Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:58 AM

Thursday's Playoff Tips

Both Eastern Conference semifinal series are knotted up at 1-1 with the venues shifting to Boston and Philadelphia. After the Celtics routed the Bucks in Game 1 at Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee turned the tables on the Celtics with a 21-point blowout in Game 2 to improve to 22-1 SU and 19-4 ATS off a loss this season.

Meanwhile, the 76ers bounced back nicely from a series opening defeat at Toronto to pull even with the Raptors in Monday’s 94-89 victory as 7 ½-point underdogs at Scotiabank Arena. Philadelphia jumped out to a 51-38 halftime edge, while leading by as many as 18 points in the first half. However, Toronto rallied back to cut the deficit to two late in the third quarter. Philadelphia built back the lead to 13 points halfway through the fourth quarter, but Toronto crawled back with a chance to tie it late as Danny Green’s open three-point look bounced out.

Although the 76ers scored fewer points in their Game 2 win (94) than their Game 1 loss (95), Philadelphia ended a 14-game losing streak at Toronto dating back to 2012. Jimmy Butler led the Sixers with 30 points following a 10-point effort in the series opener, while Philadelphia won in spite of only two made field goals and 12 points from Joel Embiid. Philadelphia made less than 40% of its shots from the floor, but the Sixers stepped up at the foul line by knocking down 24-of-26 free throws.

The Raptors received huge contributions from three players and nothing from the rest of their roster. Kawhi Leonard put together a game-high 35 points, Pascal Siakam scored 21 points (on 9-of-25 shooting), and Kyle Lowry posted a 20-point effort for Toronto, who received 13 points from the other six players who took the court. The Raptors were outrebounded for the second straight game, this time by a 52-36 count after Philadelphia collected seven more boards than Toronto in the opener.

The total for Game 3 opened at 217 ½ and was quickly pushed up to 219 ½ even though the ‘under’ has gone 2-0 in this series. Chris David of offered up his thoughts on the ‘over/under’ for Thursday’s third installment.

“I thought the oddsmakers sent out a solid number and I was a little surprised that the early action jumped on the ‘over’ in Game 3. Toronto’s defense has been lights out in the playoffs and that’s led to a 6-1 ‘under’ mark. In their two road games at Orlando in the first round, the Raptors held the Magic to 93 and 85 points. Will the unit come to play again while stepping up in class at Philadelphia? Your answer to that question will likely factor into both your side and total leans,” said David.

“Philadelphia was one of the best home teams (31-10) in the regular season and it went 2-1 versus Brooklyn while scoring 145 and 122 points. I note those results because the key to the 76ers is their offense and they’ve had a huge difference in scoring at home (118.6 PPG) than on the road (111.8 PPG). Philadelphia has used its homecourt to its advantage this season, especially out of the gate in the first quarter. The 76ers lead the league with 31.2 PPG at home in the first 12 minutes and I’d ride that trend on Thursday, plus I would look at the Philadelphia Team Total Over (108) as well.” NBA expert Tony Mejia checks in with his thoughts on Game 3, “Only the Warriors and Bucks had a better regular-season road record than the Raptors, who imposed their will against Orlando as a visitor twice in the first round. After stealing Game 2 despite Embiid looking like a shell of himself, Philadelphia is in excellent shape but needs Tobias Harris and J.J. Redick to join Butler in helping to spread the floor and push the pace. Toronto has shown its capable of slowing the 76ers down and can defend Embiid straight up since Marc Gasol plays him so well, so tempo should play a huge role in Game 3 and I think we’ll see the home team try to speed things up. Philadelphia played the fastest-paced series of the first round against Brooklyn but failed to crack 100 points against Toronto despite leaving Scotiabank Arena with a split.”

Since 2017, the Raptors are 1-4 in Game 3’s of a playoff series, including double-digit losses at Washington (’18 first round) and Milwaukee (’17 first round). However, Toronto ended up winning both those series in six games and clinched with the fourth victory coming on the road. In the previous three postseasons, the Raptors lost 14 of 19 games away from Scotiabank Arena before winning the first two games in the opening round against Orlando.

The 76ers and Raptors split a pair of meetings in Philadelphia this season. The Sixers routed the Raptors on December 22 at Wells Fargo Center, 126-101 as seven-point favorites, led by Embiid’s 27 points and 26 points from Ben Simmons. Leonard sat out for Toronto that night as the 76ers outscored the Raptors in the second half, 61-42.

Toronto won the second matchup in Philadelphia in February, 119-107 as 2 ½-point underdogs. Leonard converted only three field goals, but knocked down 16 free throws to lead Toronto with 24 points. The Raptors attempted 89 shots compared to 70 by Philadelphia, while the Sixers hit 38-of-41 free throw attempts. Since January 2015, the Raptors have won seven of 10 visits to Philadelphia, while the OVER has cashed seven times, although the February meeting went UNDER the total of 230 ½.

You can reach Kevin Rogers via e-mail at [email protected]

Kevin Rogers can be followed on Twitter at virogers.

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