Toronto Raptors Philadelphia 76ers January 262, 2011

Injuries

Toronto
Reggie Evans – Out
Leandro Barbosa – Out
Jose Calderon – Day to day
Sonny Weems – Day to day
Linas Kleiza – Day to day
Joey Dorsey – Day to day

Philadelphia
Andres Nocioni – Day to day

Match-ups

Point Guard
Never have I been more in Calderon’s corner then this season; count me as one who votes no on trading him for pennies on the dollar. What the powers that be need to do is shut him down for two weeks, and let the guy get better. Playing him a few games, and sitting him out doesn’t help anyone. The good news is that Bayless seems to play-up when he gets the start (15pts 8reb 11ast in the loss to the Grizz). He has a lot of room for improvement, and can learn a great deal from Calderon’s mentorship.

Against Holiday/Williams, his ability to get into the lane will be crucial. It wont be easy since Holiday is a quality defender on the perimeter with his foot work, positioning and anticipation. He’s had a couple off games (by his improved season standards) the last two times out, but both games ended as a Philly win, one of which was against the Jazz. Williams brings a different dimension to the point, where he’s a me-first on the ball. The kid is quick off the dribble, but doesn’t have the top notch ball handling needed yet to take it to the next level. Both these guys prefer to take the ball to the hole than shoot it, but can get hot from the perimeter.

A lot will depend on whether Calderon is healthy enough to go or not; takes more than a day to get back into the swing of things from the flu. His steadfast ability to protect the ball and make the right decisions will go a long way as compared to Holidays/Williams inexperience. Hopefully, if the game comes down to a last second shot, Gaines wont be taking it.
Edge: Sixers

Shooting Guard
I’m still pissed I didn’t take DeMar for my fantasy team when I had the chance, really could have used his scoring even though he doesn’t provide much else on the boxscore.  Regardless, over the last five games, the kid is averaging 24.4pts 4rebs while playing big minutes. What he’s doing a much better job of is getting to the line, all of which can be attributed to his aggressive slashes to the rim off the dribble. That’s all I want from the kid, put the ball on the floor, head in the direction of the rim and something good will happen; you’re too good for it not too.

Neither Meeks no Turner have the combination of size, athleticism and willingness to defend DeRozan at a high level. And since both these guys rely on their shooting to put up points; getting them into foul trouble will go a long way in neutralizing them. DeRozan’s going to need to play big minutes, and use his size/strength against Meeks, who can light it up from the perimeter, but doesn’t have the speed to take him off the dribble. Even without Barbosa tonight, I like DeRozan a lot against these two. What I’d most like to see from DeMar is 7+ rebounds and about 3 assists. Start sharing the wealth, and turn yourself into a threat on different levels.
Edge: Raptors

Small Forward
While the hype surrounding his impending trade (for a couple seasons now it seems) has died down some with their playoff seeding, Andre’s game has taken a dip this season. His scoring and efficiency is down, which explains his lowest usage rate since his sophomore season, but the team has been playing above expectations. Regardless, the last time out against the Raptors AI9 put up 17pts 8rebs 6ast in the loss.

He’s shooting the ball much more than he should be, and not using his tremendous athleticism, which takes some of the strain off the Raptors defense in the paint and help rotations. That needs to be strategy tonight, where Julian can use his speed and reach to keep Andre at bay while challenging his shot.

Injuries across the board have hurt the Raptors, mostly at small forward. While we love Wright for his defense and work ethic, he really shouldn’t be playing more than 24min a game. We need Kleiza back, and contributing in a positive manner. While he still bothers me (not as much as Weems does), he has his place on this team; which isn’t at the end of the bench.
Edge: Sixers

Power Forward
I find myself constantly rooting for Brand, and defending him to no end. He’s clearly not the 20/10 guy he was since his rookie season, but still has a valuable place in the league. I can see him reinventing himself in the mold of McDyess, or at least he should be. There’s going to be a lot of give-and-take tonight with him. On the one hand, he will pull Amir/Ed out of the paint to the foul line extended, where he spends a great deal of his time on offense looking for that jumper. However, when he’s in the low-block, he doesn’t have the legs to really take advantage of his post skills. He still grabs about 9 rebounds a game, but he can’t match Amir/Ed on the glass if it comes to a jumping match.

You have to account for him at all times though, as he reminded us the last time with 27pts 8rebs 2ast; not bad for an old cripple yea?  The Sixers are very deep at the 4/5, and can throw different looks at the Raptors all night: Thaddeus Young can come in and challenge Amir/Ed in the paint and make them hustle in transition; Craig Brackins is a big beast who played a very productive 10 minutes against the Raptors the last game where he dropped 6pts out of nowhere.

On the flip side, Philly will have to deal with Amir/Ed’s athleticism, size and willingness to get into the mix of things. Along with DeRozan, these three really make watching games super enjoyable for me.
Edge: Sixers

Center
I dread talking about Bargnani; while I’m not down on him by any stretch (he’s a great scoring center that gives the Raptors lots of mis-match opportunities), he hurts us in every other facet of the game. However, he’s a great deal at $10mil/year because of the fact that he’s a stretch center who can play in the post for stretches, and is only 25. As for the match-up tonight, he will own Hawes, Speights and Battie; it’s really not even a question. As always, that questions remains will he do more than score?
Edge: Raptors

The Line

The gamblers have the Sixers as 1.5 point favourites with an over/under of 202.5. It will come down the wire, similar to the Memphis game, but I got the Raptors taking this one. They’ve beat the Sixers twice already this season, and need to stop the bleeding bloody asap. Raptors by 6.