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Predictions for Game 5 of Sixers vs. Raptors playoff series

Predictions for Game 5 of Sixers vs. Raptors playoff series

The Sixers will be back at Wells Fargo Center Thursday. The only question is whether they'll be playing to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals or to stay alive.

Paul Hudrick and Noah Levick give their predictions for Game 5.

Hudrick 

With things knotted at 2-2, there is one big X-factor for the remainder of the series: Joel Embiid’s health.

You saw what a healthy Embiid could do in Game 3. When Embiid and Jimmy Butler are clicking at the same time, forget it. Embiid is the Sixers’ best player. He’s their “crown jewel,” as Brett Brown is fond of saying. If they can get him right, they have a great chance to take this series.

Kawhi Leonard has been otherworldly and there likely isn’t much you can do to stop him. With that said, the Sixers have won two of the last three — painfully close to all three — with Leonard playing at an absurd level. Depth may have appeared to be one of the Raptors’ biggest advantages, but even in Game 4, the Sixers looked like the deeper team.

I don’t think it matters what lineup either coach throws out or whatever adjustments they make. While it would be nice for Ben Simmons to give something more offensively or Tobias Harris to find his groove again, there is nothing more important to the rest of this series than Embiid.

With only one day to recover and a travel day mixed in, I don’t like Embiid’s chances to make a full recovery in time for Game 5. If the IVs do the trick, maybe Embiid breaks out again, but I see the Sixers returning to the Wells Fargo Center Thursday with their season on the line.

Levick 

I understand why the Raptors are healthy favorites to win this game.

The Sixers missed an excellent opportunity to take command of the series in Game 4, and Joel Embiid’s health is a seemingly perpetual question as the series shifts back to Scotiabank Arena.

Kawhi Leonard was special in Game 4, but Toronto wouldn’t have won without their secondary players finally giving him some help. Marc Gasol scored 16 points, his most in a game since March 30, while Kyle Lowry, Danny Green and Serge Ibaka were also in double figures. Look for more of the Gasol-Ibaka frontcourt in Game 5 as a means to counter the Sixers’ size. 

Game 4 didn’t change my sense that the Sixers are the better team. Leonard has to play at a historic level and his teammates need to support him for the Raptors to win. Jimmy Butler is demanding more offensive aggression from Ben Simmons and Embiid, reasonably enough, but it’s worth noting they still could have won Sunday if Tobias Harris had shot better than 2 for 13 from three-point range.

Excessive confidence or insufficient intensity shouldn’t be problems for either team. At this point, both the Sixers and Raptors respect their opponents and know full well how important this game is. I think the Sixers win it.

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Ben Simmons puts on early show, Joel Embiid comes on late as Team LeBron beats Team Giannis in NBA All-Star Game

Ben Simmons puts on early show, Joel Embiid comes on late as Team LeBron beats Team Giannis in NBA All-Star Game

The Sixers were well represented by Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons at the 2020 NBA All-Star Game in Chicago Sunday.

Ultimately, Team LeBron won a thrilling — well, at least the fourth quarter was — game over Team Giannis, 157-155, on an Anthony Davis free throw. Kawhi Leonard won the newly named Kobe Bryant All-Star Game MVP Award scoring a game-high 30 points.

Embiid, playing without the splint on his left hand for the first time since having surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left ring finger, got Team Giannis on the board with an early dunk.

Then Simmons put on a show.

Simmons had 10 points, three rebounds and three assists in the first half.

The NBA decided to break away from its traditional game format, making each quarter its own mini-game. That means each period had its own tip-off.

And would you look at who was squaring off to start the second.

(Simmons won the tip, by the way)

Not to be outdone, Embiid had a couple fancy dunks of his own as Team Giannis built a lead in the third.

Simmons also had this beauty of a put-back dunk for good measure.

He took a spill at the end but appeared no worse for wear for the rest of the game.

Another wrinkle in the new format this year is that the fourth quarter wasn’t timed, and the teams played to a “target score.” In honor of Kobe Bryant, the “target score” was 157 — 24 more points than what Team Giannis, who was in the lead, had total heading into the fourth quarter.

With Team Giannis nearing that point total, Embiid made his presence felt down the stretch, including dropping this nasty Dream Shake on LeBron James.

Both Embiid (22 points, 10 rebounds) and Simmons (17 points, six rebounds, five assists, two steals) showed why they were selected for the game.

They’ll return to the court for the Sixers Thursday against the Nets at the Wells Fargo Center.

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Sixers Talk podcast: Are the Sixers still a Finals contender?

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NBCSP/USA Today Images

Sixers Talk podcast: Are the Sixers still a Finals contender?

The Sixers are off to a solid start for any team, but the Sixers were built to be a championship contender. Danny Pommells and Anthony Gilbert discuss that and who will take up the open role in the starting lineup on this edition of Sixers Talk, presented by Wilmington University.

• Are the Sixers still a Finals contender? (2:00)

• Who will move into the starters lineup in place of Al Horford? (6:34)

• Did the Sixers miss on the trade deadline? (10:31)

• This team lacks veteran leadership (20:42)

• Story time with Anthony Gilbert (29:03)

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