Philadelphia at Toronto
Time: 7 PM CT, ESPN
Spread: TOR -6.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Toronto Raptors lead the Eastern Conference at 20-5 with a 10-2 mark on the road. It will travel to face the No. 3 team in the East, the Philadelphia 76ers as 6.5-point favorites according to NBA oddsmakers at 5dimes. The game will air at 7 PM CT on ESPN as the first of an ESPN Wednesday night doubleheader and it has an over/under set at 229 points.
The Toronto Raptors most recently had an eight-game win streak snapped at home against the Denver Nuggets, losing 106-103 as Nikola Jokic turned in another masterful performance for the Nuggets. The Denver center finished with a triple-double, amassing 23 points, 15 assists, and 11 rebounds for the 16-7 Nuggets. Toronto still shot 46 percent from the field in the game and was led by Kawhi Leonard’s 27 points on 10 of 19 shooting. Leonard has more than filled the scoring void left by DeMar DeRozan who he was traded for.
Additionally, Leonard brings a defensive presence that has helped the Raptors become a more dangerous team still. Not to be lost in Leonard’s brilliance has been the emergence of power forward Pascal Siakem, who is now showing all the signs of becoming a star. Over his last ten games, Siakem has averaged 16 points, 3.5 assists and 6.3 rebounds per game while shooting 63 percent from the field. On the season, he is averaging 14.8 points, 2.6 assists, and 6.4 rebounds—illustrating that his rise over the past 10 games has been worth taking note of.
The Raptors are led by perhaps the best point guard in the East in Kyle Lowry, who is averaging 15 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 10.3 assists per game. Toronto’s top five players all have a PER of 19.6 or greater, with Lowry being the lowest at 19.6. Serge Ibaka has thrived after a couple down seasons, and Jonas Valanciunas has a new role as Toronto’s bench leader. The Raptors have superb depth to be able to bring Jonas off the bench, where he joins a second unit that includes promising second-year forward OG Annoy and sharpshooting guard Fred VanVleet. The hope in Toronto is that with LeBron James now in the Western Conference, the Raptors can make a meaningful playoff run that is not thwarted by the eight-time repeating Conference champion in James. Toronto has been knocking on the door for several seasons, but this might finally be its year.
The Philadelphia 76ers are 17-8 and recently added Jimmy Butler to the fold. Butler seems happy as can be in Philly after expressing his misery outright and frequently before the Minnesota Timberwolves traded him. Butler has averaged 18 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.9 assists in 10 games with the Sixers, comfortably becoming the No. 2 option in the offense.
Philly seemingly has a very well rounded team with all the right pieces intact now: It has the league’s most dominant young big man in Joel Embiid, a dynamic point-forward in Ben Simmons, and a sharpshooting JJ Redick, who only seems to get better with age.
Gone are Dario Saric and Robert Covington, but Saric never really seemed to maximize his potential in the shadow of both Simmons and Embiid, while Butler is too much of a veteran to fall into the shadows and be forgotten. The enigma surrounding Markelle Fultz has been ongoing, as he has been mentioned in trade talks and was recently diagnosed with a condition that is said to affect his neck and arm motions (resulting in his issues shooting the ball so awkwardly).
That notwithstanding, Philadelphia has enough talent that Fultz not really panning out (yes it is early) may not matter so much. Landry Shamet is shining as a rookie and Mike Muscala is a good shooting big man off the bench, as well. The Sixers play its top-five players all 32 more minutes a night, with the exception of Redick (who plays 30.5), but there is enough depth to form a cohesive eight or nine-man rotation when the playoffs come, even if Fultz ultimately is never a part of the first or second units.