The No. 4 Philadelphia 76ers and No. 5 Toronto Raptors will face off in the first round of the 2022 NBA playoffs. The Sixers finished the regular season with a 51-31 record, while the Raptors went 48-34. For what it's worth, Toronto won the regular-season series over the Sixers, 3-1.
The two teams have met in the postseason twice previously, both times in the conference semifinals. Philadelphia bested Toronto in 2001, while Toronto got some revenge in 2019. Both of those series went the full seven games, so if this year's series is anything like the previous two, we can expect a battle.
Here's a look at the game information, storylines and a prediction for the first game of the series.
(4) Philadelphia 76ers vs. (5) Toronto Raptors
- When: Saturday, April 16 | 6 p.m. ET
- Where: Wells Fargo Center -- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- TV: ESPN | Live stream: fuboTV (Try free)
- Odds: PHI -4.5 I O/U 216.5 (via Caesars Sportsbook)
76ers: The Sixers will be without their best perimeter defender for each away game in the series due to Canada's restriction guidelines regarding COVID-19. Matisse Thybulle is not fully vaccinated, and thus is unable to travel to Toronto with his teammates. This means he will miss Games 3, 4 and 6 (if necessary). The obvious question here is how much of an impact will Thybulle's absence have on the series? We'll find out the answer to that soon enough, but his absence certainly has the potential to be pretty impactful.
The Raptors have several potent perimeter players, and the Sixers aren't especially deep when it comes to reliable wing defenders behind Thybulle. Danny Green, Thybulle's replacement in the starting lineup, is still solid defensively in spurts, but he can't be looked at as a lock-down defender at this point in his career. Outside of Embiid, no one else on Philadelphia's roster is known for their defensive prowess, so that has to be a concern for Philadelphia. The entire team will need to step up on that end in order to mask not having Thybulle.
Raptors: The Raptors are a deep, talented team. But one thing they don't have is a good individual matchup for Joel Embiid. Like most teams across the league's landscape, Toronto doesn't have any single player who is capable of matching Embiid's combination of physicality and athleticism, and thus they are forced to guard the MVP candidate via scheme and committee.
What this means is that Toronto will throw a variety of defenders and coverages at Embiid. Sometimes it will be a hard double-team, sometimes it will be a softer double, while other times it may be a zone. This approach is designed to keep Embiid from getting too comfortable against any specific coverage -- to keep him on his toes, as they say. This is one area where we'll get a good look at the chess match between Doc Rivers and Nick Nurse. It will be extremely interesting to see exactly how the Raptors opt to approach defending Embiid, and how Embiid -- and the Sixers -- react.
Look for Joel Embiid to try to set the tone early in the series for the Sixers with a big game in Game 1. Plus, in the games that he can play, Matisse Thybulle will likely look to make a major impact. It could prove to be a long series, but look for Philadelphia to strike first. Pick: 76ers -4.5