Gameday: Raptors @ 76ers, Nov. 20

Bowling for wins.

The Raps are in Philly tonight to play a 76ers team which has outperformed expectations so far this season – sans Andrew Bynum and his hair, they’ve still managed to compile a better-than-reasonable 6 and 4 record. No Lowry, Fields, or Anderson yet for the Raps, but Philly is not particularly strong at the 3 so the Lowry loss is the only one that really hurts us for tonight’s game, in my opinion.

This is a big three game road swing for the Raptors – after tonight’s game in Philly, the team heads to Charlotte and Detroit – that’s right, the worst team in the league, and the team everyone thought would be the worst team in the league. Basically what I’m saying here is that if the Raps can get this one, a four game winning streak is not out of the question, and would really be key in helping the team tread water, both while Lowry is out, and during that really tough 22 game stretch to open the season that pundits spoke about ad nauseum.

After Indiana, the 76ers are the second team Toronto’s seen twice this year – they lost 93-83 ten days ago at home in what was widely derided as a pretty underwhelming performance, one that drew some boos at home. The Sixers were last in the NBA in O-rating during the last match-up – they’ve improved that to 28th in the time since – but on paper, this is a team that should have some trouble scoring, and one that Toronto can hopefully begin making steps to improve its team defence with. We’ve slipped to the bottom 3rd in the league in D-rating (20th) and that’s just not good enough for a team who’s calling card is supposed to be its team defence, even with Lowry out.

The 76ers are ranked second in D-rating this season (behind only Indiana, which I found slightly surprising) and so points should be hard to come by for Toronto – DeMar will draw the Sixers best wing defender on the floor, whether that’s Turner, Richardson etc. and his success will be a huge key to a win tonight – with Bargs struggling, he needs to keep playing like an alpha dog, especially against a team like Philly who will feast on our other, below-average wing scoring options.

Key matchup of the night is Jose and Jrue Holiday at the point – Holiday’s had an incredible start to the season and if Jose can just do Jose things on offense and continue to play passable D (doing his best to stay in front of a quick young player, closing out on 3s, etc) then the Raptors should be able to pull out a win here. Getting some offence from our non-Bargnani bigs is a must as well – last time the Raps played the Sixers, Jonas, Ed, and Amir combined for just ten points and that’s not good enough, especially when the players you’re playing opposite are an undersized Thaddeus Young, Spencer Hawes, and the immortal Kwame Brown.

I don’t want to keep picking on Andrea – we all know what he needs to do. A full game of effort and some patience on offense and he’ll contribute to a victory tonight. If not, well, he won’t. All in all, Raptors seem to have the advantage on paper in terms of offensive personnel, so this game is all about defence. If the Raps take the early season criticism to heart, work their butts off on their end of the floor, and none of Philly’s streaky shooters go nuts, the first winning streak of the season is very attainable tonight.

Philly’s favoured by 5. Call me crazy, but I like the Raptors by the same margin. Raptors 92, Sixers 87. Tip at 7:00 EST on TSN.

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