The Toronto Raptors now (14-25) are back on the road, this time to face the Philadelphia 76ers (16-23) for their last time this season. The series is 1-2 in favor of the Sixers. These two teams met last week at the Air Canada Centre and concluded in a blowout victory for the Raptors 90-72. This game is just as important, if not even more-so than the last matchup between these squads. The Raptors are 1-3 since their last meeting versus the Sixers and continue to slip in the Eastern Conference playoff standings. Kyle Lowry makes a return to his hometown tonight after a spirited comeback effort against the Chicago Bulls that ended in a Raptors overtime loss.
The Cage’s 5 Key’s to the game
1. Prepare to Run
Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes make up the frontcourt for the 76ers. Much like the Raptors, the 76ers have a ton of young bodies at their disposal, so coach Doug Collins is ready to use them when needed. The Raptors are already banged up, so we’ve seen a lot of this small ball action as of late. Maybe Quincy Acy will even see 20mins of playtime. Who knows?
2. Hit the Boards
The last few game the Raptors have been hitting the glass relentlessly. This same mentality of getting to every loose ball must persist. Ed Davis and Amir Johnson have a work ethic that has not wavered since they’ve seen an increase in minutes. The Sixers don’t have a lot of size, so this is an area the Raptors can really take advantage.
3. Close out On Shooters
Nick Young, Jason Richardson, Evan Turner, Dorrell Wright and even Spencer Hawes can all hit the 3pt shot with some consistency. The Raptors have a tendency to miscommunicate on defence leading to wide open shots from the corner area. This can NOT happen in order for a Raptors victory tonight.
4. Silence the Home Crowd
Away games are always a difficult task for the Raptors who are 4-16 on the road. Heading into Philadelphia makes that task all the more difficult, because that means dealing with those passionate Philly fans. The 76ers shot a season low 39% in last weeks matchup, so they’re most likely looking to get one back.
5. Make Jrue Holiday Work
Jrue Holiday is Philly’s only credible source of attack coming from the point-guard position. With Jose Calderon and Lowry as the Raptors backcourt duo, expect a ton of pressure on the offensive end to tire him. If the Raptors are able to manage this effectively, expect to see Royal Ivey early in the game.
Tonight’s X-Factor is Raptors stud and Philadelphia native Kyle Lowry. The last few games Lowry’s been performing on another level. His effort singlehandedly converted Toronto’s last two losing performances from embarrassing to respectable. Playing at home should add that extra motivation for Lowry to continue his superb play of late, and earn his way back into the starting lineup.
Photo Cred: (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)