The 2019-20 NBA season is over halfway, which means it’s time to pay more attention to battles for playoff seeding. Both conferences have tight competition vying for playoff positioning after the two No. 1 seeds (Milwaukee Bucks in the East, Los Angeles Lakers in the West).
Two teams in the thick of the East seeding race will play each other today as the 29-16 Philadelphia 76ers visit the 29-14 Toronto Raptors (7 p.m. ET Wednesday on ESPN).
Both have beaten each other one time this season in close games. For this game, 76ers star center Joel Embiid is still out as he recovers from a torn ligament in his finger.
How will these teams fare against each other with seeding on the line? This preview will break the game down with a few questions and then give some betting recommendations with our Philadelphia 76ers at Toronto Raptors predictions.
Will This Be an “On” Game for the 76ers’ Bench Shooters?
The 76ers are not a good three-point shooting team, despite their record. They rank just 24th in the NBA in frequency of long-distance attempts and just 18th in accuracy of three-pointers.
Philly also doesn’t have a good bench, especially with Joel Embiid’s absence changing the starting lineup. What its reserves can do on occasion is hit threes. In fact, the value of reserves like Furkan Korkmaz, Raul Neto, Mike Scott and James Ennis is heavily tied to their shooting. The Sixers’ reserves hit a very strong eight threes on 19 attempts in Monday’s 117-111 victory over the Brooklyn Nets.
Maybe the most important thing about the Sixers’ reserves hitting threes is the space it opens up for Ben Simmons. Philly’s star point guard is totally incapable of shooting himself, but he is an ace passer and finisher who can slice up a defense if he has spot-up shooters firing confidently from the outside.
What Kind of Role Will Marc Gasol Play in This Game?
Normally in this Raptors-Sixers matchup, Gasol does a great job defending Sixers center Joel Embiid with his size and tremendous basketball IQ.
In this game, though, Embiid is out, which means Gasol will likely match up against Al Horford to start the game. Horford is a smaller, quicker finesse big man who will be at a size disadvantage against Gasol, but he will have a quickness advantage. This is especially true because Gasol has dealt with ankle and hamstring injuries this year.
That said, Gasol is a big body with a lot of skill, and he has shot the ball very well since returning from his hamstring injury last week. It will be interesting to see how well he can keep up with the 76ers’ quick frontcourt and if he can use his size to his advantage in this matchup without Embiid.
Will Ben Simmons Clearly Be the Best Player on the Floor?
If you were to put together a ranking of the best players in this game, you might get to about seven or eight Raptors before listing the Sixers’ fifth-best player. The point is, Toronto has a depth advantage here that can be really helpful in terms of keeping up the intensity for four quarters.
Sixers star Ben Simmons has been absolutely magnificent in the month of January in helping the team to a 5-2 record without Joel Embiid. He is averaging 21.7 points, 10.2 rebounds, 8.2 assists and 2.1 steals per game on 61.9 percent shooting from the field since the calendar flipped to 2020. When Simmons is playing well, that also means his teammates are playing well, since he creates so many good opportunities for others.
I would say Simmons or Pascal Siakam for the Raptors is probably the best player present for this game, since Embiid is out. If Siakam or another Raptor is better than Simmons or close to it, the Raptors should win here. If Simmons keeps playing like a superstar, the Sixers will have a great chance.
Our Betting Preview’s Philadelphia 76ers vs Toronto Raptors Picks & Predictions Verdict
I think the Raptors’ sheer amount of depth could be overwhelming for the Sixers. Toronto has a few very athletic, versatile defenders (especially OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson) it can rotate on Ben Simmons. That way, Simmons will always have a fresh defender playing him.
With Simmons somewhat limited, I think the rest of Philly’s roster will have trouble getting going in this game. These are my Philadelphia 76ers vs Toronto Raptors predictions for this preview:
- The Raptors are consistently a 6-point favorite with the American sportsbooks in this game. For the first of the picks, go with Toronto -6pts @ best odds of -105 with Bovada.
- I think this game will be an intense one with a grind-it-out playoff atmosphere where the Raptors’ versatile defenders are the difference. I recommend betting the under 218.5pts @ -115 with Bookmaker.