The Raptors weren’t going to be the best three-point shooting team in the league forever; eventually, they were due for regression. Over the last two games, Toronto shot just 28 percent from three, and while the efficiency from deep is unlikely to remain this low, it’s important to be realistic. Just like any other team, the Raptors aren’t perfect and there are some deficiencies to address.
Amongst these flaws is an issue that has continued to plague the franchise for much of its existence: rebounding. Last game, the Raptors gave up a whopping 20 offensive rebounds to the Rockets (largely due to doubling Harden and generally being out of position on defense, but I digress). The 76ers rank 10th in the league in rebounding and employ some particularly large men, so Toronto should look to remain aggressive throughout the contest.
The last time the Raptors played the 76ers, Marc Gasol terrorized an increasingly bewildered and exhausted Joel Embiid, who seemed to have no solution for Marc’s quick hands and excellent positioning in the paint. Tonight’s game will be the 76ers’ second on a back-to-back, though Embiid nursed a hip injury on Saturday night and did not play against the Cavaliers. If he misses tonight’s matchup against the Raptors, it’ll be satisfying to know he’ll be scoring the same amount of points as he did last time.
Here are the details for tonight’s game:
Where to Watch:
TSN 3/4, 6:00 p.m. EST
Toronto – Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol
Philadelphia – Ben Simmons, Furkan Korkmaz, Tobias Harris, Al Horford, Joel Embiid
Toronto – Stanley Johnson (out – groin), Matt Thomas (out – finger), Patrick McCaw (out – knee)
Philadelphia – Trey Burke (day-to-day – illness), Josh Richardson (day-to-day – hamstring), Joel Embiid (day-to-day – hip)
Before injuries forced Nick Nurse to experiment with the deep end of the Raptors’ roster, Serge Ibaka had himself a wonderful start to the season. In addition to seemingly rediscovering his three-point stroke that eluded him the prior year, he looked active, engaged and provided some much-needed physical energy off the bench. Fast forward several weeks, and Toronto has witnessed the spiritual awakenings of the powerfully explosive Terence Davis and energizer bunny Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
Throw Kyle Lowry, one of the league’s most tenacious guards back into the lineup and one would hope that the Raptors can successfully use their strength against the 76ers, who won the rebounding battle quite handily the last time these teams played. Now equipped with a full roster and a game of experience, the Raptors should feel confident that they will be able to handle Philly’s size and muscle.
Last game, Marc Gasol made a mockery of Joel “Zero Points” Embiid who simply had no answers for Marc’s defense. It should be noted that Joel is currently listed as day-to-day with a hip injury, but if he plays, it will be interesting to see how he counters. Embiid has played tremendously since then, even citing that game as the reason why he’s been more physical as of late, often initiating the contact between himself and his defender in the post. If Embiid really has discovered a new, more aggressive version of himself, tonight’s game would be a good litmus test.
If Embiid is injured (and is therefore unable to evict Gasol from the residency he takes up in his head), I expect Philly’s offense to flow largely through Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris. Josh Richardson is day-to-day with a hamstring injury as well, which would severely limit the 76ers’ offensive options if he’s out, too. If this is the case, Toronto’s athletic frontcourt should have no problem stifling Philly’s interior attack.
Fitting Back In
Over the last few weeks sans Kyle, the Raptors were completely in tune with one another, running a fluid offense resulting in open looks and strong takes to the rim. Since Lowry has returned, however, Toronto’s offense has looked a bit disjointed. The team has been caught scrambling, completely abandoning their motion-based offense for stretches. As well, Siakam hasn’t been hunting mismatches or aggressively looking for his shots quite as much as we’d hoped.
Still, I don’t believe fans should hit the panic button quite yet. Lowry is an integral piece of the Raptors’ usual, fluid offense and naturally it will take some time for the new guys to adjust to having him on the floor. As the season progresses, I imagine the Lowry-plus-bench lineups will continue to thrive as they have in years past, but success comes with experience. The Sixers employ the league’s 6th best defense, so playing through adversity on that end should help the new guys discover more about Lowry’s game, and vice versa.