This edition of “Fo’ with the Foes” – Philadunkia’s advanced scouting series which with the help of an accomplished journalist from around the NBA beat or blog world, previews upcoming 76ers’ games – features tonight’s opponent, the Toronto Raptors, who currently hold the 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race and have won six of their last seven games.
After the jump, I’ll look a Fo’ key items for tonight’s game. Additionally, we’ll get a little more insight into this Toronto team the Sixers face tonight from our colleague William Lou at raptorsrepublic.com, as William will answer Fo’ questions on his Raptors from us here at Philadunkia.
Here are Fo’ key items I will be watching for tonight from the Sixers end…
1) Keep DeRozan in Check (Part III): The Raptors have won three straight against the Sixers and DeRozan (22.8 ppg.) has been the main reason for their success. To be honest, DeRozan has simply killed the Sixers’ defense this year. In the last meeting (1/24/14) between the two squads, the Raps got 34 points from DeRozan in a 104-95 win. That raised DeRozan’s scoring average this season vs. the 7-6 to 31.3 ppg. I have no idea how the Sixers are going to do it, but Brown & Co. need to keep DeRozen under 30 points if they want to keep this game competitive.
2) Energy Levels Early On: Both teams will be well rested for this contest tonight. Toronto has had 4 days off and the Sixers three, so there will be no excuses for playing flat or tired right after the opening tip. Ideally, the Sixers will come out play intense, smart basketball in the 1st Q and keep this game competitive until at least halftime. The Raps gave a lackluster performance in their win over the lottery leading Bucks last Saturday night, so a let down on their part is possible.
3) Kyle Lowry and/or Greivis Vasquez: Lowry and Vasquez are two of the quickest and most offensive minded lead guards in the League. Last time out, the Philly native posted a triple double down (18-13-10) at the WFC in front of his family and friends. If Lowry doesn’t play tonight because of a lingering knee bruise, Vasquez is no slouch either — he matched a season high with 26 points vs. Milwaukee the other night. The Sixers’ perimeter defense is horrid and they stand no chance against either of these players, so really I’ll be watching to see the show put on by Lowry and/or Vasquez. Yeah, it’s come to that…
4) MCW to Keep Rising: As has been mentioned on this site a number of time lately, Carter-Williams is playing very well on the offensive end of the court right now. In his last 5 games MCW has put the following averages 19 points, 6.6 assists and 6.8 boards. He shooting 51% on FGAs over that stretch, boasts a TS% of 51.8 and an eFG% of 48.4. Perhaps most importantly, MCW has only been guilty of 1.8 turnovers per night over the last 5 games. Obviously his defense still needs a great deal of work, but I want to see his improved offensive play continue tonight in Toronto.
Q&A with William Lou at raptorsrepublic.com:
Philadunkia: Toronto has won 6 out of their last 7 and is 7-3 in their last 10. What are a few of the things that the Raptors have done right over that stretch of play?
William Lou at Raptors Republic: Toronto’s play over the last 10 games has been buoyed by Jonas Valanciunas and Greivis Vasquez, who have stepped up in Amir Johnson and Kyle Lowry’s absence. Lowry is undoubtedly the most important player on this team, as he serves as the team’s point of attack on both ends of the floor, but he’s missed the last three games due to a knee injury. During that time, Greivis Vasquez has stepped in, and filled Lowry’s shoes offensively. Valanciunas, who was recently charged with a DUI, has also chipped in, as the sophomore has averaged over 14 points and 10 rebounds over this stretch.
Philadunkia: The Raps had a very, how should I say this “interesting” win over MIL on Saturday. DeRozan said the Raptors were “blindsided” by the Bucks. Any chance they make a similar mistake against the Sixers and end up in a competitive game?
William Lou at Raptors Republic: It’s certainly possible, although it’s less likely. The Raptors’ offense is predicated on good ball-movement, and perimeter shooting, which means lengthy defenders can oftentimes muddle down the offense. The Sixers have a few players that fit the profile — MCW, Thaddeus Young, even James Anderson — but ultimately, the Sixers’ team defensive scheme as a whole isn’t strong enough to stop a near top-10 offense (by offensive rating). Plus, the Raptors are coming off four full days of rest, and they’re playing at home.
Philadunkia: Kyle Lowry has been held out the last three games with a bruised kneecap and Amir Johnson has missed back-to-back contests with an ankle injury. Are these real injuries or are the two simply getting some much needed rest before the playoffs?
William Lou at Raptors Republic: I’ll put their injuries in the following context — if the last three games were playoff games, both Lowry and Amir would have played 30+ minutes. However, given that the Raptors have all but locked up home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, the coaching staff felt it was wise to give two of their starters a week to fully rest up. It was a smart decision because both players have played through a litany of bumps and bruises throughout the season.
Philadunkia: How far do you predict the Raps playoff run will go?
William Lou at Raptors Republic: If the Raptors finish with the 3rd seed, and face the Wizards in the first-round, I think the Raptors have a good chance of making it into the second round. From there, it’s a toss-up. Obviously, given their struggles of late, my preference is for the Raptors to face the Pacers, rather than the Heat (who have beaten the Raptors 15-straight times). If they’re up against the Pacers, I like the series to go 6 games, but for the Raps to ultimately lose. If it’s the Heat, the Raptors are getting swept.
Thanks to William for his time and answers. Give him a folllw @william_lou
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