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Raptors to face familiar foe Philadelphia in first round of the NBA playoffs

Toronto Raptors' Pascal Siakam, left, tries to get past Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Philadelphia, Sunday, March 20, 2022. The Raptors will face their Atlantic Division rival Philadelphia 76ers in the opening round of the playoffs. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Matt Slocum

The Toronto Raptors will face their Atlantic Division rival Philadelphia 76ers in the opening round of the playoffs.

The Raptors (48-34) clinched their eighth playoff berth in nine seasons with Tuesday's win versus Atlanta, and secured the fifth seed with Friday's comeback against Houston.

But the logjam in the Eastern Conference meant having to wait until the end of Sunday's regular-season finales to learn their post-season opponent.

The Boston Celtics' 139-110 victory over Memphis secured them the No. 2 spot in the East, meaning Philly could finish no better than fourth, and Toronto, fifth, regardless of their results Sunday.

The Raptors, who sat Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet on Sunday for rest, finished with a meaningless 105-94 loss at New York.

The best-of-seven series will begin in Philadelphia on Saturday at 6:00 p.m.

The Raptors head into the post-season on a hot streak that began with a five-game winning streak out west in early March. They won 14 of 18 games since then, the best record in the league during that stretch.

The Raptors won their season series against Philly 3-1, including a shorthanded 119-114 victory against the visiting Sixers on Thursday. Philadelphia's elite defender Matisse Thybulle, who was ruled ineligible to play in Toronto on Thursday, also won't be able to play in Games 3 and 4 at Scotiabank Arena, Sixers coach Doc Rivers told reporters on Sunday because of his vaccination status.

Players must be vaccinated to cross the border to play. The rules apply for Toronto players travelling south, but the Raptors are 100 per cent vaccinated.

The Raptors have faced Philly twice in the post-season, most memorably in 2019 when Kawhi Leonard hit the buzzer-beater in Game 7 of the conference semifinals en route to winning the NBA championship.

The Raptors lost to the Sixers in the 2001 conference semifinals, in a thrilling seven-game battle that featured Vince Carter and Allen Iverson.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 10, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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