The Raps arrive in the City of Brotherly Love with a chance to redeem themselves. Last week’s wretched loss at home should be a strong motivator to knock off the vulnerable & inconsistent home team. Philly’s trade prize, Andrew Bynum, who cost them Andre Igudoula, has yet to hit the floor due to ongoing knee rehabilitation. His absence should give the Raps lots of opportunities close to the basket, as the Philly bigs aren’t defensive monsters. The 76ers scoring struggles continue – only 3 teams average fewer than Philly 88.9 PPG. The Raps, by contrast, are a semi-respectable 19th in scoring, but the 76ers are stingier defensively.
Philadelphia’s attack is led by Point Guard Jrue Holiday, who is scoring from inside & out. His 3-point attempts are connecting at a robust 45% clip, so the Raps guards can’t play loose on him. He’s dishing out 8+ APG, indicating his distribution skills have not suffered since being given the green light to fire away from everywhere. Shooting Guard Evan Turner has not yet taken the giant leap forward Philly fans were expecting. His modest 11+ PPG is disappointing; he’s struggling to find open shots, and has attempted only 11 3s. Thaddeus Young is a highly consistent shooter & penetrator who is second in team scoring. He will test DeMar DeRozan’s defense. Spencer Hawes hurt the Raps in Toronto by coming off the bench & nailing mid-range jumpers. He’s second in team rebounding behind Turner, which is a further indictment of Philly’s underwhelming front line. This team is desperate enough up front to give Kwame Brown, widely regarded as one of the largest draft busts ever, his umpteenth chance to prove he’s an NBA player.
The Raps are coming off a healthy win at home, led by Jose Calderon’s 18 assists, & nailed down by a big Q4. The hoary cliche “It’s not who starts a game, it’s who finishes it that matters” is certainly true for Toronto. Coach Casey has no qualms about substituting until he finds a working combination, then sticking with it. Can Linas Kleiza & Amir Johnson, both of whom excelled as the Raps closed out the Magic, make big contributions in this game? I’d like to see more of Ed Davis, who appears to my eye to be slowly turning the corner onto Useful Street. Andrea Bargnani needs a breakout game – is this the one?
In a low-scoring & tight game, I like the Raps to avoid another meltdown & come away with a 90-88 victory.