The NBA’s “baseball style series” experiment rolls on tonight, with the Toronto Raptors facing their second two-game set of the season as they host the Philadelphia 76ers once again. The Raptors split their first mini-series, with the Miami Heat, and they’ll be looking for a sweep of the Sixers and their third straight win tonight.
I kinda dig the format, especially when you get two teams with a nice little rivalry facing off like this. There’s no love lost between these two teams or their fanbases; heck, even players new to the rivalry, like PJ Tucker, got caught up in it on Monday! I fully anticipate a chippy affair with lots of fouls and the accompanying complaining to the officials; hopefully, nothing spills over into actual fisticuffs like it did last weekend in Miami.
On the injury front, Otto Porter Jr. has been ruled out for personal reasons, but at this point he’s the only player from either team on the report.
Where to Watch:
Sportsnet, 7:30pm ET
Toronto – Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., O.G. Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Scottie Barnes
Philadelphia – Tyrese Maxey, James Harden, Tobias Harris, PJ Tucker, Joel Embiid
Toronto – Otto Porter Jr. (personal – out)
Philadelphia – none
Giving ‘em what they need
Once of the coolest things about Monday’s win was how at different points of the game, different Raptors stepped up and delivered exactly what the team needed to give them the edge over Philly. In the first, it was obviously Siakam — not just by draining four threes, but also, the trash talking with Tucker and the Philly bench set the tone for the game.
In the third quarter, with all of Philly’s attention on Siakam, Gary Trent scored 16 points to help the Raptors maintain their edge. And in the fourth, with Philly not quitting, it was steady Freddy VanVleet who kept the ship on course, draining two huge threes at precisely the right time.
While it’s true the Raptors don’t have a “traditional crunch time scorer,” there’s certainly something to be said for a balanced attack in which one of several players can beat you at any given time.
One player who hasn’t had a chance to contribute much is Thad Young; he’s been DNP-CD’ed the last two games, both wins. Coach Nick Nurse has said Young should stay ready as his time will come, but it seems that with Chris Boucher back there just isn’t room for the vet — and I’d imagine there’ll be even less so once Otto Porter is available.
This is indicative of the problem of building a team consisting of one point guard, one shooting guard, and 10 forwards; there just isn’t enough time to play all of those forwards! Whose minutes should Young have been taking in those two wins? Christian Koloko, maybe, who’s definitely looked more rookie-like the past two games; but even then, Koloko brings something to the table on both ends (rim protection on D, roll man on O) that ThYoungad doesn’t.
Should Young have played the 6 minutes that Khem Birch played on Wednesday? That seems like the most likely swap, but I feel like — although they’re essentially the same size — Khem has more reps guarding big centres (like Joel Embiid) than Young does.
So I totally understand the challenge Nick Nurse has in front of him to find minutes for all of his forwards!
I think we all know what a futile effort it would be follow up Jay Rosales’ inspired Fresh Prince rap from Wednesday’s preview, but I do have a little rhyme of my own to share:
Roses are red;
Violets are blue;
Embiid’s the Boy Who Cried Wolf,
And Philly fans need to get a clue.
Yep, that’s in response to this asinine tweet that claims Raptors fans in Scotiabank Arena boo injuries.
You’d think that at some point the Toronto crowds would stop cheering for injuries but unfortunately we are not there yet— Adam Aaronson (@SixersAdam) October 27, 2022
Putting aside the fact that no one got injured, the truth is that fans jeer — not cheer — when Embiid flops and flails around, as they should. Embiid like to sell calls. I’m not even saying that’s a good or bad thing — it’s just a fact. The players know it, the officials know it, the fans know it. So when he acts like he got shot after tripping over his own feet and falling face-first into Pascal Siakam, yeah, of course he’s going to get jeers — by his own actions, he’s eliminated any benefit of the doubt that he might actually have gotten hurt on any given play.
So I would recommend that Sixers fans catch up on Aesop’s Fables before making any more tweets about opposing fanbases.