Raptors Cage

Raptors-76ers: First Round Preview

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on google
Share on email

What to know about the match-up between the two Atlantic Division rivals

Set it in stone, the Eastern Conference fifth-seed Toronto Raptors are playing the fourth-seed Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the 2021-2022 NBA Playoffs. Philadelphia gets their chance to avenge The Shot, while Toronto gets their opportunity to further a season that is already considered by many to be a resounding success.


Going into the season, Philadelphia was considered a heavyweight and one of the favourites to win the Eastern Conference. Preseason odds projected them as the third seed Eastern team, and also projected them to win approximately 50.5 games. Philadelphia would go on to finish the season as the fourth seed in a tightly contested race and outperform their projected win total, amassing 51 wins. Led by 7’1 MVP-candidate center Joel Embiid (30.6/11.7/4.2), who became the first center since Shaquille O’Neal in 1999-2000 to win the NBA scoring title, the 76ers are a difficult matchup. Given the major trade that 76ers GM Daryl Morey made in February for James Harden (22.0/7.7/10.3) and Paul Millsap (3.5/3.5/0.9), it is likely that their overall regular season numbers and tendencies are deceiving. The roster change is substantial, subtracting Ben Simmons (0/0/0), a former All-Star who played 0 games this year, Seth Curry (15.0/3.4/4.0), who was their most prolific three-point shooter, and Andre Drummond (6.1/8.8/2.0), who was their most efficient rebounder. Betting on former MVP James Harden to be the missing piece to complement Embiid is a rational move from the 76ers front office when you consider Toronto’s acquisition of Kawhi Leonard in 2018 that ultimately unlocked a championship run. That said, James Harden has not been playing up to the standard he established in Houston when he won MVP. It is possible that he has begun dismissing the importance of regular season play in favour of being fresh for the playoffs, a la Kawhi Leonard in Toronto, as Harden searches for his first career NBA championship. It is also possible that several years (2014-2020) of being a top player in the league by usage percentage and total minutes played has taken its toll, and that he is simply not capable of putting a team on his back offensively as he did while averaging 36.1 points per game and 7.5 assists on outstanding efficiency for the Houston Rockets in 2018-2019. The trade was undoubtedly the most talked-about trade of the 2021-2022 NBA season, and it is one of the reasons that the Philadelphia 76ers believe that they will win the championship. 

In the other corner stands the Toronto Raptors, a team that was expected to contend for a lottery draft pick and win approximately 35.5 games. The Raptors would go on to win 48 games in a season that saw them make the playoffs for the eighth time in nine years. Few foresaw the impact that rookie Scottie Barnes (15.3/7.5/3.5) would bring, as he would deliver a campaign that earned him Rookie of the Month x2, and a legitimate bid to be named Rookie of the Year. Led by a starting lineup of Fred VanVleet (20.3/4.4/6.7), Gary Trent Jr (18.3/2.7/2.0), Scottie Barnes, OG Anunoby (17.1/5.5/2.6), and Pascal Siakam (22.8/8.5/5.3), the Raptors finished the season strong, leaping several spots in the standings post-December, all the way up to the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. Every player in the starting lineup played heavy minutes. VanVleet, Trent Jr, Barnes and Siakam all qualified as top 14 players in the league in minutes per game, and Anunoby would have been 5th in the league, however he did not play in enough games to qualify. There were only 21 games where the entire starting lineup was available to play. All starters are slated as available to play in the first round. Back in September 2021, just before the season, recently re-signed Toronto Raptors President of Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri said “We’re not a team of ‘now’. There are going to be growing pains”. Some of those growing pains were evident early in the season, however the team consistently improved throughout the year. The question remains: how far can they go? Going into the playoffs against the 76ers, the Raptors are viewed by oddsmakers to be a first-round exit. In order to make it to the second round, they will need to contain the highest scoring seven-footer in the league while not having any seven-footers of their own. It is a difficult task ahead of them, although Toronto is 3-1 against Philadelphia this season and 16-7 all-time in the regular season against the 76ers since Embiid began playing for Philadelphia in 2016-2017. 

Stats Leaders

*The (__ in NBA) rankings only includes players who met the threshold of minimum games played to qualify for season rankings


Points – Joel Embiid, 30.6 points per game (1st in NBA)

Rebounds – Joel Embiid, 11.7 rebounds per game (5th in NBA)

Assists – James Harden, 10.3 assists per game (2nd in NBA)

Steals – Matisse Thybulle, 1.7 steals per game (8th in NBA)

Blocks – Joel Embiid, 1.5 blocks per game (9th in NBA)

Turnovers – James Harden, 3.4 turnovers per game (4.4 turnovers per game including Brooklyn stats, 2nd in NBA overall)

Three-point percentage – Tyrese Maxey, 0.427 3P% (3rd in NBA)


Points – Pascal Siakam, 22.8 points per game (15th in NBA)

Rebounds – Pascal Siakam, 8.5 rebounds per game (22nd in NBA)

Assists – Fred VanVleet, 6..7 assists per game (14th in NBA)

Steals – Fred VanVleet, 1.7 steals per game (3rd in NBA)

Blocks – Chris Boucher, 0.9 blocks per game (32nd in NBA)

Turnovers – Pascal Siakam, 2.7 (20th in NBA)

Three-point percentage – Gary Trent Jr, 0.383 3P% (53rd in NBA)

Team Stats


Record – 51-31 (8th in NBA)

Points – 109.9 (18th in NBA)

Rebounds – 42.3 (29th in NBA)

Assists – 23.7 (21st in NBA)

Steals – 7.7 (9th in NBA)

Blocks – 5.3 (6th in NBA)

Turnovers – 12.5 (4th in NBA)

Three-point percentage – 36.4 3P% (7th in NBA)


Record – 48-34 (10th in NBA)

Points – 109.4 (20th in NBA)

Rebounds – 45.3 (8th in NBA)

Assists – 22.1 (29th in NBA)

Steals – 9.0 (2nd in NBA)

Blocks – 4.6 (17th in NBA)

Turnovers – 12.5 (2nd in NBA)

Three-point percentage – 34.9 3P% (20th in NBA)


  • The two greatest Cameroonian basketball players of all time are Joel Embiid and Pascal Siakam, and they are both first options for their teams. 
  • For a team with arguably the best center in the league, the Philadelphia 76ers get outrebounded a lot. 
  • Matisse Thybulle, who grades out as Philadelphia’s best defender, is not fully vaccinated and thus ineligible to cross the border into Canada to play Philadelphia’s away games.
  • Rotations typically shorten in the playoffs. The Raptors have been playing with a short rotation all year. Does this make them more playoff-ready? Or does it make them too exhausted to compete with a shortened 76ers rotation?
  • Toronto plays an iso-heavy style of basketball, yet they grade out as just the 27th best team at Points Per Possession on iso possessions.
  • Toronto excels at turning the other team over and getting fastbreak opportunities by being 2nd in the league in steals per game and 5th in the league in transition possessions. The 76ers play almost exclusively at a standstill, ranking 29th in the league in transition possessions. 
  • With all the focus on Joel Embiid and James Harden, Toronto cannot afford to forget about Tyrese Maxey. He is a great shooter and very quick, similar to Gary Trent Jr. 
  • In the 2019 playoffs Toronto relied heavily on Marc Gasol to slow down Joel Embiid. They no longer have Gasol, or any 7’0 tall player for that matter. Slowing down Embiid must be a team effort. 

More Raptors Cage articles to read:

Raptors and Sixers are set to square off on Saturday – Neeraj Varma. Neeraj writes his own preview of the Raptors upcoming playoff series..

Please Don’t Go: A Poem to Nick Nurse – Drew Clutchey. Drew writes a hilarious poem about Nick Nurse’s tenure with Toronto amid rumours that the Lakers are seeking to sign the coach this summer.

Breaking Down The 5 Most Valuable Raptors Right Now – Drew Clutchey. Drew goes in-depth to examine who are the most important players to the Raptors future.

Raptors Playoff Primer – Me! I dive deeper into the Raptors season and outlook here in an article posted just after the Raptors officially clinched a playoff spot.


Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on google
Share on email

Leave a Comment