The year was 2022, and the Toronto Raptors were playing the Los Angeles Lakers on a cold, December night. After prevailing 126-113, the Raptors’ record was 13-12. That would be the last time that Toronto was above .500 and tonight marks their first opportunity to climb back into the black during their tumultuous season. For those counting, that’s 114 days of sub-optimal play in almost every way you could imagine.
And yet, here we are! Going 6-2 in their last eight games, Toronto is finally finding consistent ways to put the ball in the basket as they've scored over 110 points in all but their previous game against the Miami Heat. For the winning ways to continue, they’re going to need a lot more of that, as they’ll have their hands full — and then some — with a team that might be as close to a rival, at least emotionally, as the Raptors have in the Philadelphia 76ers. Oh, they also happen to have the third best net rating and hold their opponents to the third lowest total points per game in the league.
As their record may suggest, the 76ers are an elite team and a true title-threat with a potential MVP, the league leader in assists and a potential MIP winner in Tyrese Maxey. Though foul merchants Joel Embiid and James Harden are the teeth of the problem that Toronto will attempt to solve, stymie and stilt, it’s Maxey who looms largest as the greatest potential threat to a Raptors’ W. Yes, Poeltl will have his hands full with Embiid and a gang of defenders will be shown to Harden in an effort to tire the crafty veteran guard, but Maxey seemingly doesn’t have the ability to tire. His lightning quick first, second and third step are devastating, especially to a team that struggles to contain the perimeter. Can the Raptors finally find a way to slow him down? Will coach Nick Nurse keep true to his promise of burying some of his best play calls in order to surprise Philadelphia if they were to meet in the playoffs? Tune in and let’s find out together!
In late roster updates, Tobias Harris will miss the game with a non-COVID illness.
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, De’Anthony Melton, PJ Tucker, Joel Embiid
Toronto Raptors — Dalano Banton (thumb – doubtful), Will Barton (ankle – doubtful), Gary Trent (elbow – questionable), Joe Wieskamp (hamstring – probable), Otto Porter Jr. (toe – out)
Philadelphia 76ers — Tobias Harris (non-COVID illness – out)