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.
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.
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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