Toronto Raptors: Previewing key matchups in shortest month of the year

(Photo by Anatoliy Cherkasov/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
(Photo by Anatoliy Cherkasov/NurPhoto via Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Feb. 5- Toronto Raptors at Philadelphia 76ers

Key Matchup: Frontcourt vs. Ben Simmons

A juxtaposition to their tiebreaker scenario with the Celtics, the Raptors have the edge against the Philadelphia 76ers with a lone loss in a trio of games.

With each game being decided by double-digit margins, the 76ers took the most recent game, 126-101. Though the lopsided score paints a grim picture, Raptors’ pundits can take solace in the fact that Leonard was out in that game.

Another benefactor of a January jubilation alongside Irving, Ben Simmons had himself a month.

A steady presence throughout his sophomore season in the association, Simmons averaged a near triple-double in the first month of 2019. His scoring (18.9) and distribution (8.7 assists) were both single month highs this year, with his rebounding (9.9) also standing out.

Simmons’ average plus/minus was also the highest in a month this year (+6.7).

Luckily for the Raptors, in two of their first three matchups against Simmons this year, they have held the point forward to 11 points or fewer. Sans his 26-point outburst, the Raptors have limited Simmons to a mere 15 combined shot attempts in the other two bouts.

A key to their limitation of Simmons in the two games was their ability to force turnovers from the youngster. In the two games, the Raptors forced 9.5 turnovers per game, a full six more miscues per game than Simmons’ season average (3.5).

Both Pascal Siakam and Leonard will be tasked with limiting Simmons, the latter being a two-time Defensive Player of the Year with a pair of top-10 finishes in steals in a campaign.

Next. Which Raptors are most likely to be dealt?. dark

Forcing Simmons to give the ball up, by either turnovers or press defense, will be a key factor in the possible tiebreaker clinching matchup for the Raptors. If the visitors allow Simmons to tally 20-plus point scoring with only a single turnover again, their fate will likely reign similar to their single loss.