The Toronto Raptors are in Philadelphia for their first game of four this season against the 76ers. Philly started strongly with 3 wins, which was a poke in the eye to pundits (including Yours Truly) who had them pegged as permanent cellar dwellers. However, reality has set in; the 76ers have one win in their past six. Philly is blatantly tanking this season, in hopes of landing a “generational player” in the NCAA draft. However, some of the 76ers haven’t bought the roll-over-&-die message coming from management, and are giving surprisingly strong accounts of themselves.
Sadly for Philly fans, those players are easily identified. If the Raps want to prevail in a stop-the-bleeding game, they will need to:
- Bother Evan Turner. Philly’s fourth-year swingman is casting aside his underachiever label, averaging 22 Points Per Game [PPG]. In some ways, he’s their version of DeMar DeRozan, a wiry slasher whose only weakness is poor shooting from beyond the 3-point arc. Turner bears close attention, and I’d love to see Rudy Gay (or Quincy Acy?) in his face all game.
- Get the ball inside on offense. Philly gives up nearly 110 PPG, largely because they have no interior defenders. Spencer Hawes can rebound well enough, but isn’t sufficiently mobile to control Jonas Valanciunas. Their backup bigs are journeymen like Lavoy Allen or kids like Hollis Thompson. Even the slow of foot Amir Johnson might have some fun against this frontcourt.
- Make some 3-balls. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this opponent is vulnerable to giving up the long ball, but they won’t pay for that weakness until the Raps start hitting their open looks. Time to step up, Terrence Ross. My guess is TR will see the floor to defend against Philly’s other offensive weapon, rookie Michael Carter-Williams. I certainly hope the Raps’ guards, who have treated TR like he’s the Invisible Man, will find him tonight for open looks.
Toronto must grab a win here. Philly is better than expected, which isn’t saying much, but they lead the Atlantic Conference. All five teams are below .500, and Toronto may find the shortest route to the playoffs is by winning the Conference. Not only do the Raps need this game to partly assuage the pain of 2 OT losses in their past 4 games, but to advance their cause of making the post-season.
I saw the Raps miss most of their long balls, yet still wrestle the powerful Trail Blazers to a draw in regulation time. I think their distance shooting will return, and the Raps will discover the virtues of balanced scoring on their way to a 109-102 victory.
We might see: a big game on the boards from the determined Tyler Hansbrough….better shooting from Kyle Lowry….several 3-balls from Spencer Hawes.
Brian Boake is Senior Editor 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.
Remember, for the best deals on Toronto Raptors tickets for any game on the 2013-14 NBA schedule, visit our friends at TiqIQ.com.