The Philadelphia 76ers looked like they had firm control of their seven-game series with Atlantic Division champs, Toronto Raptors. The Sixers stole Game 2 on the road and then held serve at home in Game 3 to grab an early 2-1 series lead.
It’s been all downhill from there.
Philly has since lost the last two games, failing to score 100 points in either contest. After Tuesday night’s beatdown, the Sixers return home in what is now a must-win Game 6 on Thursday night.
Pennsylvania sportsbooks will most likely be busy with action as many local fans will be rooting Philly will be able to bounce back and force a decisive Game 7. Online sportsbooks in New Jersey are showing the Sixers as two-point underdogs for Thursday’s tilt.
Even though there aren’t any PA sports betting apps available just yet, there’s plenty of retail sportsbooks across the state. Philadelphia sports betting enthusiasts will have to find the closest land-based sportsbook to get some money down on their 76ers.
The Sixers struggle
The Sixers have had a tough time in the last two games. They entered the fourth quarter tied in Game 4, only to surrender a Kawhi Leonard 3-pointer with around a minute remaining. The Raptors went on to win by five.
Game 6 was even more of a struggle. An encouraging first quarter went by the wayside as Philly proceeded to lose the second quarter by 20 points.
What’s been very evident in the last two games is the difference in effectiveness between the team’s two biggest stars. Joel Embiid is being outplayed by Leonard consistently and the Sixers have no shot to advance to the next round if that continues.
Part of the issue is Embiid’s health. The star center has been battling an upper-respiratory virus of some sort the last few days and it’s clearly hurting his play on the court.
Embiid had just 11 points on seven shots in Game 4, while he added 13 points on 10 attempts in Game 5. In order for the Sixers to reach their first Eastern Conference Finals since 2001, he’ll need to overcome his sickness or at least play better with it.
Even though the Sixers have plenty of playmakers like Jimmy Butler, Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris, Embiid is the straw that stirs the drink. When he’s not right, Philly is a shell of itself.
Key to winning: Stopping Leonard
Although he’s clearly one of the NBA’s best players, Philadelphia has to figure out a way to slow down Kawhi Leonard. Before Game 5, Leonard had scored at least 33 points in each of this series’ games.
Leonard only had 21 points in the last matchup, but that was more so because of how the Raptors were controlling the game. The All Star was able to get his teammates more involved in Game 5 and Leonard was able to play the least amount of minutes of any game in the series.
Despite the “slower” performance, Leonard is averaging almost 35 points per game still. Philadelphia and coach Brett Brown should implement something new defensively to try to slow the powerful forward down in the final two games.
It’s obviously easier said than done, but forcing Leonard to be a facilitator rather than scorer would be key for the Sixers. Several other role players for Toronto have had up and down games so far.
If the 76ers can put the game into the hands of Kyle Lowry or Pascal Siakam, they should have a better chance moving forward.
PA sportsbooks ready for Game 6
This is the second-consecutive season the Sixers have made the postseason after not qualifying for five years in a row.
PA sports bettors love rooting for their home teams at home. PA sportsbooks are ready to welcome those bettors for tonight’s game. The action will be lively tonight at Philadelphia-area sportsbooks:
- Harrah’s Philadelphia
- SugarHouse Casino
- Parx Casino
- Valley Forge Casino
- South Philadelphia Turf Club
Of course, the team must find an extra gear if it doesn’t want its playoff run to end in front of the home fans at Wells Fargo Center tonight.
Of course, the focus will be on the stars, but it’s quite possible someone else on Philly’s roster can make a big impact.
JJ Redick averaged more than 18 points a game this year for Philly, yet he scored only three in Game 5 on 1-of-6 shooting. If someone unexpected can have a monster game statistically, it will relieve the pressure from guys like Embiid and Butler.
It will definitely be a difficult task, but the Sixers have more than enough talent to win Game 6 and the series altogether. The big game tips off tonight at 8 p.m. on ESPN.
The DraftKings Sportsbook in NJ has the following odds for Game 6:
- Toronto Raptors -2 (-112)
- Philadelphia 76ers +2 (-109)
- Over 213.5 (-113)
- Under 213.5 (-108)
- Toronto Raptors -127
- Philadelphia 76ers +112