Coming off two losses, the Toronto Raptors appear to be mired in their first cold spell of the year. Playing a great team in the Philadelphia 76ers, the Raptors will certainly have a tough test to snap the streak. After its pair of losses, Toronto is now 3-6 against teams over .500.
Toronto’s offense has been an issue during its losses. We suspected before the year that initiation in the half-court might be an issue, but it has instead been a strength for much of the year. Then against the Miami Heat and Houston Rockets, Pascal Siakam lost much of his aggression, and the Raptors looked lackluster for the first time. To go along with that passivity, the Raptors shot a frigid 23-of-82 from deep.
There were positives. After shooting 0-for-11 from deep against the Heat, Kyle Lowry was incredibly efficient against the Rockets. He shot 5-of-8 for 19 points. He picked his shots, hit his triples, and got to the free throw line. Lowry probably could have done more with the offense, as his usage rate of 13.1 percent was second-lowest among rotation players. But he was excellent, offering some scoring punch that no one else on the team could really muster with consistency.
The last time the Raptors faced the 76ers, they won, and all the headlines were about Joel Embiid’s zero-point output. Toronto’s defensive performance masked some of their offensive difficulties in the game. Fred VanVleet and Siakam were on something of a mission to prove that length no longer bothered them, as it did in the playoff series against Philadelphia. They accomplished that, combining for 49 points, but Toronto’s other starters were inconsistent. The team finished with an offensive rating of 107.4, lower than its season average of 110.4. Lowry should help that plenty, as he’s fantastic at settling down the offense and making sure the Raptors get a great look with every set. When he’s shooting well himself, that’s only a bonus.
Toronto is yet to have a good offensive game since Lowry and Serge Ibaka returned to the lineup. Either Lowry himself or his teammates have floundered. Ibaka needs to get back on track, but his problems — dropping passes, missing his mid-range looks — are sure to be shaken away as he works his way back into the swing of things. Hopefully time fixes all wounds.
Philadelphia, on the other hand, is a tough defense against which Toronto is trying to right the ship. Yes, they recently lost to the woeful Washington Wizards, but then they went out and beat the Cleveland Cavaliers by 40+ without Joel Embiid or Josh Richardson. They’re on a hot shooting streak, but turnovers reared their ugly head in the Wizards loss. Embiid and Ben Simmons combined for 15 giveaways. If Toronto is going to get the offense rolling again, it’ll probably be in transition, where the Raptors are monsters. Similarly, if the Raptors are going to stop the Sixers, it’ll greatly be by forcing turnovers.
Tipoff: 6:00pm EST | TV: TSN | Radio: TSN1050
Patrick McCaw (knee), Matt Thomas (finger), and Stanley Johnson (groin) are all out.
PG: Kyle Lowry Fred VanVleet, Terence Davis II
SG: Norman Powell
SF: OG Anunoby, Malcolm Miller
PF: Pascal Siakam, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
C: Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Chris Boucher, Dewan Hernandez
Josh Richardson (hamstring) has been ruled out. Joel Embiid (hip), Matisse Thybulle (ankle), and Trey Burke (illness) are all day-to-day, although Brett Brown hinted that Embiid will play.
PG: Ben Simmons, Raul Neto, Shake Milton
SG: Furkan Korkmaz, Zhaire Smith
SF: Tobias Harris, James Ennis, Matisse Thybulle
PF: Al Horford, Mike Scott, Jonah Bolden
C: Joel Embiid, Kyle O’Quinn
The Raptors are +3, and the over-under is 210.5.