Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons will not play for Australia at this year's FIBA World Cup, though he will feature in exhibition games against the United States.

After initially making himself available for August's World Cup in China, Simmons announced on Tuesday that he will skip the tournament and instead focus on the upcoming NBA season with the 76ers.

While he is set to sit out the World Cup, Simmons will travel to Australia for a pair of games against Canada in Perth on August 16 and 17 before facing Team USA in Melbourne on August 22 and 24.

"I wanted to let everyone know that after consulting with my representation, I've made the difficult decision to forego playing in the World Cup in China this summer," Simmons – who has signed a new five-year contract with the 76ers – said in a statement via Twitter.

"I will still be heading back home to Australia to host my camps as well as train and play with the Boomers in the upcoming exhibition games.

"I'm really excited about the talent we have on the Boomers squad, especially moving close to 2020 where I will be honoured and humbled to represent my country on the world's biggest sporting stage at the Olympics in Tokyo.

"Ultimately, we decided it was best that I use the time in September to return to Philadelphia to acquaint myself with my new team-mates and prepare for the upcoming NBA season."

The 76ers selected Simmons with the first pick in the 2016 NBA Draft and he has played a large role in the team's resurgence as an oversized, do-it-all playmaker.

Philadelphia put together one of the most talented starting line-ups in basketball last season, featuring Simmons, Joel Embiid, JJ Redick, Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris as they finished third in the Eastern Conference before falling to the Toronto Raptors in the second round.

The 76ers lost Butler and Redick this offseason, but acquired Josh Richardson and Al Horford, giving them tremendous defensive potential.

Ben Simmons has officially agreed to a new long-term deal with the Philadelphia 76ers, the team announced on Tuesday.

The Sixers confirmed a five-year extension, starting in 2020, but did not reveal the terms of the contract - reported to be a max deal worth $170million.

Simmons, who turns 23 on Saturday, was in the last year of his rookie contract.

"Ben Simmons is an important piece of our core and he is one of the NBA's most dynamic and talented young players," general manager Elton Brand said.

"It was a priority for our organisation that we finalise a contract extension with Ben this summer. He was Rookie of the Year in his first season, an All-Star in his second and we expect him to continue grow and succeed for seasons to come.

"Ben positively impacts the game in so many ways and we look forward to continuing our championship pursuits with him as one of our leaders."

The Australian was drafted by Philadelphia with the number one overall pick in 2016 but missed his entire rookie season due to a foot injury.

Simmons finished last season averaging 16.9 points, 8.8 rebounds and 7.7 assists per game and helped lead the Sixers to the second round of the playoffs, where they were agonisingly beaten by eventual champions the Toronto Raptors.

Ben Simmons has reportedly agreed to a max deal with the Philadelphia 76ers that will pay him $170million over five years.

Agent Rich Paul is said to have confirmed the agreement to The Athletic and ESPN on Monday. 

Simmons, 22, was in the last year of his rookie contract and was slated to make $8.1m in the 2019-20 season.

It will mark his third year in the league after he missed his entire rookie campaign due to a foot injury.

Simmons was drafted first overall by Philadelphia in 2016 and has already become a star, despite the delayed start to his professional career. He won Rookie of the Year in 2017-18 and earned All-Star honours this past season.

He finished last year averaging 16.9 points and 7.9 assists per game and helped Philadelphia to the second round of the playoffs, where they were eliminated by the Toronto Raptors in seven games.

The balance of power continues to shift in the NBA, as Kawhi Leonard's decision to join the Los Angeles Clippers makes the league a lot more interesting.

At the beginning of 2018-19, many seemed to believe the road to the NBA Finals ran through the Boston Celtics. Then the Milwaukee Bucks posted the best record in the league just a year removed from finishing seventh in the Eastern Conference. 

But it was the Toronto Raptors who dethroned the
Golden State Warriors in the end, and now they will have a new look without their superstar. Plenty of other teams are hungry for glory and now is the perfect time to strike.

Here are three teams that could now take over the Eastern Conference:

 

Milwaukee Bucks

The Eastern Conference is now wide open, but the Bucks are ahead of the pack. After all, they retained two All-Stars — one being reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Milwaukee underwent a serious transformation under Coach of the Year Mike Budenholzer last season. Antetokounmpo has put up historically strong numbers in the paint, but the Bucks were also among the league leaders in three-point attempts.

Eric Bledsoe, Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez will likely be constants, but it remains to be seen how the chemistry will be after losing Malcolm Brogdon.

Milwaukee simply have the centrepiece every other team wish they had in Antetokounmpo, so there is no reason to count them out just yet.

Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers may have lost an All-Star-calibre player in Jimmy Butler this offseason, but they will be just fine.

Philadelphia were one circus buzzer-beater away from reaching the Eastern Conference Finals last season and are bringing back plenty of talent in 2019-20. The 76ers flipped Butler to the Miami Heat in exchange for Josh Richardson and lured Al Horford away from the Celtics, giving them what might be the best defensive line-up in basketball.

Small Ball? Philadelphia have never heard of it, as the shortest wingspan on their current roster is 6-10. 

The 76ers' starting group will likely feature Richardson, Tobias Harris, Ben Simmons, Al Horford and Joel Embiid. And then there is second-year guard Zhaire Smith, who was voted the most athletic player in the 2018 NBA Draft by his peers but missed most of last season due to an unfortunate allergic reaction.

Philadelphia have size, playmaking, strong defense and four players that could get legitimate All-Star consideration in the coming season. Embiid's questionable health could be a facto but getting a versatile big like Horford that can fill in if he goes down will definitely keep the 76ers in contender conversations.

Brooklyn Nets

Even if Kevin Durant cannot play until 2020, the Nets should be better this season. They lost D'Angelo Russell to the Warriors, but Kyrie Irving can be a considerable upgrade if the pieces come together just right.

Both Russell and Irving are high-usage guards, but Irving is more efficient and poses the kind of threat that makes every player on the opposing team watch him when the ball is in his hands. 

Brooklyn added veterans in DeAndre Jordan and Garrett Temple that should pair nicely with returning pieces like Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen and Joe Harris, who was one of the most prolific three-point shooters in 2018-19 — converting 47.4 per cent from beyond the arc.

But the wild card is Caris LeVert, who arguably was the Nets' best player before a leg injury sidelined him last November. The 24-year-old guard was establishing himself as Brooklyn's go-to guy and now he has had a whole offseason to recover after showing flashes of his potential in the 2018-19 playoffs.

Adding Durant to a group like this could prove to be lethal and would certainly make the Nets a force to be reckoned with.

Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons will feature for Australia at the upcoming FIBA Basketball World Cup.

The 76ers' NBA season came to an end with a thrilling loss to the Toronto Raptors in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals on Sunday.

In a video posted on Weibo, Simmons announced he would be representing the Boomers in China.

"I'm happy to say I'm looking forward to representing my country Australia in the upcoming @FIBA World Cup in China," he wrote on the post.

Australia are scheduled to face the United States in August before the World Cup begins.

They will meet Canada, Senegal and Lithuania in Group H at the World Cup, with their first game on September 1.

The Philadelphia 76ers have some important decisions to make this offseason.

Toronto Raptors star Kawhi Leonard ended Philadelphia's NBA season with a Game 7 buzzer-beater in Sunday's Eastern Conference semi-final decider.

Now, the 76ers must figure out what is best for their future.

"The process" is not quite complete, so here are three questions Philadelphia need to answer during the offseason:

 

What's the best way to solidify the backcourt?

The 76ers need to address their lack of guard depth. Philadelphia once had a collection of prospects looking to establish a role in the rotation. But now, Ben Simmons and Zhaire Smith are the only guards on the books for 2019-20.

Prolific sharpshooter JJ Redick is an unrestricted free agent. While Philadelphia could try to retain his services, they need ball-handlers.

The 76ers got virtually nothing from reserve guards like T.J. McConnell, Jonathan Simmons and 2018 first-round pick Smith during the postseason. Jimmy Butler often operated as the team's backup point guard in the second unit for Philadelphia, but he and Tobias Harris could move on in the coming months.

Without role players they can trust to create for themselves and others, the 76ers could experience a significant decline. Especially if they cannot match this year's star power.

 

Who should get offered a max deal?

Philadelphia traded notable pieces to land top talents Butler and Harris. Among these were Defensive Player of the Year candidate Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Markelle Fultz and Landry Shamet.

The 76ers' win-now attitude allowed them to feature one of the most dangerous starting line-ups in the NBA this season. But injuries, specifically to Joel Embiid (knee), limited their repetitions together in the regular season.

Now both Butler and Harris could enter free agency this offseason. Butler has a player option for the 2019-20 season while Harris is an unrestricted free agent. Should Philadelphia offer one or both of these players a max deal?

Butler's grittiness fit the city's culture and provided the young 76ers with a cold-blooded finisher at the end of games. Harris flourished at times, but often waned in the postseason.

If Philadelphia do not fork out the big bucks, both could become one-year rentals, and that could set the 76ers back a few years. The risk was necessary to become a contender, but it could backfire in a big way.

 

Can Simmons and Embiid co-exist?

I know what you are thinking. How could having two All-Stars under the age of 26 be a problem?

Philadelphia's years of poor performance helped them land two generational talents in Simmons and Embiid. But they might have to part ways with one for their own good.

Simmons is a 6-10 point guard with effortless playmaking ability, and Embiid is arguably one of the most talented and versatile big men of all time. However, a few problems need to be addressed.

Simmons' lack of a jump shot and willingness to take over games has come into question as of late. Embiid can go toe-to-toe with any player, but he has missed 88 games through three NBA seasons.

Should the 76ers put money into retaining Butler and Harris, they could dig themselves into a deep hole. Simmons and Embiid have valuable skill sets, but the combination of their playing styles provides little floor spacing at the moment.

Now could be the time to jump and fetch a high price on the open market as they approach their primes.

The city of Philadelphia is restless as it awaits an NBA championship, and one mistake could derail the 76ers progress toward that goal.

Kawhi Leonard scored one of the most dramatic buzzer-beaters in NBA history to cap an incredible performance and lead the Toronto Raptors to a 92-90 win over the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 7 on Sunday.

With the score tied at 90, the Raptors inbounded the ball with four seconds left. Leonard, who scored a game-high 41 points, took the ball, dribbled into the corner and nailed the game-winning two-pointer over Joel Embiid.

The ball bounced four times on the rim before dropping through, as Toronto fans erupted.

The Raptors will now face the Bucks in Milwaukee in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals on Wednesday.

Here are three takeaways from the Raptors' huge win:

Is there any NBA player more important to his team than Leonard?

Think of the top players in the NBA, from Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kevin Durant to Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Embiid.

Are any of them more valuable to their team than Leonard is to the Raptors?

While Leonard can keep pace with any of the aforementioned players on the offensive end (he is averaging 31.8 points in the playoffs), he creates so many problems for Raptors' opponents on defense. Twice in the first half, Leonard stole the ball and took it down the court to finish with a dunk. 

Leonard stepped up time and time again when Toronto needed him most. Down the stretch, he scored 13 of the Raptors' last 15 points in the final six minutes, including a long jumper that broke an 85-85 tie.

And then he hit the game-winner. Leonard did not have a great shooting performance (16 of 39 from the field) but he came up big when it counted.

No one wants to talk about the obvious after such a thrilling finish, but Leonard, of course, is eligible for free agency in the offseason. As he showed on Sunday, Toronto need him back.

 

Serge Ibaka played critical role off the bench

As Leonard carried the Raptors during Game 7, everyone watching wondered: Would someone, anyone else, step up for Toronto?

Serge Ibaka answered the call. The 29-year-old center scored 17 points off the bench, and knocked down three of his five three-point attempts.

Ibaka came into the game averaging only 8.3 points in the playoffs. He could not have picked a better time to come alive off the bench. If the Raptors hope to beat the Bucks and advance to the NBA Finals, they will need more contributions from everyone on the roster not named Kawhi. The other four starters hit 12 of 35 shots and scored a combined 30 points against the 76ers. That cannot continue.

The NBA regular season really does matter

How many times during the regular season do we hear fans utter the cliché: "The regular season doesn't matter – our team will be totally ready when the playoffs begin."

But regular-season wins can create a huge advantage in the postseason. The Raptors, who finished second in the Eastern Conference, had the home-court advantage over the 76ers, who finished third. And that advantage showed in Game 7. The Toronto fans in Scotiabank Arena were vocal and enthusiastic most of the game. They went silent when the 76ers sucked the life out of the building with a 16-0 second-half run, but the fans came alive down the stretch.

The 76ers won two of three games against Toronto in Philadelphia, both by healthy margins. Just imagine if Game 7 had been in Philly. Would the outcome have been different? It is not a stretch to think playing at home might have been worth at least three points for Philadelphia.

Brett Brown said Ben Simmons showed why he was an "NBA All-Star at age 22" as the Philadelphia 76ers head coach lauded the Australian's performance in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

Simmons had been heavily criticised prior to Thursday's clash but the 76ers guard put up 21 points, eight rebounds and six assists as Philadelphia forced Game 7 with a 112-101 victory over the Toronto Raptors.

The 22-year-old managed just seven points in a blowout loss in Game 5 but with the 76ers facing elimination, Simmons responded in 34 impressive minutes, which did not include a turnover.

"I thought he was excellent and we needed it all," Brown told reporters of Simmons post-game. "He's 22 years old. His game, as he grows his shot and tries to get a better command of his position, and deals with the stage of the NBA Playoffs, shame on us for thinking he's gonna be like all day, every day, here he is and he's gonna go knock it out of the park.

"It's just not fair. What he did today was lots of the reasons he was an NBA All-Star at age 22, as an NBA point guard with the ball."

Brown added: "He was our bell ringer tonight. You see Jimmy Butler's performance, and so for Ben to be our bell ringer with some of those other performances sort of confirms what I think he did tonight."

Butler – Philadelphia's leading scorer with 25 points – also heaped praise on Simmons, who had not posted more than 10 points in the second-round series before Thursday.

"He attacked in transition, in the half, he made some free throws," said Butler. "That's how we need him to be.

"You can't key in on just one or two guys on this team, because we have so many guys who can put the ball in the basket. We have so many guys who can get a stop and go take off dribbling with the basketball.

"Like I said before, that's how we're going to win. When he's aggressive, when Tobias [Harris] is aggressive. It gives us a greater chance of winning."

Butler set the tone for the 76ers in the first half, scoring 19 points as the soon-to-be free agent showed why he will command a max contract in the offseason.

"I play to win," Butler said, with Game 7 in Toronto on Sunday. "Right now, this is what I have to do in order to give us a great chance at winning."

The Philadelphia 76ers forced a deciding Game 7 against the Toronto Raptors in their NBA Eastern Conference semi-final.

After being blown away in Toronto, the 76ers eased past the Raptors 112-101 in Philadelphia on Thursday.

Jimmy Butler led the 76ers on home court as Philadelphia earned a chance to go back to Canada and fight for the right to play the Milwaukee Bucks in the Conference finals.

Here are three takeaways from the 76ers' series-levelling victory:

 

1. Butler decided 76ers wouldn't lose

There are certain players in the NBA who can will their teams to wins no matter how his counterparts are playing. Butler can often be one of those guys and he was just that in Game 6.

While Butler did not go off for 50 points or completely shut down Kawhi Leonard, he closed out the first half with a flurry of buckets, which gave Philadelphia a 15-point lead going into the break and completely set the tone for the final 24 minutes.

Butler finished with 25 points, six rebounds and eight assists, but his energy was palpable in the win on Thursday. If he shows up and plays with that same kind of intensity in Game 7, the 76ers will win this series.

 

2. Why would Kawhi re-sign with Raptors?

We are legitimately asking this question — why would Leonard re-sign with the Raptors after watching the way this series has gone?

Leonard has been his typical otherworldly self in these games, averaging 29 points, 12 rebounds and five assists, but his team-mates have been AWOL for much of the time.

Kyle Lowry — the Raptors' $33-million man — has been particularly suspect throughout the playoffs as he was averaging 12.6 points on 42.1 per cent shooting (28 per cent from the three-point line) coming into Thursday's game.

In Game 6, the Raptors got 23 points off the bench — and a good portion of that (nine points) came from Serge Ibaka — while the rest came in garbage time.

If Leonard is not going to get support in Toronto, there is not much incentive for him to come back, so honestly why would he?

 

3. A significant number

In basketball, people always like to talk about how things players do does not show up on the scoresheet. Joel Embiid is not typically one of those players as he is one of the most productive big men in basketball. In Game 6, however, his game was about what he did that most people will not see.

While he is not 100 per cent, he controlled the paint for much of the game as Philadelphia dominated the contest in points scored there. Embiid's defense also proved especially disruptive all over the floor.

He had a good night points-wise, but where his worth truly showed up was in his plus-minus. He finished the night plus-40, which was 11 points more than any other player and 25 more than any other starter. And this came on a night where he scored just 15 points and added 12 rebounds.

Embiid was great in Game 6, even if he might now have appeared to have been at his most productive.

The Toronto Raptors cruised to an easy win in the NBA playoffs on Tuesday.

Toronto took control early, pushed their lead to 21 by half-time and pulled away from there to secure a 125-89 Game 5 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers at Scotiabank Arena.

The win gave the Raptors a 3-2 advantage in the second-round series.

"I was certainly not expecting that kind of game. Obviously, we're certainly happy with the result. We did a lot of good things," Raptors coach Nick Nurse told reporters after the game.

"We made some [shots] tonight and I think that really fuels you. It really gives you an energy and a momentum boost ... We played both ends pretty well tonight."

The series will now shift back to Philadelphia for Game 6 on Thursday with the 76ers on the brink of elimination. If they win that matchup, the Raptors would host Game 7 on Sunday.

Here are five crazy stats from the Raptors' blowout win

– All five starters and six total players reached double figures for the Raptors in the easy win. Pascal Siakam led the way with 25 points while Kawhi Leonard added 21 points and 13 rebounds. Serge Ibaka chipped in 10 points off the bench.

– The 36-point margin made this the biggest postseason win in the Raptors' franchise history.  

– The 76ers turned the ball over 19 times compared to the Raptors' 10. Philadelphia stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons combined to commit 13 of those turnovers.

– The Raptors held a 27-26 advantage at the end of the first quarter. The team that have led after the first 12 minutes have now won every game of this series.

– Philadelphia made just six of their 24 three-point attempts in the loss. Embiid connected on just two of his six shots from long range, Jimmy Butler missed both of his and the 76ers bench combined to knock down two of their 10 attempts from behind the arc.

Jimmy Butler said Ben Simmons has to be more aggressive if the Philadelphia 76ers are to advance past the Toronto Raptors in the NBA Eastern Conference semi-finals.

Simmons had just 10 points, five rebounds and four assists as the 76ers lost 101-96 to the Raptors in Game 4 of the second-round playoff series.

It was another quiet outing for All-Star Simmons – who only managed 10 points, seven assists and seven rebounds in Game 3 – as the Raptors levelled the matchup at 2-2.

And Sixers star Butler had some advice for team-mate Simmons following the defeat in Philadelphia.

"I told him [Simmons] - every time down the floor to attack," Butler, who led the 76ers with 29 points and 11 rebounds, said post-game.

"Every single time. If coach calls the play and you feel like you got the mismatch, by all means attack. And then if coach says 'Why'd you do it?' I promise you I will say 'I told him to do it'.

"I want Ben to be aggressive just like I want Jo [Embiid] to be aggressive. Attack. We're not gonna win without you guys. You have to be ready to attack it at any point in time.

"If he has the ball in transition, [I'm like] 'Ben, don't pass the ball in transition. Attack every single time'. That's how we're gonna win this game."

While Simmons' attacking output has not been as high, the Australian's defensive efforts have earned praise.

Simmons impressed the 76ers with his defense on Raptors star Kawhi Leonard and James Ennis said: "He played hard defense, he gave Kawhi a good challenge.

"Kawhi's a top-five player in the NBA [and] he doesn't miss often. Since Ben's been on him, he's been making Kawhi work a lot. Ben's going to find his rhythm. Next game you'll see Ben come in to his own."

The series returns to Toronto for Game 5 on Tuesday and as the 76ers eye their first Conference finals appearance since 2001, Simmons added: "Mentality stays the same: get out there and get a win.

"You never let the highs get too high or the lows get too low. It's onto the next game. We still have an amazing opportunity to go to the Eastern Conference championship, get to the NBA Finals. We are looking forward to it."

Brooklyn Nets forward Jared Dudley regrets some of the things he said about Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons.

Dudley called the star "average" in the half court during Brooklyn's first-round playoff series against the 76ers.

Now, the 12-year veteran says he should have used different words.

"I do wish I chose different words," Dudley told the New York Times when asked if he had any regrets about his remarks.

"I was breaking down how we were going to guard him – how you try to limit someone like Ben Simmons. I was just trying to say that we would have our best success if we could get him in a half-court game.

"Should I have used the word 'average?' Looking back on it, no. It was such a negative reaction after I said it that no one heard I also said he was elite in transition and an elite passer. But, you know, it happens. It's the playoffs. And I understand the reaction. I understand how it goes."

Despite the attention Dudley's comments brought, Brooklyn did not caution him against speaking his mind moving forward.

"When it came to the front office, no one said anything about toning it down," Dudley said. "It was not intended to be said in a disrespectful manner. And I think I've earned that right in my 12 years. I'm not saying stuff to say stuff."

Simmons went on to tally 17.2 points, 6.6 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game against the Nets. Dudley averaged three points and 2.8 assists in the series.

The 76ers eliminated the Nets in five games. They are tied with the Toronto Raptors at 1-1 in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

Dudley will be a free agent this offseason.

Brett Brown said Jimmy Butler was the "adult in the gym" as he heaped praise on the Philadelphia 76ers star's performance against the Toronto Raptors in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

Butler led the way with 30 points and 11 rebounds in Toronto, where the 76ers upstaged the Raptors 94-89 to level the second-round NBA playoff series on Monday.

The four-time All-Star managed just 10 points in Game 1 but he bounced back with a double-double, which included 12 points in the final quarter.

And 76ers head coach Brown hailed Butler post-game, telling reporters: "This was James Butler. That was the adult in the gym.

"He was just a tremendous rock. He willed us to a lot of different situations. He was a great team-mate on the bench. He was a stud."

In reply to Brown's compliment, Butler said: "My name isn't James. It literally is Jimmy."

The 76ers stormed out of the blocks in Game 2, outscoring the Raptors 26-17 in the opening period en route to Philadelphia's first win in Toronto since November 2012.

It snapped a 14-game losing streak and Butler added: "Everybody wants to paint the picture that we haven't won here in however many years. I'm just glad that we came out on top. We don't care how many games we've lost, nothing like that."

Brown also praised Ben Simmons, despite his relatively quiet night in terms of stats against the Raptors.

Simmons tallied just six points, seven rebounds and five assists in a game-high 44 minutes but the All-Star was influential on both ends of the floor.

"I thought our defence at the start of the game was almost as good as it could be," Brown said. "I think Ben did a really good job on [Kawhi Leonard].

"We tried to have different looks at times, where we'd double him; we didn't. By and large, it was Ben's assignment, although other people inherited him... I thought Ben did a good job, then you look down and see he has 35. He's just an incredibly gifted, versatile scorer."

Joel Embiid, who has been battling a knee issue throughout the postseason, struggled with a stomach illness having missed the morning shootaround in Toronto.

But Embiid played through, scoring 12 points in 32 minutes to help the 76ers stop Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors.

"There's no way I was missing this game," he said. "This game was really important to us. It doesn't matter what I had, I was going to play."

Two of the top teams in the NBA will face off in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Toronto Raptors have been considered title contenders since they acquired Kawhi Leonard last year. They met expectations all season long and advanced into the second round by topping the Orlando Magic in a five-game series.

Meanwhile, the Philadelphia 76ers have arguably the best starting lineup in the league. They appeared to be in trouble after they dropped their first playoff game to the Brooklyn Nets but rebounded with four straight victories to move on.

Toronto came away with wins three of the four times the teams met in the regular season.

Here are three things that could decide the series between Toronto and Philadelphia.

 

Joel Embiid's health

Joel Embiid's health continues to be in question.

Embiid missed five of his team's last seven regular-season games, dealt with knee soreness throughout the series against Brooklyn and was even held out of Philadelphia’s Game 3 win.

The 25-year-old, however, excelled on both ends in the final two matchups of the first round to help Philadelphia advance.

"We are the recipient of Jo trying to inch along slowly and buy time," Sixers coach Brett Brown said earlier this month. "You win a game, two more days, you win a game, three more days, you might drop one, four more days.

"How do you deliver him responsibly to a later date in ultimately what you hope will be a deep playoff run?

"It's not as clear cut as you thought it would be on 'how do you maintain a fitness base and still get his knee rest?' What do we do to help him most now?

"I believe a solid plan is in place that can deliver him responsibly, incrementally to later dates."

The 76ers will certainly need their center in the lineup and consistently on the court against the Raptors.

 

The play of the stars

Both teams in this series feature multiple All-Stars.  

The Raptors are led by the two-headed attack of Leonard and Kyle Lowry. Forward Pascal Siakam had a breakout season for Toronto, while the team improved their frontline by acquiring Marc Gasol in a February deal with the Memphis Grizzlies.

The 76ers offense is powered by Embiid and fellow young star Ben Simmons. Philadelphia also made a pair of in-season additions, trading for Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris in preparation for the playoffs.

The stars in this series will determine which team advances to the conference finals.

 

The 76ers' lack of depth

Philadelphia have a thin bench.

The 76ers did not have a deep rotation to begin the season, and their second unit was depleted even further after they were forced to send away multiple key role-players in the deals that brought in Butler as well as Harris.

Philadelphia forward Mike Scott also could be limited as he left Game 5 against the Nets with a bruised foot and did not return.

The Raptors, on the other hand, can rely on their backups - including Fred VanVleet and Serge Ibaka - for long stretches, which could present a problem for Philadelphia.

Joel Embiid labelled Jared Dudley "a nobody" as tempers flared between the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets in the NBA playoffs.

Dudley was ejected after shoving Embiid in the third quarter of the 76ers' 112-108 Game-4 win in the Eastern Conference first-round series.

After the incident, Embiid was asked about Dudley and he was not complimentary of the Nets veteran on Saturday.

"First of all, he's a nobody," Embiid told TNT. "And when opponents try to do stuff like that, that's just to get us out of the game, I'm too valuable to my team, that's why I didn't react."

Sixers All-Star Embiid – who helped Philadelphia take a 3-1 series lead with 31 points and 16 rebounds – did not try to respond to Dudley's shove and he explained why after.

"In that type of situation I just have to stay composed and be mature and let it go," he said. "Because my team-mates need me more than [his teammates] need him, so I've just got to be mature."

Embiid may not have reacted but Jimmy Butler certainly did as he shoved Dudley right after he made contact with the former in Brooklyn.

It resulted in a scuffle that extended out into the crowd as officials tried to get things under control.

Dudley started a small feud with the 76ers when he said Ben Simmons was just average in the half-court before Game 3.

Simmons did not take kindly to that first addressing the comments by saying, "It's coming from Jared Dudley, come on," and then following that up with a statement game in which he scored a playoff career-high 31 points in a Game 3-win in Brooklyn.

Butler got involved with the war of words as well after that game saying Simmons was far from just average.

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