Win or Go Home. Nuggets-Blazers and Raptors-76ers are all feeling that pressure today. Now here is a preview of these two matchups.
Philadelphia 76ers vs Toronto Raptors
The 76ers are the more talented team across the board, but the Raptors have the best player in the series with Kawhi Leonard. Going into the series I predicted the Raptors in 7 as a cop-out because they had home court. The series has taken a lot of turns since then but has ended right back to there. Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler have to get going early on the road for the 6ers to have any chance. Ben Simmons continues to struggle in the half court, and Joel Embiid just does not look like himself right now. Embiids presence could be what decides this game. Butler and Harris will need to score early, but Embiids work on the glass and ability to protect the lane will be the X-Factor. He finished +40 in game 6 locking down the center and will need to continue that effort if the 76ers are going to steal it on the road.
For the Raptors, it’s simple, someone besides Kawhi has to step up. Kawhi will be there, he always is, but Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry have to be a factor on the offensive end. Kyle Lowry can’t have another of his 1/6 nights with 4 points. It has happened to many times. Siakam has looked solid this series, but the Raptors are 2-0 in games where he scored over 25 so that might be the mark he must hit. An X-Factor could be Danny Green. Danny Green is one of the best shooters in playoff history (had the best TS% in playoff history entering last week). In this series Green has struggled, only in game five did we see that old clutch Spurs player that hit big three after big three. That player might need to return today if the 76ers can get there stars rolling.
In the end, I will still take the Raptors, home-court should be enough to get the role players going, but the 76ers have a lot of talent and if they can get three of their four all-stars going they will be tough to stop.
Prediction: Raptors 107-99 76ers
Photo Credit: Yahoo
Denver Nuggets vs Portland Trail Blazers
Denver is one of the best home teams in the league but has failed to protect home court in game 2 of this series and game 1 of the last. The Trail Blazers were my pick entering the series coming off rest and with the Nuggets having a short turn around after a long series. Those advantages for Portland are gone. Damian Lillard seems on a mission but has looked more vulnerable only shooting 27% from three during this series. CJ McCollum is scoring over 30 points per game in wins, but less than 20 in losses. McCollum is likely to be the X-Factor in tonight’s game.
On the other side, the Nuggets are being led by Jokic who is putting up 26-14-9 in this series. Jokic has emerged as a top 10 player in the NBA despite not looking like it. We know he will come to play, a difference for the Nuggets will be Jamal Murray. We will see the Murray who looks like a star in the making, or the Murray that looks a little to much like Kyle Lowry. Denver has been one of the most well-rounded teams in the NBA after Jokic, so no one player will decide the game for them, but their ability to shoot well might. Barton, Murray, and Harris all must step up to help keep up with the scoring Lillard and CJ are likely to provide tonight.
I really thought the Trail Blazers had the edge entering the series, but now that advantage is gone. The Nuggets are a young team and those teams usually struggle on road but can protect home-court.
Prediction: Nuggets 121-117 Trail Blazers