It’s Martin Luther King Day in the United States, which means a heavy slate of holiday NBA games, including an afternoon visit from the Toronto Raptors to play the Philadelphia 76ers.
This is already the fourth meeting between the Atlantic Division teams this season. The Raptors pasted a Joel Embiid-less 76ers team by 34 in the second game of the season, then swept a pre-Christmas home-and-home with victories by five and 16. Philadelphia is starting to round back into form, though, with five wins in their last seven games after a 1-9 stretch, including a four-game winning streak that ended Thursday against Boston. This will be the first time the Raptors see the Sixers with both Embiid and J.J. Redick in the lineup, which means going up against a much better starting five (plus-18 net rating in 288 minutes) than in the previous encounters.
The Sixers aren’t a team to look past, nor are they a team to have a post-Cavaliers/Warriors let down against. The Raptors, by the way, are “only” 5-4 against other East playoff teams but have the best net rating against those teams of anyone; should the 76ers push into one of the eight spots (they’re 1.5 games back), that record would look even better.
The game tips off at 1 on TSN and TSN 1050. You can check out the full game preview here.
Kyle Lowry wasn’t mincing words when he met reporters in his hometown early Monday, telling Keith Pompey that he intended to make his return from a three-game absence caused by a bone bruise in his tailbone and resultant back spasms. Lowry was injured on a hard fall in overtime against Brooklyn last Monday and has progressed to shooting around through some soreness on the weekend. His return after just a week seems closer to the best-case scenario imagined when he took the fall, and while the Raptors went 1-2 without him, the week is probably considered a success given the circumstance. Delon Wright will now move back to the bench alongside Fred VanVleet, while someone else either feels the numbers crunch (Norman Powell again, likely) or Dwane Casey expands his rotation to 11 to account for the extra body.
In any case, it’s a major positive and a sign that the Raptors feel Lowry’s injury is behind him. Strong a personality though he is, Lowry wouldn’t be playing – even in Philly – if his back wasn’t feeling better. If there are lingering concerns, remember that a bone bruise can only be treated symptomatically and that his return was always going to be based on comfort and pain tolerance. There’s not a great risk of re-injury here, though the team will probably monitor his minutes and biometric data in practice to keep any spasms at bay.
To be safe, it may be worth waiting on official word on Lowry before making the relevant DFS/fantasy decisions people seem to regularly freak out about on Twitter. It’s still possible pre-game warmups cause a setback.
UPDATE: The team confirmed it. Lowry back!
PG: Kyle Lowry, Delon Wright, Fred VanVleet
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell
SF: OG Anunoby, C.J. Miles
PF: Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakam
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Jakob Poeltl, Lucas Nogueira
TBD: Alfonzo McKinnie
905: Malcolm Miller, Bruno Caboclo, Lorenzo Brown
This has to be the lightest a 76ers injury report has looked against Toronto in years. J.J. Redick is back in the fold, Joel Embiid is playing with the team having had the last three days off. Amir Johnson missed Thursday’s game due to illness and could conceivably still be ill, though he’s not listed on the injury report. This is all good news for Philly, leaving Markelle Fultz – shooting around before the game but still dealing with shoulder discomfort, which is getting damn depressing at this point – and Furkan Korkmaz (real name, no gimmicks) on the shelf.
In other words, this will be the best version of the 76ers the Raptors have played yet.
UPDATE: Richaun Holmes is an unexpected scratch due to illness.
PG: Ben Simmons, T.J. McConnell, Jerryd Bayless
SG: J.J. Redick, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot
SF: Robert Covington, Justin Anderson
PF: Dario Saric, Trevor Booker
C: Joel Embiid, Amir Johnson
OUT: Markelle Fultz, Furkan Korkmaz, Richaun Holmes
Delaware: James Young, James Michael McAdoo
- Voting for the NBA All-Star Game is now open. You can refresh yourself on the voting procedures here. Make sure to hit that hashtag #NBAVote for DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry (separately – double-player tweets don’t count). Voting ends today, and votes on the app/NBA.com count double today.
- Raptors 905 are off until Wednesday, though I’m unclear on who traveled with the team for this one-game trip. Alfonzo McKinnie is dealing with right knee soreness, Lorenzo Brown is likely there as Kyle Lowry insurance, and Malcolm Miller and Bruno Caboclo may have stayed behind.
- Kyle Lowry’s didn’t return home to Philadelphia empty-handed. Lowry has committed $1 million to support a new locker room for the men’s basketball team at Villanova, which will be named after him. It’s the largest gift from a former athlete in school history. I strongly recommend reading this piece on Lowry’s donation.
— Villanova MBB (@NovaMBB) January 14, 2018
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 15, 2018
The Raptors are 2-point favorites on the road here, with a 220 over-under.