NBA Recap: Sixers Show Life & Nuggets Take Game 1


If you had wagered the second-seeded Toronto Raptors to win their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the No. 3 Philadelphia 76ers in a sweep – which would have been a silly bet – then you already are a loser. The Sixers were largely outclassed in Game 1 in Toronto, falling 108-95.

Game 2 looked even more dire with Philly as an 8-point underdog and with star center Joel Embiid questionable with an illness. No one really expected Embiid to sit for that reason (maybe his sore knees), and he didn’t. What was stunning was that Philadelphia won 94-89 despite Embiid struggling with just 12 points on 2-for-7 shooting, six rebounds and six turnovers in 32 minutes. I would have bet nearly anything the Raptors won that game if you told me Embiid had that line.

However, Jimmy Butler really filled the gap with 30 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. Butler joined Hall of Famer Charles Barkley as the only 76ers players with 30 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists in a playoff game over the last 35 seasons. It was Philadelphia’s first win in Toronto since Nov. 10, 2012, snapping a 14-game losing streak. Embiid did have a key layup late for a three-point lead, and then the Raptors’ Danny Green missed a wide-open three-pointer that would have tied. The Sixers added a couple of free throws to cinch.

One injury note from Game 2: Sixers backup big man Greg Monroe left with a sprained left ankle. He was very good in 12 minutes with 12 points, five rebounds and assists and a block in 12 minutes. Obviously too early to tell if he will play Thursday when the series shifts to Philadelphia. The Raptors were 1-1 there this season.

On the updated BetOnline series line, Toronto remains the -190 favorite with Philadelphia at +165. The Sixers are 1-point home favorites for Thursday. Toronto needs more from its supposed vaunted bench as that unit totaled just five points in Game 2. That’s where the Raptors are supposed to have the huge edge.

Jokic Dominates Blazers

The series being paid the least attention to in Round 2 is Blazers-Raptors out West. Everyone presumes the winner of that will lose to the Warriors or Rockets in the West Finals. Plus, Portland and Denver just don’t much move the needle for the casual betting fan.

Portland was well-rested entering Game 1 Monday night in Denver, but the Nuggets – who had the best home record in the NBA during the regular season – prevailed 121-113 as 4-point favorites. An argument can be made that Denver All-Star center Nikola Jokic has been the best all-around player in these playoffs, all due respect to Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard or the Greek Freak.

Jokic dominated Game 1 with 37 points, nine rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocks in 41 minutes. He was 12-for-12 from the free-throw line and 3-for-5 from deep. Wow. Jokic became the fourth player in Nuggets history to record multiple 35-point games in a postseason, joining Carmelo Anthony, Alex English & David Thompson. With Jusuf Nurkic out for the season, the Blazers just don’t have anyone to handle Jokic.

Damian Lillard had 39 points in the loss but was only 4-for-12 from deep. Lillard tied Clyde Drexler’s franchise record with his 14th 30-point game of his playoff career. Enes Kanter played through a separated shoulder and had 26 points on 11-for-14 shooting, but he’s awful on defense.

Game 2 is Wednesday and the Nuggets opened at -3.5. Denver is now -220 on the series line with Portland at +185.