The Raptors have stumbled a bit after quite a hot stretch, losing to the Kings and Thunder on home court. Tonight, they’ll look to right the ship against the 15-21 Philadelphia 76ers, the fourth game of the six-game home stand.

Before we get to the breakdown, Carey Smith of Philadunkia was kind enough to answer some pre-game questions for us.

15-21 is a bit disappointing relative to the expectations for the 76ers, I think. Other than Bynum not playing, what has been the issue in Philly?

Let me preface this by saying that the absence of Bynum is the issue. This team was constructed so that a dominant center would be surrounded with good shooters and a rising point guard. In theory it should have worked (see Orlando with D12). Taking the dominant center (Bynum) out of that formula really screwed things up. Now, back to your question…

In Bynum’s absence a host of issues have popped up or resurfaced. New issues: this team is not very good on defense anymore (especially the bigs); our pace of play borders on UNC from the Dean Smith and his four corners offense era; and the dead-eye shooters we acquired in summer ’12 are suddenly streaky. Old issues like no interior offensive presence and no back-up PG have also reared their ugly heads again in 2012-13.

Philly has been pretty anemic in terms of offensive efficiency despite strong performances from The Jruth and Thad. Is it a matter of a drop-off beyond those two or system-related or what?

The answer is both. Admittedly the Sixers are not loaded with guys who can score the ball at will and get you 20+ a night. Really only Jrue and Thad are capable of consistently scoring at that level. However, the conservative, value the rock at all costs, offensive system that Collins runs does not help those two or others on the team score the ball in bunches. Collins strongly despises turnovers and has built an offense that limits high risk drives to the hoop and passes into traffic. Thus the team hovers around the bottom five in shot attempts at the rim and gets to the charity stripe an average of 17.7 times per night (2nd lowest free throw rate in the League). Also because of this offensive philosophy, the 76ers shoot a ton of 16-23 footers (arguably the least desirable shots on the floor) which is an big issue because our above mentioned streaky shooters are only knocking down those shots at a 34% clip. Collins loves possession of the rock something serious and the result is a lack of good looks for players who are not that great at scoring the ball in the first place.
The Villain (Evan Turner). Another year of incremental but still not very impressive gains. What does his upside appear to be at this point? I was a big fan when he was coming out of college.

I wish I had an answer for you and the Sixers. Turner is a complete mystery to me and he’s easily the most debated topic here at Philadunkia.com. He’s also become as polarizing as Andre Iguodala was for our readers. I will tell you that I am growing very tired of waiting to see his “upside” on a consistent basis. To be honest, I pray that the Kings call soon and offer Cousins (and others) to the Sixers for a package of players that includes Turner.

What can the Raptors try to exploit to get back on the right track at home?

As you know, the Raptors are 7-3 in their last 10 (w/ L’s to SAS & OKC in that stretch) while the Sixers are 3-7 in their last 10, so there’s a host of 76er weaknesses the Raps can exploit right now. Push the pace of the game. Pound the ball inside. Focus on our inability to defend the 3-point line. Use the dribble-drive to expose our poor weak-side rotations. Take your pick. The Sixers are not a very good team right now and there are a number of ways to beat them currently.

Tale of the Tape
O-Rating: Toronto 105.0 (14th), Philly 101.6 (28th)
D-Rating: Philly 106.2 (19th), Toronto 108.0 (25th)
Pace: Philly 90.8 (22nd), Toronto 90.4 (24th)
Strength: Ball Control (Toronto 2nd, Philly 3rd)
Weakness: Philly FTA (30th), Toronto Fouling (30th)

Positional Breakdown
Point Guards: Kyle Lowry and Jose Calderon v. Jrue Holiday and Royal Ivey
Advantage:
Raptors
The Jruth has been very good, is a Most Improved Player Candidate and certainly looks to be earning his DeRozan-ish extension. 18-4-9 is a heck of a line, and his efficiency rates are all on point as well. Apparently he’s a bit of a gambler defensively, which Lowry can hopefully exploit to a degree. The Raptors get the edge due to having 48 minutes of good point guard play instead of 35 minutes of great play and 10-15 minutes of Royal With Cheese. Offensively, the Sixers don’t guard the pick-and-roll ball handler particularly well (27th in the league) but do okay (16th) on the dive-man, so it would perhaps behoove the point guards to be a little more selfish tonight. Beyond that, Philly is also pretty poor at defending cutters and players off of screens, so hopefully we’ll see some extra motion in the offense tonight.

Wings: DeMar DeRozan, Landry Fields, Alan Anderson and Terrence Ross v. Evan Turner, Jason Richardson, Swaggy P and Dorrell Wright
Advantage:
76ers
It’s only a slight advantage here, and if we could be certain who was playing what amount it’d be easier to judge. Both coaches tend to vary their wing rotations, so it’s tough to get a clear gauge. Perhaps the bigger question is whether either team will go small or go big, with the Raptors playing a lot of small-ball of late and the Sixers having the option to slide Thad to the three if they want to create mismatches. As it is, the last two meetings saw different wings step up to hurt the Raps, so everyone will have to be willing and able to play solid defense throughout. None of these players are particularly excellent defensively, though Turner could certainly cause some issues. DeRozan needs a big bounce-back game to get himself on track.

Ed Davis, Amir Johnson and Aaron Gray v. Thad Young, Spencer Hawes, Lavoy Allen and Kwame Brown
Advantage:
76ers
The Raptors would have the edge if they were at all healthy, but they’re not. Hawes and Allen are just okay and Kwame is questionable, so it’s strictly a matter of if Davis and Johnson are up to the task of dealing with Thad Young, who I am a huge fan of and looking forward to watching. Young doesn’t score a tonne but is very efficient when he does, while also providing defensive value and hitting the glass hard. On the offensive end, Davis and Johnson both need to click and have a strong game for the Raptors to net an edge. In the previous match-ups, Jonas and Andrea were playing heavy minutes with these two contributing little, so it will be interesting to see if they can step up when needed.

The Picks
Vegas: Raptors -4.5
Hollinger: Raptors -5.5
Blake: Raps by 6

Philly has beaten the Raptors twice this year, but they’re reeling and the Raptors are due for a bounce-back of sorts. Toronto doesn’t match up great, hence Philly winning twice earlier in the year. Even still, Philly has scored over 90 points just once in their past seven games and are clearly in trouble at the offensive end. They’re playing such that Toronto should be able to dictate the style of play and as long as they can close out on the Swaggy P’s of the world, the pressure on defense should be manageable. I realize the breakdown likely favors the Sixers in tone, but such is life as a fan, I’m rolling with Toronto.


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