The Raptors are flying high after dispatching the junk Bulls on Thursday night (and perhaps vanquishing the Chicago Curse for good). What else is on the docket for them? Ah yes, the Philadelphia 76ers, the super-team-in-waiting. This was to be the year the Sixers started to put it all together. Except, uh, they enter the ACC at 0-2 and don’t look a hell of a lot better than before. Am I wrong?
The exciting — or at least interesting — reason to watch the Sixers today is found in their three rookies (or near rookies). We get a first look at Markelle Fultz (who is already playing behind Jerryd Bayless; a good sign), Ben Simmons (who refuses to shoot the basketball), and we get another glimpse of Joel Embiid who may or may not be the most amazing player in the league — if he manages to play more than 30 games a season.
Some bad news right off the jump: Embiid is not playing today, as it’s a back-to-back for Philly. Does that make things easier for the Raptors? Ehhhhh, I won’t say it out loud if you don’t, but, well... let’s just get to the game details.
Where to Watch:
Sportsnet One at 7:30 pm
Raptors - Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas
Sixers - Jerryd Bayless, J.J. Redick, Robert Covington, Ben Simmons, and at centre your guess is as good as mine — Amir Johnson?
Raptors - Malcolm Miller
Sixers - Joel Embiid (rest, again! We may never see him play in the ACC!), Jahlil Okafor (he’s listed day-to-day so maybe he plays), Richaun Holmes
More Passing, All of the Passing
The Raptors are suddenly passing wizards!
OK, maybe not wizards per se — they did have 17 turnovers in their game against the Bulls, with nine of them coming from Lowry and DeRozan — but they are making an effort. To wit: their assist numbers jumped way up in the preseason, and in that first game they did manage 26 assists on 39 field goals. There were also numerous plays where an open shooter made an extra pass to an even more open shooter; and there is no doubt DeRozan is taking his desire to lead the team in assists to heart.
It’s doubtful DeRozan will actually make that kind of leap (especially with Lowry casually dropping nine dimes in a game), but the kind of payoff it has for the Raptors offense — especially come playoff time — should be well worth it. Let’s watch tonight to see what kind of assist numbers the Raptors amass.
Who Starts at Centre?
This is an easy answer for the Raptors, since Jonas Valanciunas is playing extremely well right now, but for the Sixers, uh, who is there to play? Embiid is sitting, Okafor is listed as day-to-day with illness, and Holmes doesn’t come back until November. After that the team is looking at James Michael McAdoo and our old friend Amir.
Now, I’ll say this: I would love to see an extended Jonas vs. Amir matchup. It was three, four, five years ago when Amir was anchoring Toronto’s backline and teaching Jonas the ways of defense. Did it work? Well, uh, sort of — Jonas is doing what he can. Johnson meanwhile has been betrayed by his body as of late, but he still brings a touch of wisdom to a Sixers team that lacks for sage advice.
This game could turn into a challenge for Norman Powell and C.J. Miles. The Sixers do have a core of wings and tweener forwards that can leverage some size on the Raptors’ wing. Simmons is no joke as an offensive force (even if, yes, he’s a tad reluctant to shoot), Bob Covington has burned Toronto before, and Dario Saric is a bit of a trouble maker as well. It’ll be interesting to see if the Raptors go to their all-bench lineup again, and match Philly’s youth and speed with their own.
Also, I really want to see OG Anunoby get some burn in this game, if only to watch him outperformance the number one pick, Fultz. I’m not saying that will definitely happen tonight, but I’m not not saying it. OG is the best.