but they didn’t. They opened Game 6 up strong and with each Raptors run to close the gap, the Sixers never quite let them get there. At multiple times during the game, the same team that barely showed up to play a game prior, had leads of 20+ points. The Raptors couldn’t close things out in Philadelphia, because the Sixers wanted it more. In some ways, the same can be said for Game 5, where Philadelphia could have taken their own 3-2 series lead. The team played like garbage with little to no effort. Toronto, knowing they needed to go into Philadelphia leading the series, wanted it more.
This is do-or-die. The loser goes home and the winner goes on to face the Milwaukee Bucks. Both teams have played well at times during this series. Both have also played like they don’t know what a basketball is or how to shoot it. While neither team has tried to lose, both have had times where it seemed they didn’t want it or just didn’t want it enough. There is no alternative to winning Game 7. It’s not a scenario where you have another chance. If either the Sixers or Raptors don’t want it, they are going home. Whichever one wants it more, is going to advance. Stats and conventional wisdom aside, it really could be as simple as that.
Philly’s X-Factor: Joel Embiid
As much as I firmly believe effort and desire is going to be the biggest factor in which team advances to the Eastern Conference Finals, I wouldn’t expect anyone to place money simply on a platitude such as that. So consider effort as the overarching theme, the umbrella as it were. Underneath that umbrella are the players who will be tasked with showing that effort and namely for the Sixers, that’s Joel Embiid.
This is not intended to call out Embiid’s effort this series or throughout the playoffs. Embiid finished all four games he played against the Brooklyn Nets with double-doubles, averaging 24.7 points and 13.5 rebounds for the series. Both marks led the team and were among the top of all playoff teams. So far against the Raptors, Embiid has posted just one game of scoring over 20 points. When the Sixers have needed him the most, Embiid has come up small, in part it seems, due to various infections and illnesses he has been fighting. In the first half of Game 6, Embiid seemed sluggish and uncomfortable and missed all of his shots. Though, his presence on the court was still noted as the team had a plus/minus of +30 when he was out there. In the second half, Embiid came alive and he finished with his best line since the third game of the series, 17 points and 12 rebounds.
A healthy Embiid, and to a lesser but still important extent, a game Ben Simmons (which we also saw in Game 6) bodes well for the Sixers. With these two at their best, Philadelphia has a better team on paper. Add in Jimmy Butler’s consistent and reliable performances this series as he has carried the team on his back, and you have got a Sixers team that would be tough for any opponent to beat. It all hinges, first and foremost, on the Process and what he’ll bring to the table Sunday night. Good Embiid, the Sixers win. Bad Embiid, it’s going to be a long flight home from Toronto.
Toronto’s X-Factor: Kyle Lowry
Kawhi Leonard is one of the best players in the NBA. Pascal Siakam is well on his way to being named the Comeback Player of the Year. So that leaves Kyle Lowry to be Toronto’s third top option, much the way the Sixers have Butler, Embiid and Simmons. It has been Lowry’s production, or in some cases, lack thereof, that has been a story in this series.
After the Sixers took a 2-1 lead following a 21-point Game 3 victory, one that made the series feel all but in hand, commentators and basketball analysts all seemed to be in agreement: Lowry needed to step up. In Game 4, he did, notching 14 points on 6-of-13 shooting. It still wasn’t enough, but the Raptors won anyway thanks to a monster game by the series’ best player in Leonard. In the Game 6 drubbing, Lowry continued to up his game to the tune of 19 points, six rebounds and five assists. Then, when the Raptors had a chance to close it out and Lowry was back to the arena he had often played college ball at Villanova, he came up small, struggling from the field and scoring just 13 points.
The Raptors and Sixers have both had their issues with bench production. It is the starters that have been the stars and without Lowry and by a lesser extent Marc Gasol, who has also been largely absent, the Raptors have just two top players to contend with three for Philadelphia. It’s basic math that three is greater than two and while Leonard is the best player on either side, without Lowry at least offering something positive, Toronto could struggle to match Philadelphia.
Our Preview’s Sixers vs Toronto Raptors Game 7 Picks & Betting Predictions Verdict
One last thing to consider is the importance of home court advantage. There is no doubt the Sixers won Game 6 due to the raucous Wells Fargo Center crowd. The atmosphere matched the play and vice versa. Game 7 is back in Toronto and the last time this series was in Toronto, the Sixers lost by 36 points. That likely won’t be the case again, though, if Philadelphia gets down early, the crowd could play a factor. Our Philadelphia 76ers vs Toronto Raptors Game 7 predictions are:
- The Raptors enter as six point favorites with the legal, offshore United States’ bookmakers and right now, with my prediction leaning towards a Sixers victory, take Philadelphia +6pts @ best odds of -105 with Bookmaker. It is -110 with Bovada and the other top sportsbooks.
- Look for a total points on the north side of 209pts @ -110 with any of Bovada, Intertops, BetOnline or Bookmaker.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.