The Toronto Raptors’ mini-vacation ends tonight with a home game against the Philadelphia 76ers, who started their season with 3 wins, but since then have been the NBA’s punching bag. A 26-game losing streak, only recently ended, tied the league record. They can look forward to a bunch of ping-pong balls on Draft Lottery night, though the injuries and ineptitude of the Milwaukee Bucks means the 76ers will have the second-best shot at the #1 pick.
Creating a respectable analysis of the 76ers for your reading pleasure is most difficult. It’s hard to handicap a team whose starters consist of a brilliant rookie combo guard (Michael Carter-Williams), a respectable shooting guard (Thaddeus Young), and three guys who are interchangeable with 50 others in the Development League. The best of the rest is Hollis Thompson, a smallish forward who’s growing on me. Philly has the poorest plus/minus point differential in the league at -10.9; not surprising for a team with the worst defense.
My tactics are also clouded by the expectation of Jonas Valanciunas being benched (or suspended by the league) as punishment for his DUI charge. As of 7:00AM, he’s named as starting at centre, but that could change. Anyway, the Raps are much better than this team, and will win if we:
- hit our 3-balls. Philly surrenders an insane number of long balls, and opponents are draining them at a high percentage, indicating poor close-out skills.
- get in the paint. This team’s rim protection left town with the trade of Spencer Hawes. Now they rely on Henry Sims and Jarvis Varnardo – good luck with that.
- take care of the ball. The 76ers are adept at steals, so no lazy passes, please.
We really need a return to form of Patrick Patterson, particularly if Amir can’t go, or is at half-speed. Greivis Vasquez has been dandy in Kyle Lowry’s place – can he contribute again? Kyle is listed as a game-time decision; I suspect he’ll dress, but not play unless the situation is dire.
While being mindful of my prediction Monday (that Dwane Casey would continue with his deep rotation, and games would likely be tight, even against shell-shocked opponents), and JV’s uncertainty, I’m going to call a Raps win. However, we haven’t blown these people away yet in our 3 wins, and that’s with all hands on deck. Toronto 107 – Philadelphia 99.