Raptors News

Pregame news and notes: Lowry in, Valanciunas out

Update: JJ Redick is a late scratch

Kyle Lowry is playing through an injury to match up against his hometown Philadelphia 76ers? Who ever heard of him doing that? Jokes aside, it will be good to have Lowry return, especially because he and Kawhi Leonard need all the time together on the court that they can get. The Raptors are coming off of a very boring win over the Los Angeles Clippers, which was a great relief after the letdown loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

Philadelphia, meanwhile, has been closing ground. They’ve gone 8-3 over their last 11, and they now sit at 34-19, only 3.5 games behind Toronto for second place in the East. Much of their success has coincided with their decision to play Jimmy Butler far more minutes at point guard. In a January 31 win over the Golden State Warriors, Butler and Ben Simmons both tallied six assists, which led the team. Toronto has a 2-1 season advantage over Philadelphia, so closing the season series with a win could potentially be significant in a possible tie-breaker scenario for playoff seeding.

The main source of strength for the 76ers has been = Joel Embiid’s dominance. Against the Warriors, he collected 26 points and 20 rebounds. He is such a monster in the paint that he requires multiple bodies to be thrown his way, as single defenders frequently run into foul trouble. Last time out against the Raptors, the 76ers won 126-101 as Embiid romped to 27 easy points on only 18 used possessions. Of course, Jonas Valanciunas and Serge Ibaka were out with injury, and Greg Monroe had little chance in the matchup. Leonard didn’t play either, and though Pascal Siakam and Lowry combined for 46 points, it was a fairly easy victory for Philadelphia.

In both other matchups between the teams, Toronto won fairly handily. Leonard’s presence is every bit as important as Ibaka’s; in the two games in which Leonard has played, Simmons has turned the ball over 18 times. Leonard is the perfect defender for Simmons, as he’s strong and quick enough to keep Simmons out of the paint, and hawkish enough to force turnovers from Simmons’ dribble moves and complex passes.

In both Raptors’ wins, however, Toronto had both of Valanciunas and Ibaka available. Valanciunas averaged 24.5 points in the two games; it’s a good matchup for him. Ibaka can’t play all 48 minutes, and Philadelphia will have a sizeable advantage if Embiid sees any minutes on the floor without Ibaka opposite him. Whomever Toronto assigns to chase JJ Redick around the perimeter will also be interesting. Kyle Lowry would make sense, but as he’s returning from a bad back, Toronto may want him moving less on defence. Lowry could feasibly hide on Mike Muscala if Toronto wants to cross-match, but they will likely open up the game with every player just guarding his position.

The game tips at 8 PM ET on TSN for TV and TheFan590 for radio. You can read a fantastic preview here from Samson Folk.

Raptors Updates

Kyle Lowry (back) is playing, but Jonas Valanciunas (thumb) is out. Nick Nurse says Valanciunas will play sometime on the trip though, so he will be returning quite soon. Malachi Richardson (knee) is also out.

PG: Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Delon Wright

SG: Danny Green, Norman Powell

SF: Kawhi Leonard, CJ Miles, Patrick McCaw

PF: Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby

C: Serge Ibaka, Greg Monroe, Chris Boucher

76ers Updates

Markelle Fultz (shoulder) is out indefinitely, Wilson Chandler (quad) will be out for 2-3 weeks. Update: JJ Redick is out.

PG: Ben Simmons, TJ McConnell

SG: Landry Shamet, Shake Milton

SF: Jimmy Butler, Furkan Korkmaz, Haywood Highsmith

PF: Mike Muscala

C: Joel Embiid, Jonah Bolden, Amir Johnson

Assorted:

  • Some trade rumours:
    • Some rumours flew around early today about Toronto having some interest in Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. It was almost definitely a smoke-screen (and you can read a more in-depth reaction here). The real question is whether Lowry’s inclusion in the rumours will affect anything going forward.
    • The Anthony Davis to Toronto stuff is very quiet. Don’t expect anything.
    • Toronto has been mentioned to have interest in Wesley Matthews if he is bought out of his contract. Toronto probably wouldn’t part with a second-round pick for him, but he’s a capable shooter and passable defender who could play a few minutes off the bench if he ends up in Toronto. The buyout market will be competitive, but Toronto will probably angle to make more of a splash there than with trades.
    • The trade deadline is on Thursday, ie. an eternity from now.

The Line:

Vegas has Toronto +3, which is a little surprising. The game is in Philadelphia, and the 76ers have been playing better ball than the Raptors recently. Still, Toronto matches up quite well. I would take Toronto at +3. The over-under is 231.

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