Sixers vs. Raptors Game 1: Storylines to Watch

The Sixers’ postseason begins Saturday night in Philadelphia.

Here are the basics for Game 1 of the team’s first-round series versus the Raptors:

  • When: 6 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 5:30 p.m
  • From where: Wells Fargo Center
  • Transmission: NBC Sports Philadelphia
  • Live broadcast: and the MyTeams app

And here are storylines to watch:

The Harden Questions

Every performance by James Harden is intensively examined. He certainly knows this and didn’t seem remotely concerned about it, but the Sixers acquired Harden in February because they envisioned the 32-year-old being an elite playoff co-star alongside Joel Embiid.

Now that the postseason is here, Harden has a few key questions remaining. Will his health and explosiveness be enough to play effective, aggressive basketball for 40 minutes per game? How satisfied will he be with the catch-and-shoot threes resulting from Embiid post-ups? Will his shooting numbers (40.2 percent from the field, 32.6 percent from three-pointers with the Sixers) increase in big games?

“I approach him like he’s James Harden — really,” Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said Friday. “One of the greatest players in our league and he will be in this playoff series. And that will be Joel. We’re going to make sure he’s in all positions to be that, make sure Joel is in all positions to be that.

“And not just a great goal, but both have to be great at creating scoring chances for everyone else. They both have the ability to do that, and they both will do that on this show.”

Will Milton help deal with Raptors ‘chaos’?

All available evidence points to Shake Milton, Matisse Thybulle and Georges Niang all set to be three key bench players for the Sixers this series. (In case you missed it, Thybulle is ineligible for the Toronto games as he is not fully vaccinated.)

The Sixers will look to Milton for a well-rounded, solid game. Whether he scores or not, Milton’s height (6ft 5 with a 7ft wingspan) and ability to play through contact could come in handy against a physical, offensive defense.

“Toronto, the way they play defense, they crawl non-stop,” Milton said. “It’s almost all chaos. I feel like you obviously need to be able to put down threes – opportunities to catch and shoot – but also be able to put the ball on the ground and get to your seat a bit.

“I think that’s what the playoffs in general is about. Teams are taking your plays, they’re taking your bread and butter… so you have to be able to think the game and break your man, whether it’s for yourself or for your teammates.”

The Backup Center image

Can the Sixers remain stable during Embiid’s time on the bench?

Aside from using off-center lineups — Niang and Tobias Harris share a forecourt, for example — the Sixers’ options behind Embiid are 22-year-old Paul Reed, 33-year-old DeAndre Jordan and 37-year-old Paul Millsap. Rookie center Charles Bassey is out with a right shoulder injury.

The sense here is that the Sixers will (and should) play Reed, who scored 25 points on 12-for-14 shooting in the Sixers’ regular-season finals, but we’ll see.

“I love Paul Reed,” Jordan said Saturday after the Sixers’ shooting. “He’s young, he’s active, he’s hungry, he’s energetic. We’re talking about his ability to control his fouling. That’s something we kind of make fun of him for. But I love it because he’s aggressive. I don’t know how old Paul is – 21, 22 years old? I used to scold a lot back then too. It’s just because he’s so excited to be out there. But I love his energy, I love his aggressiveness and I think he’ll be great for us.”

Reed didn’t sound at all intimidated by the Raptors’ rebounding power.

“I’m a great rebounder too,” he said, “so I just go in with a dog mentality and grab every rebound I can.”

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