This Friday 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 opponents — features tonight’s opponent, one of the hotter teams in the NBA right now, the Toronto Raptors. 

We’re still pretty frustrated and angry over the ridiculous loss to the Wizards on Tuesday night, so previewing the Toronto Raptors who have won 7 of their last 8 and just beat the Spurs and Magic back-to-back may just put us on suicide watch.  You see, much like the 76ers, the Raptors struggled through the first month of the season (7-13), but unlike Philadunkia’s home team the Raptors figured things out in early December and have been playing well (11-5) since that time.  It’s just a thought, but someone from the Sixers may want to pick the brains of Jay Triano and Bryan Colangelo and learn how we can turn around this season in Philadelphia. 

If we’re honest, we unfortunately have to admit that the Sixers have little chance to win this game tonight.  Forget for a second that the Raptors are on a hot streak right now and playing some of their best ball of the year.  If you break this game down by personnel, Toronto presents some serious match-up problems for the Sixers.  With Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani they have bigs that are tough to handle.  Our old nemesis Hedo Turkoglu will be raining threes.  Jose Calderon and Jarrett Jack are a nice 1-2 punch at the point that will rip up Louis and Iverson’s half-hearted attempts at defense.  Additionally, rookie DeMar DeRozen is a sick athlete who can get up and down the floor with Calderon or Jack to finish on the break.  Last but not least, the Raptors bench is solid and when they’re on, they can be almost dangerous.  All of that firepower has the Raptors ranked 8th in the NBA in scoring average at 103.1 ppg.  That list of assets does not bode well for a Sixers team that can’t defend a lick, especially on the perimeter.

However, there is some hope for the Sixers.  This is a classic NBA “trap game” for Toronto and the Sixers will have to take advantage of that fact if they hope to have any chance of winning tonight.  In theory, the Raptors should be primed for a let down as they are coming off big Ws vs. San Antonio and then at Orlando on Wednesday night.  Lying ahead on Sunday for Toronto is a huge barometer game against Boston at the Air Canada Centre.  Thus the Raptors may be a little over confident and also overlooking the Sixers, figuring they can coast in this one and still pickup a victory.  For the Sixers to capitalize on the “trap game” theory they’ll have to jump on the Raptors from the opening tip by playing something that resembles defense and cause some turnovers.  They’ll also need to push the rock hard after every Toronto miss and make.  If they can get Toronto down early, then hopefully Bosh & Co. will raise the white flag and start looking to rest up for Sunday’s big contest with the Celtics. 

Of course based on the Sixers ability to hold onto leads, they will need to put Tornto in a 30-point hole in the first half for the “trap game” theory to work for Eddie Jordan’s team.     

For a little more insight into the Raptors team the Sixers face tonight, we turn to our man Zarar “Arsenalist” Siddiqi from to answer two questions on the Raptors from us here at Philadunkia as well as provide us with two points of insider analysis on this Toronto squad.

Philadunkia :  The Raptors struggled out of the gates this season, but appear to have gotten things going and have won 7 of their last 8.  Included in the current hot streak are back-to-back wins over San Antonio and Orlando.  What has triggered the turn around in Toronto?

Zarar “Arsenalist” Siddiqi @ :  The softer schedule definitely helped and both teams you mentioned where on back-to-backs.  However, that doesn’t take anything away from the Raptors because they’ve played significantly better.  The bench production has been solid with Belinelli, Wright and even NBA-joke Marcus Banks stepping in and playing great minutes in the absence of Jose Calderon.  Bargnani’s defensive work has been solid and other than the Boston game, he’s, dare I say it, anchoring our defense.  Jarrett Jack’s determined drive-heavy play has also been a welcome sign and his quick, efficient running of the offense has resulted in more touches for everyone.

Philadunkia :  We loved the acquisition of Jarett Jack by the Raptors. In fact we really wanted him here in Philadelphia to challenge Louis Williams for the starting PG spot.  He’s hitting for his career numbers right now, but that’s slightly below his output in Indy last season.  What did you think of the Jack pickup and how has he played so far this year for Toronto? .  

Zarar “Arsenalist” Siddiqi @ :  He started off slow and tried to do too much early on, once he settled in he’s going back to doing what he does best – drive the ball.  His corner-threes have been dead on and his two-man game with former Georgia Tech teammate Chris Bosh has been great.  He’s a defensive improvement over Jose Calderon and it’s really showed since Calderon got injured.  Here’s a scouting report we did recently:

Two Points of Analysisfrom Zarar “Arsenalist” Siddiqi @ :

1) The Raptors bench is key to any Toronto win. We need to get 9-deep production for us to win so watch out for Marco Belinelli, Sonny Weems and Antoine Wright, all three are capable of stinking it up by shooting too many jumpers.  At the same time, if two of three are ‘on’, we become hard to beat.

2) How does Elton Brand’s contract taste?**

**Editor’s note:  We can only assume by his humorous comment that Zarar feels the Brand signing by the Sixers was a mistake.  It’s hard to argue against the fact that we overpaid for Brand.  Then again who on the Sixers isn’t over paid?  Still, while we appreciate Zarar’s sarcastic shot, we think we should take this opportunity to educate our NBA colleague from the great white north because those Brand jokes may not hold up for much longer. 

If you have been watching the Sixers lately, then you know that when Eddie Jordan doesn’t have Brand’s ass anchored to the bench for some mysterious reason, EB has been an absolute beast.  Not counting Sunday night’s debacle vs. Washington in which Jordan only played EB 24 mins., Brand is averaging 19 ppg. & 8.5 rpg. over his last 4 runs and 17 & 6.6 per over his last 8 games.  He also had three double-doubles in December and one near miss (25 & 9). 

Thus the return on our Brand investment is on the upswing.  So we got that going for us which is nice.

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