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Predictions for Game 4 of Sixers vs. Raptors playoff series

Predictions for Game 4 of Sixers vs. Raptors playoff series

The Sixers, after an impressive 116-95 Game 3 win, are two victories away from advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Paul Hudrick and Noah Levick give their predictions for Game 4.

Hudrick 

Three games in, this series is starting to take shape and have themes.

Kawhi Leonard is really freaking good, but the Raptors appear super reliant on the three-time All-Star. Even as Leonard went nuts in the third quarter of Game 3, the closest he could get his team was within eight. Pascal Siakam has cooled off and is now doubtful for Game 4 with a calf injury. Who will step up for Toronto offensively?

After a tough Game 1, Jimmy Butler has looked like everything Elton Brand traded for and then some. Now that Joel Embiid has confidence against Marc Gasol, he’s as dangerous as ever. JJ Redick has quietly been solid on both ends. While Tobias Harris and Ben Simmons have had their moments, we still haven’t seen either player have the offensive performances they’re capable of.

The Sixers’ defense is just on another level right now, holding the Raptors below 100 points in two straight. They’ve continued to dominate the boards and even cut down the turnovers in Game 3. Even their bench has dominated Toronto’s through three games.

With how the Sixers have looked and how little the Raptors are getting out of everyone not named Kawhi, it’s hard to pick against the home team in this one — especially if Siakam can’t go. The Sixers take a commanding 3-1 lead and will have a chance to punch their ticket for the Eastern Conference Finals Tuesday night in Toronto.

Levick 

Brett Brown was asked after Game 3 whether he thinks the Sixers have the best player in this series. 

Brown, who often favors expansive responses, simply said, “Yes.”

Even if you don’t agree with Brown, the fact that the question is at least debatable after Joel Embiid’s dominant Game 3 is problematic for the Raptors. Toronto has been outscored by 32 points and shot just 12 for 50 (24 percent) in the 27 minutes Kawhi Leonard hasn’t been on the floor. Unless Kyle Lowry comes through with a breakout game, Danny Green knocks down a flurry of three-point shots or the injured Pascal Siakam plays and replicates what he did in Game 1, the Raptors need Leonard to supply an obscenely large chunk of their offense. He’s scored 38.7 percent of their points in this series.

I expect Fred VanVleet to make a field goal and Lowry to shoot better than 20 percent from the floor in Game 4. But I don’t foresee Lowry shaking free from Jimmy Butler and having a massive night. He’s been smothered by Butler through the series’ first three games, shooting 6 for 21 against him, per NBA.com/Stats. 

You have to search for ways the Raptors would win Game 4, while you don’t have to conjure reasons to pick the Sixers. They looked like the bigger, better team in Game 3, and it didn’t seem fluky. No need to overcomplicate it — I think they’ll win Game 4 as well. 

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Sixers vs. Hawks: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

Sixers vs. Hawks: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

The shorthanded Sixers (35-22) will look to get right against the Hawks (17-41) at the Wells Fargo Center Monday night.

The Sixers come into the matchup with an NBA-best 26-2 mark at home but will have to contain the dangerous Trae Young.

Here are the essentials for tonight’s game:

When: 7 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 6:30
Where: Wells Fargo Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

And here are three storylines to watch:

The injury bug has struck

It appeared the Sixers could be set up to go on a run after the All-Star break. Their schedule was softening up, they acquired two more players for depth and they were healthy.

So much for the healthy part.

We already know Ben Simmons will be out as we await the results of more testing on the lower back injury he irritated Saturday night in Milwaukee. 

It appears the Sixers could be down another starter as Tobias Harris will be listed as questionable — upgraded from doubtful — with a right knee contusion. Harris landed awkwardly during a drive against the Bucks and immediately grabbed his right knee. Through the rest of the game, Harris looked to be favoring the knee. The 27-year-old is a gamer, but it’s fair to wonder if he should’ve continued to play, especially once the game appeared to get away from the Sixers.

Simmons and Harris have been two of the team's most durable players. Simmons has played 214 of a possible 221 games during his three-year career. Harris is the only Sixer that’s played in all 57 games this season. He’s played at least 80 games in each of the previous three seasons.

All about Embiid

With his teammates banged up, it’s time for a (mostly) healthy Joel Embiid to step up. After the team’s win over Brooklyn last Thursday, Embiid said he was “the best player in the world.” On Saturday night, reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo’s play did the talking.

To Embiid’s credit, he has been playing at another gear over his last few games. He had a tough night from the field against the Bucks (5 of 18), but the second quarter — the only period the Sixers won in the game — showed how the team can play around Embiid when the All-Star center is focused and running rim to rim.

He scored 12 points, going 3 of 8 from the field and 6 of 7 from the line. That was the Sixers’ best quarter against Antetokounmpo as well. Embiid held the Greek Freak to just five points and the Sixers were within six at the half.

With newcomer Clint Capela out (plantar fasciitis), Atlanta will have to rely on veteran Dewayne Dedmon and rookie Bruno Fernando to try to contain Embiid. Count on Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce, a former Brett Brown assistant, to aggressively double Embiid all night.

Young locked in

Young is dangerous and looking to play spoiler with the Hawks well out of the playoff picture. In his two games since the break, the All-Star guard has put up 75 points and 18 assists combined in wins over the playoff-bound Heat and Mavericks.

The biggest thing the Sixers will have to focus on with Young is not fouling. In the last matchup in Atlanta, Young was 18 of 20 from the line. With Simmons out, it’ll likely fall on Josh Richardson and rookie Matisse Thybulle to try to contain him.

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Sixers injury update: Ben Simmons out for Hawks game with back injury, will have additional evaluation Monday

Sixers injury update: Ben Simmons out for Hawks game with back injury, will have additional evaluation Monday

Ben Simmons went through an initial evaluation on his back Sunday in Philadelphia, will have an additional evaluation Monday and is out for the Sixers’ game tomorrow night vs. the Atlanta Hawks, a team source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia. 

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported the news.

Simmons missed Thursday’s game vs. the Nets with lower back soreness and irritated the injury in the first quarter Saturday night against the Bucks. 

Head coach Brett Brown said Thursday that Simmons was injured at the team’s practice Wednesday.

“It was a play where he went up for a rebound and I looked over and he left the court, and went and got treatment,” Brown said. “And it has played out as it has played out. We don’t believe it’s anything too significant.”

After drawing a foul on Milwaukee’s Brook Lopez with 7:21 left in the first on a running hook shot, Simmons put his hands on his knees and appeared in discomfort. He stayed in to make 1 of 2 free throws, and the Sixers then had Matisse Thybulle commit a foul to stop the game and allow Simmons to return to the locker room.

Before Saturday, Simmons had been averaging 16.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 7.9 assists this season in a team-high 36.3 minutes per game. The two-time All-Star has an NBA-best 115 steals. 

Simmons had entered the All-Star break strong, with a 26-point triple-double in the Sixers’ Feb. 11 win over the Clippers. 

He’d posted 20.9 points, 9.2 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game in the final 18 contests before the All-Star Game, shooting 68.9 percent from the foul line during that stretch. When Joel Embiid was out with a torn ligament in his left ring finger, Simmons had carried the Sixers to a 6-3 record. 

With 25 regular-season games remaining, the Sixers are 35-22 and fifth in the Eastern Conference standings. They have a 26-2 home record, best in the NBA, and a 9-20 away mark that’s the worst of any team currently in a playoff position. The team’s remaining schedule is the easiest in the league.

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