The 76ers know now is not the time to be overconfident — even though it’s easy to do so under the circumstances.
The Sixers are coming off a lopsided Game 1 playoff victory over the Toronto Raptors. That should provide a lot of confidence for the rest of the Eastern Conference first-round series.
The odds of the Sixers going up 2-0 in the best-of-seven series increased Sunday afternoon when Raptors forward Scottie Barnes, shooting guard Gary Trent Jr., and reserve forward Thad Young were all listed as doubtful for Monday’s Game 2 at the Wells Fargo Center.
But the Sixers know better.
They’ve lost three of this season’s four regular-season games against Toronto. The Raptors were without both All-Star point guard Fred VanVleet and small forward OG Anunoby in two of those setbacks.
Plus, the Sixers have already had a group chat after Saturday night’s win, stressing that they need to remain locked in.
“We are treating every game like it’s 0-0 whatever the count may be,” Shake Milton said Sunday after practice. “I think guys are going to come in locked in like we always do.”
The reserve guard also expects the Raptors to attempt to come out strong at the start.
“Most definitely [they’re] going to try to bring it,” he said. “We’re going to try to bring it, too.”
The Sixers have to know this is the perfect opportunity to take a comfortable series lead. The 2-0 advantage would be welcome heading to Toronto for Games 3 and 4 without their best perimeter defender, Matisse Thybulle, because he is unvaccinated for COVID-19 and ineligible to play in Canada.
Even though they’re listed as doubtful, Raptors coach Nick Nurse sounded as if Barnes, Trent, and Young would be unavailable Monday night.
“It doesn’t look good for any of them,” Nurse said to the media at Sunday’s practice.
Barnes had to be helped off the court with 9 minutes, 6 seconds remaining in the Sixers’ 131-111 Game 1 victory after Joel Embiid stepped on his right foot. The Raptors rookie sprained his ankle on the play. X-rays were negative. The Raptors did not immediately disclose the results of Sunday morning’s MRI exam.
Young sat out the second half of Sunday’s game with a hyperextended left thumb. Young, Barnes, and Trent, who has a non-COVID-19 illness, did not participate in Sunday’s practice at Temple.
Trent finished with nine points on 2-for-11 shooting in Game 1. He was minus-23 in 27 minutes. Barnes had 15 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assists in 32 minutes, while Young grabbed a rebound in his six minutes of action.
Trent is the team’s best three-point shooter, making 38.3% of his shots behind the arc. He averaged 19.5 points in this season’s four regular-season games against the Sixers. On March 7, Trent made 5 of 8 three-pointers en route to scoring 30 points vs. the Sixers.
Barnes is the most versatile Raptor. Not only does he start in the post, he is the backup point guard. He started several games that season at the point while VanVleet was sidelined with an injury. The Rookie of the Year candidate averaged 15.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists.
Meanwhile, Young, a former Sixer, has provided a solid veteran presence since being acquired by the Raptors in a Feb. 10 trade with the San Antonio Spurs.
But the Sixers will you they can’t focus on who’s available for the Raptors. Nor can they get comfortable with their 20-point win.
“I think we have enough experience on this team for guys to know Game 1 is over and it doesn’t really matter,” Danny Green said. “That’s what we are supposed to do. It’s home court. We are supposed to win at home, this is why we fought all year to get home-court advantage. The series starts when a team wins on the road.
“So we can’t let them do that in our home building.”