While it seems awfully early in the season to be trotting out cliches like “must-win game” to describe tonight’s tilt against Philly, for the struggling Raps it seems to fit. The 76ers, a sexy pundits’ choice for Eastern Conference contender status, have started their season 2-2, which is respectable enough considering Andrew Bynum has yet to suit up at Centre. Bynum was acquired from the Lakers in a zany 4-team trade which cost Philly their best player, Andre Iguodala, a high but necessary price to pay for a skilled C.
The Sixers visited & defeated the Celtics last night, so they are in form. Their skilled Coach, Doug Collins, seems to prefer a short bench (only 9 players hit Boston’s parquet floor, & 3 of them played 40+ minutes), so the Raps may be looking once again to outrun a fatigued opponent. Collins’ select-few players are no slouches: Evan Turner is a young, aggressive swingman, PG Jrue Holiday scores & passes effectively, SG Dorell Wright was buried on Miami’s bench for years, but has found his game & is a legitimate starter, swingman Thaddeus Young is a consistent scoring threat out to the 3-point line. The 76ers are even getting effective play from Spencer Hawes, a more skilled Aaron Gray-type, but I remain skeptical of a team which has significant minutes available for Royal Ivey.
For the Raps, the status of Kyle Lowry’s damaged right ankle is top-of-mind. We won’t know until game time whether he will attempt to play, but even if he can, he will likely be hobbled. Will Coach Casey maintain his belief in beleaguered Landry Fields, & allow him to start? If it were my team, I doubt I’d dress him, but Dwane may believe he’s overdue to snap out of his funk. Andrea Bargnani had his first decent game of the season at Dallas, & will be counted on again to lead the offense. Jonas Valanciunas could have an easier time tonight – Philly is a fast-break, jump-shooting team, so JV won’t be under pressure to fend off a quality big man. JV’s problem has been fouls; when he stays in the game, he has shown great promise as a scorer & rebounder. Philly’s array of swingmen like to take the ball to the hole, so JV will have a chance to block some shots.
The 76ers without Bynum are tough, but beatable. I think the Raps step up to a 103-100 victory.
Brian Boake is a staff writer for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.