Well at least that is over with.
Pascal Siakam, Gary Trent jr., and Khem Birch have been cleared from health and safety protocols (though they are questionable to play tonight, given their conditioning statuses). The cavalry is coming. At some point.
On the other side of the aisle, the Philadelphia 76ers are slowly starting to turn their season around. Shake Milton, Danny Green, and Andre Drummond remain in health and safety protocols, but the stars in Tobias Harris and Joel Embiid are on the court together and starting to thrive. They combined for 59 points on 33 shots in their last outing against the Washington Wizards. On the season, the Sixers are only 17-16, slightly ahead of the Toronto Raptors, but Embiid has played in only 22 games. They’re still a very good team with him on the court.
But they’ve shown some weakness this year without Ben Simmons. The Sixers’ defense is only 12th best in the league after ranking third last year. They’re only middle of the pack in protecting the rim. Harris is in the midst of a cold season, shooting relatively poorly from deep, and outside of him, the Sixers have a plethora of supporting scorers without any isolation dynamos. Seth Curry and Tyrese Maxey aren’t wonderful creators for others yet.
So the Sixers are very good, particularly when they’re healthy, but they aren’t as unbeatable as they have been in seasons past.
The Raptors, on the other hand, won’t be able to surprise anyone without key guys. Maybe all three of Siakam, Trent, and Birch will return, and maybe they won’t show much rust. Conditioning will still be a factor. Barring heroics from someone on the roster, this remains another schedule loss until the Raptors have more of the roster back. That’s life — there’s always a few of those a season when teammates decide to celebrate a birthday the night before a game. This time it’s just out of the Raptors’ hands.
The show must go on.
Raps are +5.5 (I’m not seeing an over-under yet?). That seems, ahh, let’s say, charitable to the Raptors. Hard to bet against the good guys, but smart money would in this case probably do just that. There’s a Caesars sportsbook promo code that’s offering a first bet match up to $1,001 and a $100 bet to get an NBA jersey.
Tip-Off: 7:30pm EST | TV: Sportsnet | Radio: TSN1050
Malachi Flynn & Precious Achiuwa have cleared COVID protocols. Pascal Siakam, Gary Trent & Khem Birch cleared yesterday.
Raps have 5 players left in protocols: VanVleet/Anunoby/Barnes/Champagnie/Bonga.
Siakam/Trent are probable vs PHI tonight. Birch/Achiuwa/Flynn questionable.
— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) December 28, 2021
PG: Dalano Banton, Tremont Waters
SG: Gary Trent jr., Svi Mykhailiuk
SF: Yuta Watanabe
PF: Pascal Siakam, D.J Wilson, Juwan Morgan
C: Chris Boucher, Daniel Oturu
PG: Tyrese Maxey, Tyler Johnson
SG: Seth Curry, Furkan Korkmaz, Isaiah Joe, Myles Powell
SF: Matisse Thybulle
PF: Tobias Harris, Georges Niang, Paul Reed, Charles Bassey
C: Joel Embiid