Here, take it.

The Raptors head into Philly tonight, and the first thought that comes to mind is this:

On a more serious note, the Raptors have lost three straight games to drop to 14-25 and effectively end what was quite a hot streak. The Sixers may be the last bastion of hope for some time as the Lakers and Heat are on tap next.

The Sixers, you may remember, are struggling badly, having lost six of seven and eight of ten including a 90-72 loss in Toronto on Jan. 9. In that meeting, the Sixers shot just 39% to Toronto’s 49%, were out-rebounded by the Raptors by nine and also lost the turnover battle. It was a pretty thorough drubbing that may have been a low points for the Sixers, who were on the second night of a back-to-back following an eight-game road trip.

Philly comes in a little more rested this time around, having been off since Tuesday. They’re still missing Andrew Bynum, of course, and Jason Richardson and Kwame Brown are also questionable. The Raptors will be without Andrea Bargnani, Jonas Valanciunas and Linas Kleiza, at least per the latest updates.

Tale of the Tape
O-Rating: Toronto 106.0 (11th), Philly 101.6 (28th)
D-Rating: Philly 106.5 (18th), Toronto 108.1 (26th)
Pace: Philly 90.8 (23rd), Toronto 89.9 (25th)
Strength: Both Ball Control (Toronto 2nd, Philly 3rd)
Weakness: Philly Freebies (30th in FTA/FGA), Toronto Freebies (30th in Opp FTA/FGA)

Synergy Says
Philly: Do well out of isolation, spot-up and post-up situations. Their highest volume of shots are of the spot-up variety at nearly 20%, followed by 15% being used by the pick-and-roll ball handler, an area where they struggle. Defensively, they are very exploitable in the transition game, and since they rarely turn the ball over, defensive rebounding against them is a key. They guard post-ups and the pick-and-roll ball handler well, though they struggle with dive-men.

Toronto: Surprisingly do very well out of isolation. Also make hay out of all pick-and-roll situations and on the offensive glass. Create a tonne of spot-up three-point opportunities but don’t hit them. The only offensive area they really struggle in is the transition game, which could be a key in this one. Defensively, you might be surprised to know the Raptors are the second best team at guarding against pick-and-roll ball handlers, forcing turnovers almost a quarter of the time. They are, however, one of the worst at guarding dive-men, perhaps because their bigs have to over-commit to help on the ball-handler. The Raptors also struggle with spot-up situations and post-up situations.

Positional Breakdown
Point Guards: Kyle Lowry and Jose Calderon v. Jrue Holiday and Royal Ivey
Slight Advantage:
Toronto
Holiday has been the best of the group, but relying on Ivey for 10-12 minutes kills the Sixers. Holiday is great and should be an All Star selection, posting 19-4-9 with efficient shooting and better than a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. He’s a tough check for the Raptors but actually plays to their defensive strengths as someone who initiates 41% of his offense as the pick-and-roll ball handler. In the three previous meetings, Holiday has more or less posted his season line but has been a little less efficient in getting there. Lowry should be able to handle The Jruth to a somewhat effective degree if he doesn’t gamble too much and leave an extra man open to try to steal passes. Calderon may have trouble defensively, but if he can at least lead Holiday to the desired areas where the bigs can help, he should be okay. Holiday is good, not great, defensively, and Lowry has been red hot of late.

Wings: DeMar DeRozan, Landry Fields, Alan Anderson and Terrence Ross v. Evan Turner, Dorell Wright, Swaggy P and J-Rich and/or Damien Wilkins
Slight Advantage:
 Sixers
Last week I called this an edge for the Sixers, but with J-Rich questionable and Landry Fields kind of back to life, I’m less convinced. In the last outing, none of the wings did particularly well since the Raptors did a good job keeping them off the three-point line, where all of these guys are moderately effective. The game-plan should be the same tonight, with special attention paid to the “hot hand,” which Doug Collins tends to feed once it’s been identified. DeRozan had a decent outing last Wednesday, and Fields posted a double-double. You know what would help? Landry Fields hitting a three sometime during this contract.

Bigs: Ed Davis, Amir Johnson, Acy Slater and Aaron Gray v. Thad Young, Spencer Hawes and Lavoy Allen
Advantage:
Toronto
Gee, do you think we’ll see either team go small tonight? Thad could even see some time at the five when the Raptors trot out their one-big looks. I realize this “advantage” switched from last Wednesday but in that game Ed and Amir went off and Fields capably played minutes at the four. Allen is not very good and Hawes continues to disappoint with the opportunity for more minutes at hand (look at his career numbers – he’s shown roughly zero improvement on a per-36-minute basis in six seasons). It won’t be the exact same game as last time out, but it will be similar, I think, so the Raptors can survive with just two adequate big men.

The Picks
Vegas: Sixers -3.5
Hollinger: Raptors -2
Blake: Woah. Big swing there from Vegas to Hollinger. I’ll take my guys with the points and say Raptors by 5, in what will be a close game wire-to-wire. A happy ending, for a change.

Have a good weekend everyone. Go Raptors. 500th follower gets a signed head shot.

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