76ers

NBA Eastern Conference power rankings: As Bucks limp to finish line, Sixers starting to look dangerous

NBA Eastern Conference power rankings: As Bucks limp to finish line, Sixers starting to look dangerous

In this edition of our Eastern Conference power rankings, things are getting interesting at the top as we inch closer to the playoffs.

1. Bucks (53-19) Last ranking: 1
Milwaukee had one of its toughest weeks of the season. After the Bucks lost to the Sixers at home, they beat the Lakers before losing to the lowly Cavs. The biggest culprit is the injury bug which has ravaged their deep roster. Giannis Antetokounmpo missed two games with an ankle injury. Malcolm Brogdon and Nikola Mirotic are both out for an extended period. George Hill and Sterling Brown are also out. Milwaukee is limping to the finish line.

2. Raptors (51-21) Last ranking: 2 
There’s a chance Toronto could catch Milwaukee, though the Raptors are dealing with injury issues of their own. Kyle Lowry missed their win over the Thunder and will miss the rematch Friday night. Kawhi Leonard is still on his back-to-back restriction. The other thing I’m still curious about is Marc Gasol. He’s been OK. Meanwhile, Jonas Valanciunas has been really good for Memphis. He had a monster 33-point performance against the Rockets and has averaged 19.4 points over his last 11 games.

3. Sixers (47-25) Last ranking: 3 
Don’t look now, but the Sixers are the hottest team in the NBA. They’ve won six straight — including wins over Milwaukee and boogeyman Boston — and are now 7-1 when all five members of their new starting five are in the lineup. The Sixers have one of the easiest remaining schedules, but it seems unlikely that they’ll catch the Bucks. They appear to be a near-lock for the three seed.

I’m keeping them at three here only because of the body of work this season. With that said, the Sixers have to be looked at as a team nobody wants to face in the postseason. We’re just eight games into “Sixers 3.0.” This new starting unit may just be scratching the surface. Scary.

4. Celtics (43-29) Last ranking: 4
Boston continues to be one of the most confounding teams in the NBA. On some nights, they look unbeatable. On other nights … not so much. There still appears to be a struggle to mesh Kyrie Irving’s abilities as an iso player with Brad Stevens’ offensive system. It’s also evident that the Sixers picked on Irving defensively with great success Wednesday night. We won’t truly learn about the Celtics until the playoffs begin.

5. Pacers (44-29) Last ranking: 5
Indiana has dropped four in a row and that’s to be expected while missing All-Star Victor Oladipo and having one of the toughest schedules in the league to close out the season. The Pacers are clinging to the four seed but will likely drop and face off against Boston in the first round.

6. Pistons (37-34) Last ranking: 8
Detroit came back down to earth after its ridiculous run, but this is a team that’s figured some things out. The Pistons will go as far as Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond will take them, but it’s the recent resurgence of their perimeter players like Reggie Jackson, Wayne Ellington and Langston Galloway that’s fueled their recent success.

7. Nets (37-36) Last ranking: 6
I did struggle to drop Brooklyn because they did have a brutal road trip that took them to Oklahoma City, Utah, Los Angeles (to play the good L.A. team), and Sacramento. As their monster comeback against the Kings — in which D’Angelo Russell dropped 44 — shows, they can be wildly entertaining when playing well.

8. Heat (35-36) Last ranking: 7 
Miami is doing its best to hang on to that eighth seed with three impressive wins this week over the Hornets, Thunder and Spurs. Goran Dragic is rounding into form since returning to the lineup and has given Miami a huge boost off the bench. He averaged 22.3 points in the three wins and shot a sizzling 64 percent from three.

9. Magic (34-38) Last ranking: 9 
Orlando kept pace with Miami, winning three in a row as well. All three wins occurred after the arrival of Michael Carter-Williams. Coincidence? Yes, definitely.

10. Hornets (32-39) Last ranking: 10 
Charlotte gave the Sixers quite the scare, but it’s looking like the Hornets will come up short in their quest for the playoffs. It’s not surprising. All season in this space we referenced the need to get Kemba Walker help. That help never came.

11. Wizards (30-43) Last ranking: 11
Thomas Bryant looks like he might be a legitimate prospect. Other than that … #FreeBradleyBeal

12. Hawks (25-48) Last ranking: 12 
You have to respect what Lloyd Pierce is doing in Atlanta. The Hawks are coming off a nice win against Utah and Trae Young is making a late push to overtake Luka Doncic as Rookie of the Year. They won’t be a pushover for the Sixers Saturday.

13. Bulls (21-52) Last ranking: 13 
Same deal with the Bulls, who look like they might have something with the quartet of Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine, Otto Porter Jr. and Wendell Carter Jr. Though they’re playing to win, it would be something if they got the No. 2 pick and wound up with Murray State’s Ja Morant.

14. Cavs (19-53) Last ranking: 14 
Speaking of Morant, he’s looking like one hell of a consolation prize if Cleveland can’t get the No. 1 pick (again). A backcourt duo of Collin Sexton and Morant could run a few teams out of the building.

15. Knicks (14-58) Last ranking: 15 
They’re watching the NCAA Tournament with bated breath, hoping Zion Williamson gets delivered to them healthy.

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Oddsmakers set the betting odds on Sixers-Raptors series

Oddsmakers set the betting odds on Sixers-Raptors series

If the oddsmakers are right, we could be in for an exciting and long series between the Toronto Raptors and the Sixers. 

With both teams disposing of their first-round opponents in convincing fashion in the fifth game, the odds are set for a clash of Eastern Conference titans that could go the distance.

According to DraftKings, the Raptors are -200 favorites to win the series, meaning a $200 bet would return a total of $300. They have the Sixers listed at +150, meaning a $100 bet would return $250.

There are also odds available on DraftKings on the correct series score. The Raptors winning in seven games is the most likely outcome at +300. The second most likely outcome of the series is a Raptors win in five games, at +400, followed by a Sixers win in six, at +450.

The Sixers are now 20/1 to win the title, so a $100 bet would return a total of $2,100 for you to celebrate with as the Sixers parade down Broad Street.

Now, there are a few things to consider. First of all, there’s homecourt advantage. The Raptors have it and they were 32-9 at home this season. Typically, you’d then look at the head-to-head matchup for clues, but in this case, it feels irrelevant. 

The Raptors won the season series 3-1, but a deeper look would remind you that the Sixers' victory came against a Raptors team without their best player, Kawhi Leonard, and the three Raptors wins came against the Sixers before their trade for Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic and Mike Scott.

Finally, it’s important to note that the Sixers have never, ever beaten Leonard, dating back 13 meetings over the last eight years.

So, if you like the Raptors, it seems logical to make the bet on DraftKings now before Game One, where they’re favored by five points, and if you like the Sixers, it would make sense to wait and make your wager on FanDuel. While the series odds are not out yet on FanDuel, the Sixers are 26/1 to win the title on there as opposed to 20/1 on DraftKings. You might be able to get slightly better odds on the Sixers on there once the series odds are posted.

Either way, we expect a physical, fiery series between two teams who made upgrades for this kind of opportunity to advance in the playoffs.

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Sixers-Raptors second-round NBA playoff series starts with Game 1 Saturday

Sixers-Raptors second-round NBA playoff series starts with Game 1 Saturday

We already knew the opponent and now we know when the series will begin.

After dispatching of the Brooklyn Nets in five games, the Sixers will take on the Raptors for Game 1 in Toronto on Saturday, April 27 at 7:30 p.m. or 8 on TNT. 

The Sixers will play at 7:30 p.m. if the Spurs-Nuggets series goes to a Game 7 (Spurs-Nuggets would be at 10). If there's no Game 7 in that Spurs-Nuggets series, the Sixers will play at 8 p.m. on Saturday.

Down 3-2, the Spurs host the Nuggets in Game 6 on Thursday night at 8 p.m., so we'll know after that game what time the Sixers' game on Saturday will begin. 

Here are the schedule details released by the league:

• Game 1, at Raptors — Saturday, April 27, TBD, TNT
• Game 2, at Raptors — Monday, April 29, TBD, TNT
• Game 3, vs. Raptors — Thursday, May 2, 8 p.m., ESPN
• Game 4, vs. Raptors — Sunday, May 5, 3:30 p.m., ABC
• *Game 5, at Raptors — Tuesday, May 7, TBD, TNT
• *Game 6, vs. Raptors — Thursday, May 9, TBD, ESPN
• *Game 7, at Raptors — Sunday, May 12, TBD, TNT

*if necessary

Scotiabank Arena has been a house of horrors for the Sixers. They’ve lost 13 straight there. Their last win came on Nov. 10, 2012, with Lavoy Allen in the starting lineup. Kawhi Leonard has also never lost to the Sixers in his NBA career, going a perfect 13-0. It's fair to note that a lot of that damage was done during The Process and that Toronto has yet to see "Sixers 3.0" this season.

Games 1 and 2 will be at the Scotiabank Arena, before coming to the Wells Fargo Center for Games 3 and 4. Games 5 and 7 would be at Scotiabank Arena and Game 6 would be at the Wells Fargo Center, if necessary. 

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