The most cliche touristy thing to do in Philadelphia — other than eating cheese steaks and finding the Liberty Bell — is running up the stairs at the Museum of Arts and looking like a dork while paying homage to Rocky Balboa.
That’s actually not a bad idea because the Toronto Raptors may shock some folks if they’re able to steal a victory in Philadelphia. The Sixers have poor transition defense (#25) and are below-average in allowing offensive rebounds. That sounds like a recipe for success for Toronto.
At practice yesterday, Nick Nurse hinted at holding back on revealing his best play calls in case these teams meet again in the playoffs. Shouldn’t the focus first be on... making the playoffs?
Regardless of which answer is correct, both teams are relatively healthy and fighting for higher seeds in the East playoff picture. This should have all the intensity of a playoff game. Buckle up!
Where to watch
Sportsnet, 7:00PM ET
Toronto Raptors — Fred VanVleet, Scottie Barnes, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl
Philadelphia 76ers — Tyrese Maxey, James Harden, Tobias Harris, PJ Tucker, Joel Embiid
Toronto Raptors — Dalano Banton (left thumb sprain – questionable), Will Barton (left ankle sprain – questionable), Gary Trent (right elbow stiffness – questionable), Joe Wieskamp (right hamstring strain – questionable), Otto Porter Jr. (left toe surgery – out)
Philadelphia 76ers — None
Pick your poison
Joel Embiid, James Harden, and Tyrese Maxey make up the highest-scoring trio in the NBA, averaging over 75 points per game collectively. High-scoring individuals that play the Raptors are normally met with a heavy dose of O.G. Anunoby. With Jakob Poeltl likely getting the Embiid assignment, Harden may have the unenviable task of trying to score on Toronto’s best defender. Maxey’s speed may play a huge factor in how the Raptors decide to gameplan against Philly. When these teams first met at the beginning of the season, Maxey carved up the Raptors defense with little-to-no resistance. So, maybe Anunoby should guard Maxey? The Sixers really are a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” type of team.
Is this the year?
Philadelphia’s stellar play since the All-Star break has surely excited every single Sixers fan and begs the age-old question: is this the year they win that long-overdue championship? The last time Philadelphia hoisted the Larry OB, they were led by another dynamic trio: Moses Malone, Julius Erving, and Andrew Toney (who fell 0.3 points per game shy of joining his Hall-of-Fame teammates in averaging at least 20 points).
The last time the Sixers made the NBA Finals, Allen Iverson stepped over Tyronn Lue... and almost directly out of the Finals! Embiid has never looked better, Harden has recovered from a slow start to the season to now leading the league in assists, and Maxey is a contender for the Most Improved Player award.
Trap game potential
If you were a Sixers fan (tough to imagine, I know), what would you think of this stretch of games: Warriors, Suns, Nuggets, Mavericks, Raptors, Bucks, and Celtics. Wouldn’t you circle the game against Toronto as an easy, surefire victory? Philadelphia was without Joel Embiid (and James Harden) for the much-anticipated MVP matchup with Nikola Jokic. The return of Philly’s dynamic duo occurred instead a game later against the floundering Mavericks. The Sixers’ victory over Dallas halted a three-game losing streak.
Despite their recent string of losses, Philadelphia is still only 2.5 games behind the 2nd-seeded Celtics (only two back in the loss column). The Sixers follow this game up with crucial games against Milwaukee and Boston — both of whom Philadelphia is desperately trying to catch.
The Raptors have a history of breaking Sixers’ fans hearts at Wells Fargo Center. The unsuspecting Sixers may be in for a surprise if they’re caught looking ahead.