After a tough blow against the New York Knicks at home, the Toronto Raptors hit the road once again, hoping to bounce back against the Philadelphia 76ers. The Raptors (5-3) may once again be without their two important wings: their starting small forward, DeMarre Carroll, and their first guy off the bench, Terrence Ross.
For the Sixers (0-7), they’re struggling and muscling to try and reach their first win of the season, led by their young rookie big, Jahlil Okafor, averaging an impressive 19.9 points, and 6.9 rebounds per game. The young Sixers squad has a very long, strong duo of bigs between Okafor, and Nerlens Noel, which might prove to be the biggest challenge the Raptors will face. Canadian Nik Stauskas will also be someone to watch, as he was acquired in the off-season from the Sacramento Kings.
Raptors Cage’s Keys To The Game
The Sixers are a young, athletic, energetic, speedy team with unproven talent, going up against one of the Eastern conference’s better teams; this will be a challenge in which they hope they can showcase themselves. After dropping three straight, and on the second half of a back-to-back, the Sixers will have some confidence in their own building. Best way to suck the confidence from the opposition and their crowd? Physicality. Young players, especially inexperienced ones, get rattled with physicality and blue-collar play; if the Raptors impose their will, the momentum will sit on their side early.
Despite Noel in the paint, Okafor on the other hand is a poor defender; attack the rim and force the helping bigs into foul trouble. If the Raptors can get the size off the floor, they’ll get better shots, and even better looks without the presence facing them head-strong. DeMar DeRozan has led the team to this point in getting to the free-throw line, and forcing his will in the paint, it’ll be another thing on the Raptors’ to-do list.
Like mentioned above, the Raptors are on the road, against an opposing crowd, on three straight losses, and on the second half of a back-to-back; they have all types of weight on their shoulders for a game they are expected to win. They cannot, I emphasize, cannot give into early runs, early calls, and such made against them. If the Raptors want to walk out of Wells Fargo Arena alive, they must play their game, and stay the course with the defensive identity which has proven to be successful so far this season.
X-Factor: Jonas Valanciunas
The Sixers have one heck of a duo inside, and Jonas Valanciunas will see them on both ends of the floor. His teammates have to do their part and involve him, but he has to be aggressive in catching that deeper into the post, and establish his presence both offensively and defensively. Valanciunas has struggled to catch the loose balls off the glass, and off the screen-and-roll; he’s got to be much better if he wants to be the dominant centre in the Eastern conference.