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Sixers Looked Hungry for a Sweep in Game 1

Five thoughts on Philadelphia’s series-opening win over the Raptors.

The James Harden-Joel Embiid partnership passed its first playoff test. The 76ers routed the Raptors in Game 1 of their first-round series, cruising to a 131–111 win. Philly opened up a big lead in the second quarter and never looked back, leading by double digits the entire second half. Tyrese Maxey led all scorers with 38, while Harden and Embiid added 22 and 19, respectively. Pascal Siakam led Toronto with 24. Here are five thoughts on Game 1.

Tyrese Maxey Game 1 first round vs. Raptors 2022 playoffs

Tyrese Maxey Took Over

The Raptors will lose this series in four games if Maxey leads all scorers and shoots over 66% every night. The 21-year old was unstoppable, hitting five threes and slicing through Toronto’s defense. Nick Nurse played small and sold out on stopping Embiid, which meant sending doubles and traps at him all night long. With Scottie Barnes occupied with Harden, Maxey took advantage of the relative lack of attention. Moving forward, Maxey’s explosion creates a bit of a dilemma for the Raptors. Do they game plan and account for him as much as they do Philly’s halfcourt behemoths? Or do they hope he can’t come close to replicating his performance? 

Sixers’ Shooters Stepped Up 

Philly finished the game shooting 16-of-32 from three. During the regular season, the Sixers hit at least 16 threes in a game only nine times, and shot 50% from deep only six times. The doubles on Embiid opened up shots on the perimeter. Maxey, Tobias Harris, and Georges Niang all took advantage, with Harden adding four triples as well. With their lack of size, the Raptors are betting on their ability to recover to Philly’s shooters. While the Sixers weren’t a high volume team during the regular season (they shot the fourth-fewest threes per game), they were quite efficient, hitting 36.4% of their looks from outside—seventh-best in the NBA. Was Game 1 an outlier or sign of things to come?

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Raptors Forced to Foul

Fred VanVleet, who never fouled out during the regular season, fouled out in Game 1. So did Chris Boucher. Siakam had four fouls. Khem Birch had two in eight minutes. This is the bind the Sixers put teams in. Between Harden and Embiid, they make it very difficult for teams to stay out of foul trouble. The Raptors can’t both give up open threes and put Philly at the line. That’s a recipe to lose every night. There are going to be plays with Embiid that are unavoidable, but Maxey and Harris both also can’t get to the line more than their season averages.

Embiid More Than a Scorer

Embiid didn’t have a monster stat line considering his MVP-caliber campaign. He scored only 19 points, with 15 rebounds and four assists. Those numbers don’t do justice to how much he controlled this game. Embiid was patient with Toronto’s doubles, making the right reads and throwing kickout passes that eventually led to open looks. He didn’t turn the ball over once despite the Raptors’ attempts to make things chaotic. And defensively, as usual, he shut off the paint in the half court. It was a composed performance from Embiid, who channeled the attention on himself to make life easier for the rest of his team.

Raptors Need to Win Non-Embiid Minutes

Toronto arguably lost this game in the minutes Embiid wasn’t on the floor. He sat for a prolonged stretch in the first half—over five minutes—and Toronto made up no ground. Embiid also sat for the last two-and-a-half minutes of the fourth, and the Sixers actually grew their lead. Philly was awful before the postseason when Embiid was off the floor, or when Embiid and Harden weren’t on the floor together. Toronto has to dominate those minutes so they can keep things close when the Sixers’ stars are on the floor. During both Embiid rests, the Raptors fumbled an opportunity to put the game within striking distance. If Philly’s bench actually wins all their minutes, this series will be a sweep.

Game 2—with Scottie Barnes’s left ankle hanging in the balance—is Monday. 

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