Philadelphia 76ers (1-23) at Raptors (15-9): Preview 3 keys to win


Can the NBA’s worst team give the Raptors a scare?

The hits just keep on comin’ for the train wreck known as the Philadelphia 76ers. Their one-game win streak, courtesy of that sad ex-dynasty, the Los Angeles Lakers, is a memory. Philly has dropped its last five outings, including a ludicrous 51-point beatdown administered by San Antonio. Their plus/minus per game is minus_12.2, easily the NBA’s worst. They haven’t won a road game.

The 76ers rank 26th in 3-point shooting percentage (31.7), 24th in defensive rebounding (32.3 Per Game [PG]), dead last in Points PG (91). They are 25th in Assists PG with 18.8, which ranks them ahead of the Raptors 18.2.

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Wait – they are first in something! Oh, it’s turnovers…18.2 PG.

Oct 7, 2014; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings guard Nik Stauskas (10) drives to the basket against Toronto Raptors forward Jordan Hamilton (25) during the third quarter at Sleep Train Arena.The Sacramento Kings defeated the Toronto Raptors 113-106. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

When I create these previews, I scour through data searching for something to worry about, a strength of the opposing team the Raptors need to game-plan for. I’m not having much luck researching anything about Philly which is problematic, even for an injury-riddled Toronto team. The 76ers block 6.7 shots PG, which ties them for second with Golden State, so I suppose DeMar DeRozan shouldn’t attack the basket – naaah, I’m kidding.

The 76ers starters are considerably longer (and younger) than our guys. They are trying a Twin-Towers front court of Nerlens Noel and rookie Jahlil Okafor, both of whom are recent high draft choices. I’ve no doubt both will be formidable in seasons to come, but not this one. Robert Covington has taken advantage of his opportunity to start, and appears to have cemented himself there with a decent all-around game.

Their backcourt is D-League quality. Kendell Marshall, who has failed elsewhere, gets another shot at justifying his #13 draft selection of a few years ago. This is only his second game after rehabbing a knee injury in the minors. Isaiah Canaan is small and fast, but otherwise bears little resemblance to Kyle Lowry.

Philly’s bench features Nik Stauskas, who had been starting, T.J. McConnell (likewise), Jerami Grant, who I think has a bright future, and Hollis Thompson. Otherwise, they are non-starters on a 1-23 team.

The Raptors should be able to despatch this bunch, and will if they…:

  1. …aren’t complacent. Our team sometimes plays like it expects the opponents to fall on the floor en masse. The only way that’s going to happen is if you break someone’s ankles with a crossover. The Raptors need to respect the other side.
  2. …don’t struggle in the opening minutes. 25-9 after 8+ minutes (Denver) and 11-5 after 4+minutes; 45-33 after 20+ (Phoenix), both home losses. I’d like to see a little more variety in the first few possessions. Does DeMar always have to take the first shot?
  3. …box out when the shot goes up. Basketball 101 and, against a much bigger front line than the Raptors boast, essential. I’m confident our perimeter defense can force difficult shots from their overmatched guards. Hopefully they can hound the ballhandlers, but eventually the ball will get inside. Make their bigs take uncomfortable shots, then grab the boards and run.

Next: Should Raptors move James Johnson for Miles Plumlee?

Set all the fretting aside, and we’ll hear no excuses about a depleted roster. This game is a must-win. Let’s hope everyone in uniform gets on the floor in a 107-89 triumph.